Brian King, of Canadian band Japandroids, is enjoying some rare downtime in Mexico City. His band -- the two-piece indie heroes who took the world by storm with their joyous, propulsive and uplifting rock'n'roll -- are back on the touring treadmill after a few years off. Part of it was recording their latest LP, 'Near To The Wild Heart Of Life'. The greater part was resting. Japandroids are the type of band to book a hundred shows in a row and spend months on the road, criss-crossing continents and playing to a blur of festival and club crowds they never really come to grips with.
Japandroids' punishing, marathon touring tendencies means King relishes the limited time he gets to relax.
"Your body and mind just need it. Nobody can tour indefinitely. We've tried. We have actually tried and ran ourselves into the ground," he told HuffPost Australia, reminiscing on the hundreds of shows Japandroids played in recent years.
"But when you tour as much as we do, you actually get really used to that lifestyle and the constant travel, it becomes very normal to you. It takes a bit of time, when you get that time off, to sync back into a normal schedule and rhythm. Your body gets so used to feeling like shit all the time, eating poorly, drinking too much, not sleeping enough."
Japandroids are a band based not in brooding and introspection and pretension, but in unbridled joy, aspiration and fearlessness -- in triumph and celebration. Their last album, literally titled 'Celebration Rock' and bookended by the sounds of fireworks exploding, might be the best description of their sound. It's garage rock, simply guitar and drums, but infused with the spirit of the great American songwriters -- it evokes the shout-a-long joy of 'Born To Run' and 'Born In The USA' Springsteen, with tinges of the poetic lyricism of Dylan, touches of the classic veteran traveller troubadour style of Tom Waits or Neil Young. It's an exhilarating melting pot of classic rock'n'roll, filtered through a haze of partying and long legendary nights, then blasted at a breakneck speed through guitar and drums.
But it takes a toll. It's been five years since 'Celebration Rock', and following a mammoth world tour that just kept getting longer and longer, the band all but disappeared. Radio silence. Their social media feeds went blank, they didn't play any shows, no press updates, nothing. Then, with little warning in 2017, 'Near To The Wild Heart Of Life' -- the title borrowed from a James Joyce poem -- landed. In the interim, King moved 5000 kilometres south from Vancouver, his hometown and where his bandmate and drummer Dave Prowse still lives, to Mexico City. Part of the reason was because of the band's punishing schedule.
"For nine years we lived in the same city, not even that far apart. We weren't just seeing each everyday other on tour, we were seeing each other constantly at home as well. Once we got older and this evolved with the band, it benefited us to live in different places," King said.
"When we do get together, we know it's for a limited amount of time and that time is precious, and we have to make the most of it. Before one of us could call the other on the phone, and be jamming together an hour later. Now, it makes you appreciate the time you have together in a new way. There's an excitement there that sometimes wasn't there before."
They're on their way to Australia this week, for their first tour Down Under since the new album dropped. He says the new songs are far more challenging to play live, with some slower tempos and having added in new elements like synthesisers into the seven-minute epic 'Arc of Bar', which makes it more fun for the duo to get on stage.
"This is the first album where we have made an effort to separate what we do in recording, and what we do live. The first two records were basically live records, we played them live exactly how we recorded them, and there's not much to experiment with or figure out, but we wanted to try that process," King said.
"On the last record, we got to a point touring where we'd play the same songs every night the same way. There was a ritual and not much room to experiment, no sense of any chaos. We knew exactly how it was going to go, we'd play it the same way. With some of the new songs, we recently spent a whole tour of America playing the songs a little bit different every night, just experimenting on what worked, what didn't, what got a reaction. That's a part of performing live that never existed for us before, and we're a much better live band for it."
"Watching a band actually take a risk on stage in front of an audience, that's what great live music is all about. The last thing we want to do is just go through the motions. We're learning, we can build a set that is subtly unique from show to show, and that's added a lot of fun to performing live. Our shows are better and more exciting than before."
For more information on Japandroids' Australian tour, see the Handsome Tours website.
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