It's hard to believe that it's been five years since Vancouver duo Japandroids released their acclaimed and adored album Celebration Rock, but it's true. Since it was released, the two piece found themselves performing on multiple continents, in multiple cities, on multiple festivals including FPSF in 2013. This year, they returned with Near To The Wild Heart of Life without seemingly missing a beat and the results are fantastic. Full of snappy drums and snarling guitars, the two piece quickly prove that taking time off can be as important as grinding for years. The Houston Press was more than happy to sit down and chat with drummer David Prowse about where they've been, making the new album, and what we can expect from their upcoming show at White Oak Music Hall.
It's difficult to talk about these two without noting that five years between albums, is long, for any band nowadays. "It wasn't as long (out of the public eye) as everyone thought," explains Prowse. "Sure, to the general population it's been a while, but after touring nonstop we really only took about six months off before we started working on the new record. We went about three years without playing a show, but since then we've been doing a little touring whle still finishing the record."
Asked how daunting it can be for bands to leave the public eye, Prowse quickly replies "yeah, we were a little worried. We felt the pressure between the first and the second record at that time too, so we just kept touring between them instead. But, after such a long time without much of a break, we knew that for the greater good that we needed to take the time off. I don't know how other bands do it, but for us when we were touring, it was night after night without a breather. I think that there's always the risk of a certain amount of time away from the public eye that you can lose your fans. But for us, by making the record outside of the public eyes, we could make and keep it pure. It'd be great if we could make a record every ten months, but it doesn't work that way for us."
But keeping things pure seems best, as Near To The Wild Side Of Life is truly amazing, sounding like their former selves with even more energy. Asked where the intriguing title came from, where Prowse explains: "The album title and the track by the same name come from the book Near to the Wild Heart that Brian was into. The title kept jumping at us it seemed, and the idea of it resonated with the heart of the band. The excitement. The journey. Living life to the fullest with intense emotions and being alive."
The album includes new instrumentation, something that the band had toyed with the notion of doing in the past. "I think it was a conscious decision to use those elements, as we're both into that. We were feeling boxed in and simple, being a two-piece. When there's two, you're limited. Adding those elements opened us up without having to add new members, and they work live too. with more layers they can be challenging to perform live, but it was a lot of fun to do. We didn't impose any rules and before we started writing. We threw out the idea of how can we do this live, and we made things more spontaneous. We allowed the space of creativity in the studio where it's usually just about getting the perfect take," Prowse says.
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Catching these two live is an experience that's worth making it out for, almost like a shotgun blast of energy mixed with fan interaction." I think plenty of bands don't really engage with the audience, but for us coming from a more D.I.Y. and punk environment, we always had the mentality of there not being a separation between us and the crowd. We respond well to the interaction and it creates a special connection that can become addicting. When the crowd gives, it helps our energy," Prowse says. "And as time goes on, you can get spoiled, especially when it occasionally doesn't happen. Some of our best shows have been in places where they don't have much of a touring circuit, and can get pretty wild in those places because it doesn't occur as often as in places that see lots of tours."
Those wild shows have seemed to be what the band brings to Houston each and every time they're here. When asked what those who've just seen the festival set should expect this time, Prowse explains "the festivals are more of a strong cluster of songs crammed in. For regular shows, we get to take our time and we have more to draw from. With a 90-minute set, we can play 15 to 17 songs versus ten songs at a festival. It's different from night to night, but the time we get to play always gives us the room to make it different too."
You can catch Japandroids bring their energy-heavy sounds to the downstairs of White Oak Music Hall, on Wednesday November 15. The all-ages show will also feature a support set from Cloud Nothings, with doors at 8 p.m. and tickets for $25.