In Depth With Japandroids' Brian King: "Nothing Is Off the Record"
Few guitar bands cleaned up this year like Japandroids, whose triumphant second album Celebration Rock brought them massive universal acclaim and a bounty of new fans in the spirit of Titus Andronicus' The Monitor and the Hold Steady's Separation Sunday. Just yesterday their Celebration Rock was named SPIN's number three best album of 2012, and more year-end accolades are sure to swiftly follow. We caught up with the endlessly-touring Vancouver duo's frontman Brian King from a Florida tour stop about looking professional, fighting over Morrissey in the van, and erasing any trace of negativity from his new songs.
Japandroids play tonight and tomorrow at Webster Hall
Did you hear that Paste named "The House That Heaven Built" their song of the year?
I heard that yeah, I got an email.
Are lots of people telling you that you wrote their favorite song of the year?
You have to remember that the people that we're touring with and our crew have little respect for me whatsoever. And so they would not ever do or say anything that would contribute to my ego or my sense of confidence, or anything that may encourage me to be more of myself at any moment in time. So they're the best!
You sing it a lot more intensely than the rest of the album. Actually, the whole song feels louder than the others.
It was the only song I think on the whole record that we more or less tried to do in one and we got it on the first try. Most of the other songs we recorded a million times in different ways and some of the songs we could just never get it, or never get something we were happy with. And that one actually took the least amount of effort to get what we wanted. I don't know what that means, but there was the least amount of fighting over it. I think all three of us were just like "Yeah." "Yeah." "Yeah." It was suspiciously easy in that sense. Because it's usually like "Yeah." "Yeah." "No!" Or "Yeah." "No!" "No!"
We also spent part of last year in Nashville working on this record and when we first got to Nashville, it was the first song that we wrote when we got there. So it has a sentiment attached to it, the background of writing it is significant -- not that the others are not -- but it reminds both of us of this certain time and place.
Was being in Nashville what inspired the religious imagery in the song?
No, no, that's me. That's my personality. Unlike Post-Nothing -- which to me is really attached to a certain place, a really Vancouver record to me, it always will be, the whole thing just reeks of Vancouver to me -- whereas I don't really attach a singular to any of the songs [on Celebration Rock]. I'd like to say we could've written the song anywhere, but obviously we had to go to Nashville. I just don't see Nashville influencing them in that way.
I heard that everyone hated the title Celebration Rock, which is ironic. Do you ever worry about being too on the nose?
No. I mean, everyone else worries about that. I don't. I just don't care. That's where the controversy among all those involved with the band came from. We're a rock and roll band, and as soon as the idea popped into my head, it just couldn't be called anything else.
There's no other person in our inner circle who thought it was a good idea. And thankfully, I'm stubborn.
On "Evil's Sway" you talk about seeing "sexual red"; it's hard to tell if you're being joyful or frustrated.
At no point am I being angry on any of the songs ever.
I'm incredibly aware of when I begin to take things in that direction. And I'm not at all interested in making that part of my personality published in any way. I'm interested in trying to ... showcase, for lack of a better word, what I think needs to be the most positive elements of my personality or my life, etc. I don't like to tell people anything about the songs, I like to leave it out there for interpretation, I think that's where the real power is, but on the whole record, I think that there's nothing negative. I tried really, really hard to keep that out of the record. I don't like records like that, I don't want to make records like that, and I don't think people listen to Japandroids to feel negativity. I think people listen to the band when they want to get out of that kind of mindset, when they want something more positive and uplifting, and that's the kind of music I'm interested in making. I'll leave the rest to [Morrissey]. He can take care of it. He's got my back on the other side of the coin. Of course I jest, I don't know Moz personally. I'm just kidding, after I talk to you we have a date.
I wish we did. You ever interview Moz?
Oh no, I haven't.
He doesn't do a lot of interviews. Too bad.
Sorry, sorry, I get going and it's not professional.
You're in a rock band, don't worry about being professional.
Fuck! I need you to call about 10 people and say what you just said right there. You need to call my publicist Dana Erickson and say what you just said there. You need to call my mother and say what you just said there! You need to call everyone at Polyvinyl and say what you just said. I could use some backup, I've been saying this for years. Damn!