Showtime, Charlottesville: Japandroids are in town

Japandroids expects its audience to perform

Vancouver band on the rise, Japandroids (David Prowse, Brian King) maximize the power of town and put name recognition first. Photo: Burdett/Shiek Vancouver band on the rise, Japandroids (David Prowse, Brian King) maximize the power of town and put name recognition first. Photo: Burdett/Shiek

Let’s get this out of the way: The name Japandroids doesn’t mean anything. Both members of the Vancouver-based rock band happened to come up with two-word names before their first billed show. Neither of them liked the other’s suggestion, so they combined them. The result is a play on words that Brian King and David Prowse expected to change before their next event.

Eight years later, the name Japandroids has stuck with the garage rockers like a bad riff. In a recent phone interview, guitarist and vocalist King said if he and Prowse had it all to do over again, they’d aim for something less futuristic ambient and moredirty punk. But at this point, their brand has grown too strong to ditch the name.

In less than five years, Japandroids has gone from a near breakup to doubling the size of the live venues it plays, and garnering critical acclaim for the full-length studio albums, Post-Nothing and Celebration Rock. On June 20, King and Prowse will bring their act to The Jefferson Theater.

C-VILLE Weekly: You guys are known as a killer live act. What can the crowd at the Jeff expect?

Brian King: “We pride ourselves on our live show. That’s the part of playing in a band we love most. So the crowd can expect from us a pretty loud, energetic rock show. The other half depends on them. Our band has a very symbiotic relationship with the audience, and typically the audience likes to participate in the show. It can get pretty wild, pretty crazy, so the more the audience gives the band, the more the band gives back.”

So this is kind of a performance for Charlottesville, as well?

“This is going to be the first time we’ve ever played in Virginia. We don’t know what the crowds are like. They don’t necessarily know what happens during a Japandroids show. In many ways, it’s like going on our first tour again.”

Do you have any advice for the crowd?

“We write songs that are meant to be played live, with audience participation in mind. If you know the words to the songs, sing along. I don’t like to instruct the audience, but feel free to be enthusiastic because it makes us play even harder and wilder than we normally would.”

Tell me about the timing of this tour. It’s been almost a year since you released a record.

“We have been touring pretty much nonstop for a full year now. We are going to tour through the summer, then take time off to work on a new record. I am quite certain if people in Virginia have never seen us play before, they’re not going to care when we come as long as we eventually come and play the songs they like.”

Your manager said you guys are rehearsing to shake off rust. How can you be rusty?

“Even taking two or three weeks off, it makes us not sloppy, but nervous. When you’re playing five or six nights a week, you feel a certain confidence. We want to be as tight for the first show as we were the last show.”

You wrote in your bio that you guys “rip off too many different bands to sound like any other duo making music.” Was that a joke?

“We’re not necessarily a really innovative or original sounding band. We are a rock band with guitars and drums. It’s more or less everything you have heard before, but we just mix together all of our favorite bands into this one sound that ends up sounding at least just like us.”

One of the things that is unique is you’re a two-piece. Does that limit you?

“You are taking this thing two people have been doing for 100 people and doubling the size of the venue, and you have to maintain that energy. At the same time, you hear an obvious progression in the playing and songwriting on our records. You hear us figuring out how to maximize what we do have.”

I hear more radio-ready elements on the newest album. 

“I hear that too, but I think it is a fairly organic thing. This is our first band, and the first EPs we did, we didn’t know anything about writing songs and were learning to play together. That was the best we could do at that time. If we could have written arecord that had great hooks, we would have.”

I think of garage rock as being age-specific. Do you worry aging will make what you do more difficult?

“Dave and I are both 30 now, but I think there is a way to get older and still make exciting, dangerous rock music. One of our favorite bands of the last few years is Grinderman, Nick Cave’s side project. It’s wild and out of control, oozing bravado and sexual energy. Even though it is by guys that are my parents’ age, this music would scare the hell out of my parents. I would like to think we can find a way to do that.”

Charlottesville has a lot of struggling singer-songwriters. You guys aren’t far from that yourselves. Any advice for them? 

“If you want it bad enough and work hard enough, something will happen. It’s taken eight years to get where we are. It’s not like we are giant rock stars, but anyone who is concerned things aren’t happening with their band can look at us.”