Japandroids infiltrated your ranks and lived among you, drinking your beer and ogling your women, silly Nashvillians, and you never even knew it.
When the band of the moment brings its power-packed show to Music City, it will be a homecoming of sorts. Last fall, guitarist Brian King and drummer Dave Prowse packed all their gear in a Ford Explorer and drove down from Vancouver, B.C., to appease an incurable case of wanderlust and to fire a creative spark they'd lost after two years of nonstop touring.
"We wanted to go somewhere where we didn't know anybody, so we'd kind of have to go out and discover things for ourselves," King tells the Scene via phone from Dallas. "We had to go out and discover the new roads and discover the city, and we thought that would be an inspiring thing to do. So we didn't know a single person who lived in Nashville. I guess on top of all that, Nashville is just a music town so it has people like us that love music and love to go out and see shows and being part of the whole scene or community, and it was the perfect place for that."
King and Prowse rented a house in East Nashville, setting up their gear in the living room. They haunted the 24-hour Kroger in their neighborhood, used the honky-tonks on Lower Broadway to unblock their chi and wrote the music for one of 2012's best albums, Celebration Rock. They were here for six weeks and left only because they needed to return home and record the songs they'd written.
"We used to kind of work on music in the afternoon, go get dinner and see a show or hang out at a bar, go back home and work on music after that," King says. "It was like a really great experience. We did more work in those six weeks than the previous six months in Vancouver. And the first song we wrote when we got down there was 'House That Heaven Built.' We wrote that in the first week-and-a-half or two weeks. It ended up being the first single from our record."
Celebration Rock was one of the most anticipated records of the year. Its predecessor, Post-Nothing, was nearly perfect — a distillation of the yearning, frustration and hopefulness a couple of dreamers feel, wishing to live life in a spectacular way. Celebration is the sequel — a look back at life after those dreams came true.
Yet when King and Prowse sat down to write the record, almost nothing came to them.
"We'd just come off basically two years straight of touring," says King, "and kind of coming home and sort of reintegrating into our old lives again, just kind of being stationary at home in Vancouver, was like a pretty big adjustment in and of itself. And then on top of that, having to work on a new record, we just kind of had a really hard time getting started, and things started progressing really slowly. And I think the two years we were out on tour there was a real sense of adventure, and sort of coming home and knowing that we wouldn't get to do anything like that again until we finished our record just kind of like took the wind out of our sails, as they say."
So they rolled the dice and came up with Nashville. It was a gamble, another white-knuckle chapter in the story of a band that shouldn't even exist. Japandroids' run has been filled with cliffhangers and fork-in-the-road moments. It's a well-known tale that gets better with each new installment.
A quick recap: Two Canadian pals record an album called Post-Nothing. With no prospects for a tour in support of the record, the band breaks up — this sort of thing happens all the time. But the album catches on with influential Internet types, and before you know it, the band's back together and launching a modest tour.
"Our greatest ambition at that time was [touring], because that was the one thing we'd never done that we really wanted to do," King says. "We were thinking even if we could do a two-week West Coast tour or a couple of weeks across Canada, that would just be the one more thing we wanted to accomplish. And then Polyvinyl came along. Then it was more tours. Then it was like, 'Well, we could go to Europe.' We made the decision on each thing as they came up."
That was three years ago, and the decision-making process is much the same. Japandroids have no record contract, and they aren't looking for one. They only have touring plans settled through February, when they head to Australia and Asia for the first time. Sometime early next year they'll sit down with a couple of beers, talk for a little bit and decide what's next.
That could mean more tour dates, or a new album, or nothing at all. But King believes their approach helps Japandroids live in the moment — an M.O. that is reflected in their raucous, engaging live performances.
"It helps to motivate you to play hard and give it everything you have," King says. "Even the worst shows that we have in the history of the band — 500 and some shows now — we've never phoned the show in or just been like, 'Let's get this over with, we're tired.' ... It's very easy to become jaded and just treat it like going to work.
"I don't know if this is going to be our last night in Dallas tonight," King adds before his show. "So if it is, we've got to make it good."
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