They're an indie comet now, but the world came this close to never knowing the lo-fi euphoria of Japandroids. After a couple years' diligence, the Vancouver fuzz-rock duo was in its twilight in 2008, settling the final details of the project's natural life – or so they thought.
Drummer David Prowse and guitarist Brian King, both co-vocalists, had already set Japandroids' expiration date when it happened for them. They had just finished their debut album, Post-Nothing, and were set to simply self-release it as they fulfilled some last concert commitments, including festival appearances at POP Montreal and CMJ. They still believed in the band but felt it had perhaps run its course. And though they were excited about the live shows – the aspect they always loved most – they harbored no illusions about their reception.
"We knew it was gonna be mostly just a trip for us and a chance to play somewhere new," says Prowse. "But a chance to play to nobody really."
At first glance, that's exactly what it seemed like at POP Montreal 2008. The scarcely attended showcase was populated by some Vancouver friends, other performing bands, and a few strangers. But among the strangers were people from trendsetting music website Pitchfork and Canadian label Unfamiliar Records. Well, Japandroids impressed enough to earn glowing press from the former, a release offer from the latter and, essentially, a new lease on life.
"I think, ever since then, we've felt very much like this band has existed on borrowed time," admits Prowse. "I think there is a certain purity in that because I think we both very firmly believe that if we're not feeling a hundred percent committed to the band and excited about what we're doing … then we just want to end it as soon as possible. I think we probably always felt that way, but I feel like we feel even more strongly about it because of that kind of brush with death." And that sort of liberated, in-the-moment exultation vibrates from their latest, somewhat unlikely sophomore album, Celebration Rock.
Despite the seeming instantaneousness of Japandroids' break, the story's moral circles back to the everyday grind – and, here, Prowse restores some sobriety.
"I think success can be very arbitrary," he says. "I think if you invest in what you're doing, and you are passionate about the music you make, you never really know when that kind of moment will come for you. But it just might. And it might come at a totally unexpected time, you know? We found a record label, and we also found a really big champion of our band in terms of a media or journalistic person at a show where there was literally, if you don't count people who are actually playing in the bands, there was maybe 12, 15 people there … If we had played like, 'Well, fuck this, let's just get this over with' at that show, none of that would've happened. So, you kind of never know randomly who might be there and what kind of doors might open, so you just gotta play every show like it's your last."
Japandroids with Swearin'
8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 27
54 N. Orange Ave.