If you disagree with the fact that Japandroids' Celebration Rock is the best album of 2012, then this conversation is over and you might as well fuck off and die.
We caught up with guitarist and lead bro-calist of the band, Brian King as he stood out the front of his apartment while his landlord tested his fire alarms (probably after he let off too many fireworks inside, mad cunt) and we talked about the origins of Celebration Rock, what it's like to have everyone frothing over your album, and whether or not they'll come play at my house party next year.
Hey Brian, so what are you up to?
Sorry, they're just checking the fire alarms in my apartment. I've been doing some phone interviews this morning and all of a sudden you'll hear fire alarms going off in the background. I actually just came outside, but I don't know if it's any better. But if you can hear me alright, I can hear you just fine.
I can hear you fine. What were you doing before you got evacuated?
I'm actually just packing my stuff because we're going to Japan tomorrow.
So yeah I'm packing my clothes, picking up my guitars, trying to figure out how to bring as much stuff as I can while at the same time trying to bring the least amount of stuff I can because the airlines are killing us right now. By the time I put my guitars on the plane I have to pay extra just to bring some clothes with me.
How have the tours been going so far?
It's been going really well actually. We've been on tour already this year for like a few months and it was a little bit weird right before because we actually started touring before the album came out and it's weird playing shows when you're playing a lot of new songs and people haven't had a chance to hear them. People are just there to hear the old songs.
But after the record came out we did a US tour and it was the best US tour we've ever done. The response for the new songs and the new record has been even better than anticipated. So yeah, it's doing really well.
Well, I wouldn't be able to do the interview without saying that the album is fucking amazing.
Have you been surprised by the acclaim that it's received from critics and a lot of fans as well?
Yes and no. Nobody would be surprised if their record had that kind of reception. We certainly didn't expect to have as many people interested. We were pretty confident that our fans that we already had would like it. We kind of made this conscious decision that the record wasn't done for us until we felt like we'd accomplished something greater than the last record or anything we'd ever done. That's the way we approached Post Nothing and it's the same way we approached this record. Even though it took longer to make than we had planned on taking, we were confident when we were done that it was the best thing we had done and that fans of the first record were going to like it a lot.
Having said that, we weren't prepared for the reception that happened outside of that fan base. I think there's a lot of fans or critics that have known about us for a while, and it seems to us that on this record we've been exposed to a lot of people that didn't know us from the first record. That has actually been the biggest surprise.
What was the song writing process like for Celebration Rock? A lot of the songs have really big hooks and almost anthemic qualities, was that a deliberate process when you were writing the songs or has that kind of evolved organically?
I think it evolved mostly out of touring so much on the first record because when we wrote the songs, like every song we've ever done before this record, like when we wrote the songs for Post Nothing for example, we had no idea when we were doing those songs that we'd be playing those songs every night for the next year, year and a half, like literally hundreds of times for all these people. We'd never been on tour before, so it never occurred to us that we'd be playing songs live that much. If it sounded cool, then we thought it could be a song.
Then what happened over the course of all that playing was that we discovered what songs we liked playing more than other types of songs. We saw, "these" kind of songs really get the crowd going, and playing "these" kinds of songs get a response from people that's so much fun. And "other" types of songs, as much as we like them, they just don't garner that same kind of reaction.
So, it was a very conscious effort, especially on my behalf when we were in the writing process, to try to write a record where all of the songs kind of had that feeling and garnered that kind of reaction, so that when we played sets, instead of their being that kind of reaction for peaks in the set when we played certain songs, the whole set would be one long, continuous peak of energy. That was sort of the goal anyway. I wouldn't say it was necessarily, "Well, we're going to write a whole album of Young Hearts Spark Fire", but we saw where the band really shines, live-wise, and we just wanted to have a lot more songs that did that kind of thing. So the record is built almost entirely of songs that are designed to play live and to have that kind of reaction.
Actually, we did one song on the record, the last song Continuous Thunder, which is probably the only song that doesn't have that same kind of feel, and by the time we got to working on that song, it took a lot of effort to not turn it into this blazing kind of anthem because we got so used to playing that way and like it so much.
It's definitely more of a slow burner but it's a great way to finish the record. How did you arrive on the name, Celebration Rock?
Well, to tell you the truth, there's no real proper story or anecdote about it. Very simply, I think that the kind of music that we play is, at it's very basis, [is] just kind of celebratory rock and roll music. Once I came up with the idea of Celebration Rock, I couldn't think of anything else to name the record that was better than that because I didn't think it just summed up the album. Like just a collection of songs, but somehow I felt the band as a whole — the shows, the sound of the band. It's not just an album title but a quick, cured summary of what the band is all about.
What was the idea behind having the fireworks at the start and the end of the record?
That was actually sort of a last minute thing; it was very unplanned. We basically had all of these firecrackers left over from our trip to the states — every time we go to the states we buy lots of firecrackers — and we had this whole brick of firecrackers left over from the tour. Originally we were just going to light them all off in the parking lot of the studio after the record was done as sort of a mini-celebration and to have some beers and shoot off fireworks.
We had this idea on the last day of recording, "Why don't we mic these up and see what they sound like?" Jesse [Gander], our friend who recorded the record, he'd never tried something like that before and was like, "I don't really know how to do this but I'll just hook up a bunch of mics in the ally and we'll see what happens." And we mic-ed it all up and let them off and it actually sounded like gunfire when we first played it back and we were like, "Well, that's kind of neat but I don't know if gunfire is a sound effect we really need." So we slowed the tape down, like way, way down, to like 10 per cent of the actual speed, and when we did that, it actually sounded like fireworks - big kind of New Year's Eve style fireworks.
Then I just had this idea, "Let's start the record with this and end the record with this and then people will listen to the album on repeat and when you get to the end of the record it will just carry over to the start of the record again. It will be like one continuous loop and it won't even feel like there's a break."
We just decided to go for it and we thought it sounded cool and, yeah, now it's on the record forever.
Well dude for someone who has had the record on repeat for a while that definitely works. As soon as you hear the fireworks you're kind of sad that the record's finished but you're excited because you know it's going to start all over again.
One of the big questions I had to ask was what are your plans for heading to Australia?
It's already in the works. From what I understand we're coming in February. Don't quote me on that quite yet but it's already in the works for February. It's been a long, long time over due. For a number of reasons we couldn't make it there on the first record touring, but we're not making that mistake again. So, February it is.
And finally, last question, and in all seriousness, how much would it cost to get you guys to come play a house party in Marrickville when you do tour?
Good question. It's often not about money, it's more about timing. It would be about money if it was in Australia for no other reason. Obviously we can't just pick up and fly to Australia for a house party. But if we're already there — we've done that kind of thing every now and again — it usually just comes down to timing.
So, if we can fit it into the schedule then we're usually up for it just for a fun thing to do. If the timing's right, then it's totally doable. I know that on our tour of Australia, we're purposefully scheduling lots and lots of time off because we've never been there before. We wanted to hopefully see a bit of the country while we were touring, so you might be in luck!