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Japandroids reach new level of popularity


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It's 2008, and Dave Prowse and Brian King are frustrated. After years of attempting to break into the live music scene in Vancouver, the duo's band Japandroids hadn't progressed much past their humble, DIY beginnings. They decided to end on a high note: the release of their first full-length Post-Nothing, a few final shows and then a quiet dissolution.

Best laid plans, right? Cue Prowse's and King's surprise when Canadian label Unfamiliar Records insisted on signing the group, promoting the album and sending the pair off on an extensive tour. Great reviews came quickly, followed by the interest of Polyvinyl Record Co., the next year. And Japandroids were off.

"I think we're a good band," says Prowse one day on the phone. "Obviously. But there are a lot of good bands out there and it's still kind of a shock to me, knowing how close we came to just getting ready to give up and try something else. Being so close to doing that and all the things we've experienced since? It's daunting."

They followed the success of Post-Nothing with a second acclaimed album, Celebration Rock. It was another set of frantic, throwback garage rock filled with cues for raucous singalongs in the crowd. But now, this band that didn't expect to see a life past 2008 is faced with an entirely new set of problems: what do you do when you become too successful that it begins to challenge your artist integrity?

"Frankly it's been shocking how great the reception has been to Celebration Rock," says Prowse. "I think we were hoping that people would like it, maybe as much as Post-Nothing? ... The idea that on the next record even more people would find out about our band seemed so surreal. But that's what happens!"

With great popularity comes great responsibility, or something like that. A recent tour with The Gaslight Anthem through Europe has got Prowse thinking about being vigilant to his fans and material.

"We're starting to make that jump where we're playing bigger and bigger venues and that kind of worries me," says Prowse. "As a music fan, I think there's a certain kind of size of venue you can play where there's still a certain amount of intimacy... That's something we've been kind of struggling with - - we've been really hesitant to make those kinds of jumps [to bigger venues] because we're worried about how to handle that and how to preserve what makes our shows good."

Beyond size of venue, radio play and commercial licensing have become new challenges for the band.

"It's pretty insane when some car company offers you $100,000 to put 30 seconds of your song into a commercial, or something like that. We have gotten offers like that, a lot of them. And I can understand if I was a bit older, if I had kids, I would probably be thinking about that stuff a lot more."

"Because people don't buy records any more, musicians are facing some pretty weird moral conundrums that they might not have had to think about as much 10, 20 years ago."

Looking back on the music biz of the past is something of a trend for Prowse, who acknowledges the stark, black and white album covers of Celebration Rock and Post-Nothing are a nod to their favorite artists of years past.

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"We both love the aesthetic of the late '70s, early '80s punk, post-punk. It's very simple," says Prowse. "You know, Springsteen had that kind of aesthetic as well. It's a photo of him, or a photo of him with a member of the E Street Band. [It says] this is the guy who's making these records. It's not trying to be anything superfluous; there's not some weird abstract painting on the cover."

Expect the third album from Japandroids to employ that same, stripped-down style. But not any time soon -- expectations are high for installment number three from Japandroids, but, for their part, King and Prowse aren't even thinking about writing their third full-length right now.

"It's really hard for us to be in the writing mode when we're in the touring mode," says Prowse.

Like those album covers, the writing and touring divide is pretty black and white.

"September, October is the first time we'll be able to sit down and give some thought to [writing]. We'll disappear for a while, and when we come back, hopefully we'll have a record."


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