Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Japandroids: Two's company (and more than enough)

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Unlike many of the two-person bands flooding the rock scene, Japandroids never sound like a mere duo--not on their album "Post-Nothing," and certainly not on stage, as when they pummeled the expectant crowd at last summer's Pitchfork Music Festival.

Drummer-vocalist David Prowse and guitarist-vocalist Brian King simply settled on the two-piece lineup as all they needed to deliver their arty garage-rock mix of heavy rhythms, harsh noises and sweet melodies.

"The thing that I enjoy about our band is that when people listen to our records, they don't immediately think that it's a two-person band," Prowse says. "The thing I like about the two-piece format is that we have as much room to make as much noise as we want, and we don't really have to restrain ourselves in any way. It's a lot of fun to have the freedom to really go off without having to sync up with a bass line or get in the way of two guitar melodies or whatever."

Prowse and King first met when they were in college on Canada's relatively isolated Victoria Island nine years ago. "Neither of us played in bands at the time, but we talked about playing in bands," Prowse says. The fact that Victoria can only be reached by ferry or air delayed things until they both reconnected in Vancouver in 2005.

"There was initially talk of doing a three-piece Yeah Yeah Yeah's-style thing, where it would be us on guitar and drums, and then we'd get a front person to sing. We tried that out a bit, but we were kind of half-assed about it; we didn't really put that much effort into finding an all-star front person. So we went back to just the two of us. The logistics of just sorting out the two of our lives and making sure we get to practice on time and get to shows and blah, blah, blah is enough. I don't really understand how people can do it in a six-person band; it must be a nightmare!"

The band made its recorded debut with a pair of five-track EPs--"All Lies" (2007) and "Lullaby Death Jams" (2008), due to be reissued soon as one retrospective package--but the group made a major leap forward with "Post-Nothing," issued in the U.S. last August.

"A big part of it is just that as time went on with our band, we started to pay a lot of attention to the songs and how we wanted them to sound--putting them together and taking certain pieces out and putting other pieces in," Prowse says. "So I think the attention to detail on the new album is much stronger, and another big thing is just our confidence as singers: The vocal melodies are noticeably stronger, and we've gotten a lot more comfortable with singing. It's just a very cohesive record, and I think that came from working on a bunch of songs and picking the ones that fit with the overall feel."

The key ingredient, though, is the quality of the songwriting. "If we toned down the drumming and took the distortion off the guitar and sang instead of shouting, I think you'd hear that they're just good pop songs," Prowse says, and that'' a trait that Japandroids share with other classically melodic art-punk bands, including Husker Du.

"That's a great example, because that's definitely a band that we both like. I don't know if we're trying to emulate them necessarily, but it's that thing of great pop songs attacked with this energy that just destroys."

Though the group doesn't fit neatly into any genre pigeonhole--a fact it acknowledges with the inside joke of the album title ("Some of the labels people have tried to come up with for us are just ridiculous, and we've always just said, 'Japandroids are post-nothing'")--the group was embraced early on by the influential Chicago-based Webzine Pitchfork, and its audience has grown with every show since.

"I think Brian and I both knew that we had a good record, and we felt really good about it after we finished recording, but we never thought anybody would really get to hear it," Prowse says, laughing. "We were getting a bit of a buzz in Canada, but the way things took off, especially after that Pitchfork review in April, was really radical. I had no idea things could take off that quickly for a band, and it's been pretty weird for us to suddenly be 'one of those bands.' Our record wasn't even officially released until August, but we were playing these great shows, touring and performing in towns where people we singing along with every word.

"Now, the tricky thing is going to be figuring out how to carve out some time to write and go back to the studio, because we could tour indefinitely. But that's a pretty good dilemma to have: Should we tour the U.S. again, should we tour the U.K. or Europe, or should we take some time to write new songs? It's a lot better than worrying, 'How am I going to pay my rent?'"

FACTS

Japandroids, the Coathangers

10:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9

3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10

Schubas, 3159 N. Southport

Friday is sold-out; tickets still remain on Saturday for $12

(773) 525-2508, www.schubas.com

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on October 8, 2009 1:47 PM.

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