After Japandroids released their second album, Celebration Rock, in 2012, the Canadian indie-rock duo played an exhaustive support tour that spanned more than 200 shows in over 40 countries over the course of 17 months. Then they took a well-deserved break and pretty much disappeared from the rock world for three years.
Last fall, Japandroids finally returned to the road to limber up for the release of their excellent new LP, Near To The Wild Heart Of Life. But the official support tour didn’t commence until this week, and is already scheduled to stretch into the summer. When I caught up with Japandroids on Tuesday in Minneapolis before the tour’s second show at the iconic music club First Avenue, they were still getting their sea legs.
Guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse had not yet acclimated to the rhythms of the road — a few chaotic days of tour prep in Madison, Wisconsin followed by a four-hour jaunt north to Minnesota proved exhausting for a band not yet in peak tour shape. Prowse actually begged off from our interview to crash in the back of the band’s tour bus for a pre-show nap while up front King drowsily played the polite host, offering an IPA while pouring himself a tequila.
“We should start to get tighter and get more comfortable and put on a better and better show until the apex of the tour,” King insisted. “Whenever that is.”
Any lingering feelings of pre-show fatigue appeared to be eradicated by the time Japandroids hit the stage that night. While previous Japandroids’ tours have been likably scattershot punk-rock affairs, with guitars going out of tune and songs occasionally completely breaking down, this band is now a dependably professional outfit, even when the band members are shaking off the rust of a long break. Tuesday’s concert was the powerful gig I’ve ever seen Japandroids play, with the stadium-sized stomp of new songs such as “Arc Of Bar” and “True Love And A Free Life Of Free Will” perfectly complementing scrappier older songs such as “Wet Hair” and “Younger Us.”
While the oldies from Celebration Rock predictably roused the moshpit, the tempered optimism of the new songs felt like a salve during a particularly dark time in America. While Japandroids are touring here as outsiders, the timing of their uplifting new record and the accompanying tour has been uncanny. If you love rock ‘n roll, songs about hope and perseverance (not to mention fun and lots and lots of beers) might be exactly what you need right now. Read our conversation below.