Music

Two's a Crowd

Japandroids Cross the Border

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The American invasion of Japandroids was scheduled to take place a few months earlier. But on the eve of the Vancouver, British Columbia, duo's first major US tour this spring, guitarist/vocalist Brian King was hospitalized for a perforated ulcer.

"It was a colossal disappointment," he says. "I had been counting down to [the tour] like it was Christmas morning. Initially, we were dangerously unprepared for touring in any serious capacity. This time, we are slightly less dangerously unprepared. Let's say: grossly unprepared."

King is recovering—he rates his current state of health at "6.7"—and along with his bandmate, drummer/vocalist David Prowse, the two are making good on the buzz that Japandroids' first full-length, Post-Nothing, has cultivated in the interim. It's easy to pin their heavy style as garage rock, but despite the abbreviated guitar-and-drums lineup, Japandroids' sound is anything but minimalist. The chunky power chords and hard drum bashing don't evoke punk as much as the glory days of rock riffing, with a love of giant, fuzzy melody that's part Cheap Trick and a penchant for clangorous distortion that's part Sonic Youth. Above the fray, the shared vocals are yelped, sometimes screamed, without ever losing track of the melody.

It's a unique sound, and I ask King if it's in part due to Vancouver's relative isolation. "I have no context to say yes or no—I have never made music in any other city," he admits. "I assume Japandroids would sound the same if we were from Brooklyn, though we would probably dress cooler.

"We have always existed independently of any specific music scene in Vancouver," he continues. "That was without a doubt the single biggest motivation for trying to play music outside of Vancouver. [But] I feel lit tle to no kinship with the Portland or Seattle music scenes [either], though that has nothing to do with the music scenes themselves. Most local Vancouver bands are turned away at the border, forcing them to 'sneak in' to the US and borrow equipment in order to perform. More often than not, Vancouver bands will make the trek east to Calgary and Edmonton—a full day's drive from Vancouver—rather than deal with US Customs. Calgary is more than twice as far away as Portland, yet we have played Calgary five times in the last two years, and to date have never played Portland."

That's about to change, and Japandroids have managed to fulfill the daunting task of sounding nothing like the White Stripes, the Black Keys, or any other guitar-and-drum duo you could name. "Japandroids will spend their entire career in the shadow of No Age, and I believe that is strictly a derivative of having only two players," says King. "To me, this is an advantage because despite almost certain failure, we are still going to try to make an OK Computer and we are still going to try and perform like Led Zeppelin and the Who. The further we sludge toward these goals, the more we exceed expectations of what our band 'should' be capable of."

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