By Cam Lindsay"Just because we're a duo doesn't mean we want to sound like a duo," King says. "Any duo is gonna get compared to other duos, regards. So it's just natural for bands like ours to get compared to No Age or Death From Above 1979. I don't think we'd get those comparisons if we were a three-piece band, it's really only because we're two people. Though I think that if you like No Age's record you might like our record. It's not that far-fetched to say that."
Though they often explain the Japandroids sound is from ripping off other bands, Dave and Brian don't actually have similar music tastes or even own the same records. "If you asked us what we liked, there wouldn't be a lot of overlap," King says. "When we started playing, the Sonics were a band we were listening to all the time, but it wasn't necessarily the songs we were trying to rip off. But if you listen to their records, they're so powerful yet they're so simple and so underproduced. They're about sticking a few mics in a room and recording the raw energy. It's volume and energy and passion and getting that on tape. When we say we rip bands off, that's what we mean."
Adds Prowse: "I think what we both respect about the Sonics is that ferocity and when you listen to it, even at low volumes, it sounds like it's blasting. And I like how you can feel they would melt your face if you saw them live."
After that fateful Pop Montreal show that landed them a like-minded fan in Unfamiliar label guy Greg Ipp, luck came knocking earlier this year in the form of a winning lottery ticket, or at least the modern music equivalent: a rave review from Pitchfork. Blogs and indie publications followed suit, the big ball of buzz started to pick up steam, and before they knew it, retirement plans were shelved and Dave and Brian were suddenly thrown into "a complete 180 in lifestyle." Says King: "I just gave my notice... let's not put that. When is this coming out? Well, by the time you read this, I will no longer be working at my job in Vancouver."
In an instant, the days of posting bubble packs and vainly typing follow-up emails to press and campus radio were over. Pitchfork followed up the review with an invite to play its annual summer festival, and the duo suddenly find themselves with a burgeoning team of people eager to be in the Japandroids business.
"Up until very recently, we've been on our own in every respect. Not only have we been releasing our own records and promoting, managing and booking ourselves, we've also been solely in charge of creating our own image," King says. "Till now, it's been very difficult trying to get anyone to pay attention to us. If no one else is going to write about you, you sort of have to write things about yourself, which does give you some control. Like now, everybody flocks to the internet to research your band and it's the same paragraph that I wrote two years ago."
Sipping Caesars during the band's first-ever trek to Toronto, riding a wave of hype most bands would kill their bassist for, I expect them to be all smiles at the mention of their sudden rise. They appreciate it, sure, but mostly it raises issues of frustration they share with many hometown peers.
"The thing I find very frustrating about Vancouver is that there are a lot of great bands but not enough support," Prowse says. "The media drop the ball in Vancouver, and the promoters to some extent. I think with the right support in place, bands there could be so much more successful."
Vancouver may have had a thriving punk scene throughout the '80s and a strong alt-rock presence in the '90s, but today if your band isn't tied to Black Mountain, the New Pornographers or Mint Records, chances are you're tagged as "obscure." Prowse feels it doesn't have to be this way though. "The thing that really pisses me off is that, if [local media] just didn't like our band, fine, so be it. But they don't support local music at all. It's fucking bullshit. They have a responsibility to tell Vancouver about all the great bands that are in Vancouver. They don't do that."
Adds King: "We've been making music in Vancouver for two full years, lots and lots of shows. How is it possible that we could get both of our self-released EPs reviewed in Exclaim!, the most established music publication in Canada, instead of a Vancouver paper that should have been there since day one? Do you know how frustrating that is?"
Now that circumstances have changed, it's taken a lot of pressure off them. "It was like, 'How much longer are we going to keep pushing, pushing, pushing and then get nowhere?'" asks Prowse. "I think that's a common thing for Vancouver bands. It wears you out and it's hard trying to see the benefits of all your hard work because you're so isolated. What happens is that either bands break up or they move in Montreal or Toronto."
Unlike the country's other musical epicentres, Vancouver's geography limits where bands can play. Sure, there's Victoria and even Seattle but road-hungry bands face a long slog over the mountains to simply get out of town. "It's another thing that kills Vancouver bands," Prowse says. "It takes 12 hours to get to Calgary. We almost fucking destroyed Brian's car on a drive to Calgary when it almost collapsed in the middle of the highway where there's nothing for 100 or so kilometres."
Even worse are the obstacles that face bands right at home. Faced with extremely strict liquor licence requirements, the city has seen plenty of "off the radar" clubs pop up - and get shut down. It's in these underground spots where the city's scene is thriving. "As far as being a musician in Vancouver, it's heartbreaking to see venue after venue being shut down," says Prowse.
King chimes in: "They don't call it 'No Fun City' for nothing."