From Iceland — The House That Heaven Built

The House That Heaven Built

Published August 22, 2012

The House That Heaven Built
Japandroids is a two piece rock ‘n’ roll band from Vancouver, Canada, who have been playing up a storm and winning new fans for the past few years. And now they’re coming to Iceland, playing a show at Gamli Gaukur that will for sure be the stuff of legend! We called up one half of the band, guitarist/vocalist Brian King, and asked him some questions about touring, their new record and rock duos in the modern world to help you get acquainted and hyped for the show!
Tell us about your story. Is it true that the band almost broke up before your debut was released?
We were very dedicated to the band for a number of years before anything kind of happened, really. Recording, self-releasing, setting up all our own shows. With ‘Post-Nothing,’ we thought it was going to be more of the same. There was nothing to indicate that anybody had any interest in putting out our record. We just thought that this was it, we might play in another band and another band after that and eventually maybe something would happen. But it did not look like it was going to happen with Japandroids.
Then you got offered to perform at Pop Montréal and CMJ in 2008—was that a turning point for your band?
Those shows changed everything for us. Those were the final two shows that we planned to play as a band. Being from Vancouver, flying out to Montreal and then New York to play shows was a really big deal and exciting. We considered that as ending the band on a high note. Because no one else we knew had got to fly out to those cities to play shows. The show that we played in Pop Montréal, there were only about 20 people at the show, but one of those people happened to write for Pitchfork, and someone else in the room happened to have a small record label and liked our record and wanted to release it. So having those two people in the same room to see us play really helped to expose us to a lot of new people. The person who had the record label convinced us to stay together a little longer, because he wanted to release our record. As soon as he did, the guy from Pitchfork wanted to review it. That’s when things really started to take off. We decided  we could stay together a little longer in order to get to go on one tour because that was a one thing we’d always wanted to do. One tour turned into two, turned into three, turned into going to Europe, turned into going to festivals and the next thing we knew it was two years later and we had lost our day jobs. We knew that after the tour was over we would have to go back to them, so we toured as much as we could.
You’ve described Japandroids as being a two-piece trying to sound like it’s a five-piece band?
We never planned on being a duo; it wasn’t like we wanted to be a duo like The White Stripes, The Kills or Death From Above 1979. We always wanted to have more people to play with, but we just couldn’t find those people. Most of the bands we listen to had four or five members. We wanted to sound like bands like The Replacements or The Rolling Stones, bands that had two guitars, bass and a singer and a drummer.
Is it hard to be in a rock band today?
It’s harder than it was when I was growing up in the ‘90s. When you turned on the TV or the radio all you ever see or hear were rock bands, but now what’s really popular isn’t dominated by guitar, there’s more pop music, hip hop and R‘n’B . If you just wanted to make money and become famous, you would be a DJ.  You really have to love rock ‘n’ roll to be in a rock ‘n’ roll band today.  There is not a lot of money and fame in it anymore.
How was making ‘Celebration Rock’ different than making ‘Post-Nothing’?

It was totally different. When we were making ‘Post-Nothing’ we were a local band just making an album for fun, because that was a cool thing to do. We did not have a following, fans or a record label and had never been on tour. We placed no expectations on ourselves. When it came time to make this record, we had a lot of fans, a record label and we felt a lot of pressure.
You wrote the album in Nashville, how did that influence the album?
We were working on the album in Vancouver for some time and it was going really slow—we were getting really frustrating and uninspired. So we decided to do something really different from what we had done before. We wanted to go to some place that was far away from our home. We decided to rent a house in Nashville, Tennessee, drive down there, take all of our instruments and set them there. It turned out that we wrote songs there really quickly. The first single off our record, “The House That Heaven Built” was the first song that we wrote there. So it worked really well for us.
Why Nashville?
For a number of reasons. First, we wanted to go somewhere in the South of the US, because we really like it there. We also wanted to go somewhere that was far away, far from home, where we didn’t know anyone. If we would have gone to a city where we knew people, we would have ended up hanging out, partying and not working. We did not know anyone in Nashville, and we had to get to know the city for ourselves. That was really inspiring.
What can an Icelandic audience expect from your Reykjavík show?
We are only ever as good as the audience we play for. The more the audience gives to the band at the show, the more and more the band gives back. We are always ready to give a bit more. If we show up and the audience are excited and have a lot of energy, then it’s going to be a really wild show. Because we have never been there before and I don’t know if or when we might come back, we only have this one chance to make it a really memorable night—so we are really going to go for it. We are going to play longer and play more songs that we do usually. It will be an epic night, I can’t wait!

Post-Nothing (2007): Japandroids self-produced their debut album, ‘Post-Nothing’ in the summer of 2008. In January of 2009 they were signed to an independent label in Canada and shortly after their song “Young Hearts Spark Fire” was named as one of the tracks of the week by tastemaker website Later that year Polyvinyl Records re-released the album worldwide, to widespread critical acclaim.

Celebration Rock (2012):Recently released, ‘Celebration Rock’ is heavily influenced by a mix of punk and classic rock. The band cites The Replacements, The Hold Steady, Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones as an inspiration for the album. Once again, the band was met with critical acclaim and the album was short-listed nominee for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize.
Japandroids are playing at Gamli Gaukurinn, Tryggvagata 22, on August 22. Doors open at 20:00. Tickets cost 2,490 ISK on pre-sale at The band are set to be supported by Sudden Weather Change.

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