In choosing where to write brand new record Near To The Wild Heart Of Life, Japandroids’ Brian King and David Prowse decided to follow their experiences from the creation of their heart-bursting second record, Celebration Rock.
“We’d finished about half the songs and we just got burnt out, or hit the wall, and got stuck,” explains vocalist/guitarist King. “We thought it would be good for us to go out of town for a bit. We decided to rent a house far away, [and] we ended up in Nashville. That house became the Japandroids place for about six weeks. It was really good for us, we had a really good time, it really inspired us.” Not surprising it was where the pair wrote perennial banger The House That Heaven Built.
“This time we picked New Orleans, which is another classic American music city. It’s a city that we both love and love spending time there, but at the same time we don’t know a lot of people so we’re on our own. We’re very much living together 24/7, working on songs and then going out for meals together. It’s a bonding experience as much as anything.”
The great shift in approach, this time around, was the songwriting. Near To The Wild Heart Of Life presents experiments in studio production, with far more changes in tempo (such as the wonderful slow build in Midnight To Morning), yet we still get that tangled background chorus of voices, the parts that encourage any old wet sock to sing along. “In the beginning we really didn’t have conversations about what we wanted to do – it was more about what we didn’t wait to do,” King says. “We made the first two records by a very similar process, with the mentality of making a live record that’s very simple, very raw, very direct. I think with Celebration Rock we felt we had achieved this thing we’d been trying to achieve since we started the band, which was to make a really great live-sounding rock and roll record. If you feel like you’ve achieved it, all you can really do is a) have a new goal or b) just continue to do that same thing over and over. This was the big conversation we had in the beginning.”
The rule book was thrown to the dogs and the table was open to any and all ideas. “[We] set our sights on trying to make a more proper studio album, where [we weren’t] afraid of different instruments or different layers or different styles of production; [we weren’t] afraid of the idea that the listener might not believe that we’re really playing that in the studio. ‘Let’s not think about performing live. Let’s not think about how we are going to [perform] this. Let’s worry about that later. Let’s just do whatever we think sounds cool and serves the songs.’”
The boys also found motivation in their own musical loves, allowing the freedom of expression of their influences to inform their own letting-go. “A lot of our favourite classic rock records, they’re a little bit all over the place,” says King. “There’s different tempos, there’s different moods, there’s different song lengths. There’s a bit more of a journey from start to finish. It’s not easy when you’ve figured out how to do one things really well, to all of a sudden decide to do an album full of all kinds of things. Any time that we had an idea that was different or us, that was when we were more excited to roll with it… maybe the fourth record is going to be totally f-cking nuts, and this one is that bridge between the old band and the new band.”
Near To The Wild Heart Of Life is out now via Inertia.