One of my current obsessions right now, Japandroids, did an interview with Pitchfork last week that gives you a little more insight about them and their latest album, Celebration Rock, set to release next week. I picked bits and pieces from Ryan Dombals' interview with the Vancouver duo, but first take a listen to their latest single and my current obsession, "The House That Heaven Built" below:
Pitchfork: How was making this album different than making Post-Nothing?
BK: With Post-Nothing, we were making it just for us, and we weren't expecting anyone outside of our friends to hear it. It wasn't for other people. It never occurred to us that a total stranger would hear the song and it might mean something to them.
For this one, we knew there was an audience there waiting and that, even though they live thousands of miles away, it might mean something to them in the same way that we like records made by people from previous generations, or that we've never met. Like, I'll put on a Replacements record that was made when I was an infant and it's just like: bam! So when I was sitting down to write words, it was a totally different mental process.
It's hard because I want people to identify and relate and feel personally close to what I'm saying, but at the same time I live a life that is now very difficult for people to relate to. You listen to a song like the Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait"-- it never occurred to me that that might have certain ideas in it because they may have written it in a van somewhere. They're not writing that song at home or at a bar; they're making it happen out there in the world.
Photo by Maoya Bassiouni
Pitchfork: The album is called Celebration Rock, and the overall vibe is very 2 a.m., six-beers-in, time-of-your-life sort of thing. But there's a lot more ambiguity in the lyrics this time, like you're battling with this idea of being in a band and on tour, and how that can be strange.
BK: I'm doing my best to remove those specific band-y tour references and trying to make them more about movement, or something that's more identifiable in general. Like, you may never go on tour, but you might decide to move away from your hometown or go to school somewhere that's far away, or you might have a break up and go somewhere else, or you may have had a rough week at work and need to blow off some steam and get outta town for the weekend. Just that idea of movement as a measure of personal well-being.
Pitchfork: It sounds like you're trying to reconcile how you're living out this dream on tour, but the realities of touring aren't exactly what you dreamed of.
BK: Or the battle between it being a dream and how hard it is to sustain the dream continuously and indefinitely. It's hard on the body. All your relationships change; everyone stays at home and you go. And now you're meeting way more people all the time, but for really brief periods. You're seeing more than you thought you'd ever see, but at the same time you're not seeing very much at all. There was no question it was gonna be some kind of influence on the record, because it's the most extraordinary thing that ever happened to us in our whole lives. The trick is to be able to take those experiences and talk about them in a way that's not exclusive. Nobody wants to listen to a record of a band talking about touring.
Pitchfork: As far as contemporary artists, I feel like that mythic aura is present in somebody like Jack White, too. Is that something you personally aspire to?
BK: I don't know if you can aspire to be that necessarily. In some respect, Jack White became that because he's Jack White. If you listen to the early White Stripes records, it's the same Jack White. That voice is the same. The songwriting ability is there. The guy just has that special thing. People like us cannot aspire to be that; you have to accept that it's OK not to be a Jack White. It's unfair to put that burden on yourself.
There's a difference between people who are born with that special thing and people who love the people who are born with that special thing so much that they want to try their best to get as close as they can to it. I don't consider myself to be a very creative person. We have to work really, really hard to write a song we think is really good. I mean, we have two records in three years, and the records only have eight songs each. It's a slow process. It might take a whole month to write a song we think is good.
If you lock Jack White in a room with an acoustic guitar, he's gonna come up with something great. If you don't have that gift, you have to grind away-- that's more what our band does. The Replacements seem like a band where no one was born particularly great. They were just along for the ride and kind of accidentally came out with something incredibly powerful.
Pitchfork: On the other hand, "The House That Heaven Built" may be the most epic song you've ever made.
BK: I remember recording the vocals to that because I didn't realize the melody was just outside my regular vocal range until I was about to record. There are a few notes that I just can't hit in that song, straight up. [Engineer] Jesse [Gander] was literally standing there beside me, encouraging me to push my voice as hard as it could go, and it created this really raw-sounding, throaty vocal. When I first heard it back, I thought, "This is terrible! I can't even hit that note! We can't use it!" [laughs] But Dave and Jesse were really into it, and they convinced me it was really good.
Find the rest of the interview via Pitchfork