After hearing the good news about the first ever Good Vibes Festival in Malaysia, music-lovers were sent into overwhelming fits of pleasure as Kuala Lumpur welcomes the Smashing Pumpkins, Modest Mouse and Japandroids for the first time. Japandroids got their taste of Asia at Laneway Festival in Singapore back in January 2013, but the Canadian rock band is setting its eyes on Kuala Lumpur this August.
Kyoto Protocol is one Malaysian rock outfit that needs no introduction. Not only are they one of the many local acts to perform at Good Vibes, they will also be the opening act for Japandroids at the festival. In an exclusive interview, Shan from Kyoto Protocol had the privilege to interview David Prowse of the Japandroids to gain some insight on their path to success.
1. My band is pretty much at a point similar to your early years in Vancouver. We consistently feel the pressure on the wrong side of 20 and chasing these crazy unfulfilled dreams. We always question whether we’re making the right decisions. At which point did Japandroids know you were on the right path?
I think it’s a difficult question to answer. I think it’s something you think about even now to some extent. Certainly we thought a lot about that when we were making our second record. I think a certain amount of self-doubt is healthy and it pushes you to make better art. It was certainly very encouraging, as soon as we got the opportunity to really start touring. We played shows out of town before Post-Nothing came out and before we started getting that sort of critical reception from places like Pitchfork. We played outside of Vancouver and it was very demoralizing when we’d play to very very few people. Even in Vancouver we weren’t achieving that much success. Certainly once we started getting a bit of recognition outside of Vancouver, we noticed a big difference within Vancouver. I think the sad thing with a lot of cities of Vancouver’s size is that they have a bit of a self-esteem problem in terms of nurturing and supporting their own artistic community.
A lot of places outside of the big major cities in North America and major cities in other parts of the world, I think they need that outside recognition for their own artists before those artists start to get more recognition within their own cities. So certainly in Vancouver it took us getting written about in Pitchfork. We got written about in a really influential magazine in Canada called ‘Exclaim!’. We had been reading those for a long time, and obviously it was pretty surreal when that happened and they started writing about us. It gave us a feeling that we were on the right track. In turn, I think when publications like that start writing about you, a lot of people within Vancouver and all over the place take notice. So things snowballed pretty quickly from there. I think we always thought we were making good music, but it was a huge moment when Pitchfork became one of the first places to really champion our music. That really caused a big stir when it happened. That was definitely the most obvious turning point for our band.
2. That sounds great. This just might be the one for us, having being able to speak to you and everything. In a live setting, have you guys felt limited in not being able to recreate or reproduce the sounds that were on the studio version?
Not at all. A big reason for that is we went out of our way to make sure everything we did in the studio could be recreated live. That’s a pretty important rule we have when we’re in the studio and I think it works for our kind of music. It’s pretty simple and pretty raw and direct, so I don’t think it needs to have a lot of extra instrumentation. We wanted the songs to sound like they were made by two people. We basically wanted to sound like a really well-recorded live show. Luckily for us, we don’t have that kind of debate when after you record an album you have to figure out how the hell you’re going to be able to play it live. We kind of figured out how to play it live and how to make the songs sound full with just those two instruments and those two people by the time we recorded the album. So then translating that to a live setting is really easy for us. It’s a very smooth transition.
3. In all of your travels, could you perhaps recall a moment where you guys were truly starstruck?
Yeah there’s been quite a few of those moments. There’s been quite a few. Primavera is one that I go back to every so often because of the nature of that festival, because all the artists stay at the same hotel which is right across the street from the festival grounds. So you run into people like Frank Black or Stephen Malkmus from Pavement, or Jason Pierce from Spiritualized all those people who I’ve been listening to for over a decade— you’d just run into them at the lobby of the hotel. You’d be in the same elevator as them or something weird like that. That was definitely a very surreal experience. I think for us, we toured so much that obviously we’ve been lucky enough to tour with bands we really love. I think there’s a big difference for us between bands that feel like contemporaries, that are kind of on the same trajectory as us and maybe put out 2-3 records and are our age and have come up the same time we come up. That feels pretty normal when you meet bands like that and it’s easy to think of them as peers. But with other artists where you’ve been listening to them for so long, even though in some ways you are peers with them now and you get to play the same festivals and people who like their band might like your band, it’s a weird differentiation there because you can still remember being 15 or 18 years old and idolising their music. We had another really absurd experience up there with Primavera was when we played Fujirock in Japan because there’s the same kind of thing.
There were bands, people like we knew, like Cloud Nothing. We toured with Cloud Nothing, they played at Fujirock and we toured with Cloud Nothing and are fans of their music but I don’t get starstruck when I’m hanging out with them. They feel like your peers, they’re friends and you’re fans of them but you don’t feel this weird kind of division between you. At Fujirock, we got the chance— we actually sat and hung out with Elvis Costello for like a good chunk of time because he was playing the same day as us and he stopped in to say hello. That was one of those moments when you were trying to kind of hold it together and not embarrass yourself because you’re in front of this rock idol. This legend who kind of feels like the kind of people who only exists in books and on television and magazines and on records.
They’re people who are so fantastical to you that it’s hard to believe they are actually real people that you could have a normal conversation with. It’s a very weird thing when that line gets crossed and you meet someone like that you’ve been listening to for so long. It was so weird meeting Elvis Costello, talking to him and him being this really wonderful super nice guy and then seeing him on stage and hour or two later and just being floored by seeing him play all these songs you’ve been listening to for so long and thinking, “Wow, I just met that guy.” That’s when your life is really getting into very surreal realms.
4. I feel you. Thanks so much David. This question is for my band’s frontman. I know that you and Brian write together. How do you overcome this very dreaded writers’ block issue?
I think for us, part of the way we got over that was just pushing through it and for quite a bit of the time we were working on this latest record, there was a lot of pressure on us obviously. We hadn’t done much writing at all on tour so it was just something we had to force ourselves to do. The biggest thing for us is getting to the point where you start to feel like an album is actually coming together rather than all these bits and pieces of songs, I think the hardest thing for us was getting over that hump of having some parts of songs and finished songs you like but not understanding how that could ever become a cohesive album. Once you get to a certain point of just— I think we are also just completely inefficient songwriters, we haven’t figured out some formula to do it quickly. It’s something that takes a long time for us to get songs to a place where we’re happy with them. We didn’t really figure out an easy way to do that. A lot of it was just playing every day and slowly making progress until you got to that point. I think once we got to a point where we started to have an album together, all of a sudden psychologically the dam burst a bit. We were less stressed out about how this record could possibly come together and all of a sudden it felt like there was kind of a finish line in sight and then songs started to flow a bit better. The other thing we were allowed to do that not every band could do was that we left Vancouver for a while and we moved away for a bit. That was really great too, that was something not every band can afford to do but we were lucky enough that we did a short tour to test some songs we had already written for the album.
We toured for about a month in US and Canada and took all the money we had from that tour and we just used it to move to Nashville for a month and we rented a house for super cheap there and we just played music every day. Getting outside of your comfort zone and getting outside of your routine is a really way to kind of shake things up and feel inspired again. That was a big issue for us, we’d spend all this time on the road and so used to moving all the time. Going back to Vancouver and back to our hometown and settling back into our normal life, Vancouver just wasn’t as inspiring to us anymore because we’d spend so much time there already. We’d spent so much time away from it and been so inspired by constantly moving. It was really important for us to go somewhere else and that’s really how we finished Celebration Rock, by going to Nashville. It made everything feel a lot more fresh and more exciting to play music again. We were also away from everyone we knew so to some extent we were kind of forced to play music every day. It was just the two of us down there, we didn’t know anybody else, we could go out and do whatever, but at the end of the day we were going back to a house we were living in together and we had all our equipment set up in the living room there. We were living in our practice space which made things a lot easier.
Writing is something you can’t force. You really just have to be kind of ready for whenever you happen to be inspired. So having that chance to be living in a place where you could play music whatever time you wanted and whenever you felt like took a lot of the pressure off and whenever you felt like playing you’d play.
Good Vibes Festival will take place on 17 August 2013 at the Sepang International Circuit. For tickets and details, click here.