Bryan Guy Adams, OC OBC (born 5 November 1959) is a Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, producer, actor, social activist, and photographer. Adams has been one of the most successful figures of the world of rock music during last three decades. He’s known for his strong husky vocals and energetic live performances, and he has sold more than 100 million records, making him one of the world’s best-selling music artists and the best-selling Canadian rock artist of all time.
Adams rose to fame in North America with his album Cuts Like a Knife and turned into a global star with his 1984 album Reckless. In 1991, he released his popular Waking Up the Neighbours album which included “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You”, one of the best-selling singles of all time.
For his contributions to music, Adams has garnered many awards and nominations, including 20 Juno Awards among 56 nominations, 15 Grammy Award nominations including a win for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television in 1992. He has also won MTV, ASCAP, American Music awards, two Ivor Novello Awards for song composition and has been nominated five times for Golden Globe Awards and three times for Academy Awards for his songwriting for films.
Adams and Alicia Grimaldi, who is also a trustee and co-founder of his namesake foundation, had their first daughter, Mirabella Bunny Grimaldi Adams on 22 April 2011. They announced the birth of their second daughter Lula Rosylea Grimaldi Adams, via People Magazine on 15 February 2013.
Adams has been vegan since the age of 29, originally for health reasons, but is also an advocate for animal rights.
Adams has homes in Chelsea, London and Paris.
Bryan Adams concert at Madison Square Garden Theater
A fan who kept yelling “Summer of ’69!” started to annoy Bryan Adams during his concert on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. “Have you ever been to a rock concert before?” Mr. Adams asked patiently. “As the show progresses, the songs come that you recognize.”
Mr. Adams doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done at a rock concert before. He strums his electric guitar, strolls around the stage, embraces his band mates and jumps off a drum riser; he belts the words in an earnest rasp of a voice. The audience, filled with teen-age girls, happily does its part by singing choruses, holding up the flames of cigarette lighters during ballads and squealing when he approaches the edge of the stage. On Sunday, as the fan continued to shout, Mr. Adams brought him on stage; Seth from Long Island sang a few lines of “The Best Is Yet To Come,” doing his best Bryan Adams impression.
Mr. Adams raises generic rock from a job to a vocation. He and his collaborators, primarily Jim Vallance and Robert (Mutt) Lange, thrive on commonplace sentiments, stripped of specific details: “I just can’t stand another lonely night” or “All I want is you” or “You’re the only one I’ve ever loved” or “I’ve got to feel your touch.” Mr. Adams makes million-selling songs by portraying a virile nice guy. He might make noise at a party in “House Arrest” or let lust carry him away in “Run to Me,” but he’ll also promise undying devotion and sound like he means it, as in “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You,” which sold 15 million copies worldwide.
The words arrive in three-chord rockers or hymnlike power ballads that draw almost all their ideas from a small group of English and Midwestern rockers: the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, the Who, Bob Seger and John Cougar Mellencamp, with a touch of Bruce Springsteen. The songs are well-made, from opening guitar hook to sing-along chorus. And after more than a decade of Top 10 hits, Mr. Adams has made a trademark of his own facelessness; he is heroically ordinary.
Photo by Ben Kaye
In this installment, Michael Roffman, Frank Mojica, and Carson O’Shoney adjust the power rankings on this year’s Top 10 North American music festivals. Agree or disagree, let us know what you think.
Michael Roffman (MR): “We’re gonna build something this summer.” Craig Finn’s words of wisdom are all I can hear while assembling our latest round of rankings. Yes, it’s officially summertime (even if it’s felt that way for months now), two of the Big Four fests are behind us, and we’re only just kissing July. Oy. We have a lot of work cut out for us, gentlemen.
I guess the first thing to discuss is our Spring No. 1, Bonnaroo. It’s now been a few weeks since The Farm shut its doors, and yet we’re still reeling from the four-day extravaganza — and I didn’t even attend! So, what do we think? Was it a success? Does it deserve No. 1? Sure, it was by far the safest installment in the fest’s history, but Kanye’s set wasn’t the heroic comeback it needed to be, Frank Ocean didn’t debut any new material, and maybe it’s just a lack of social networking, but I don’t think people walked away from Elton’s set as “changed” as they were from McCartney’s.
Still, according to our own Alex Young, Jack White put on one of the best sets of his career and of the festival, and as Carson pointed out (and several readers agreed), Nick Cave might have done the same thing. I think there’s a lot to discuss here, and I’m certainly not the authority considering I spent that weekend watching comedians at AV Club’s comedy festival and my team fumble their fourth NBA Finals appearance. So, what say you, Mr. O’Shoney?
Bonnaroo // Photo by Amanda Koellner
Carson O’Shoney (CO): Bonnaroo just keeps getting better somehow. The event has changed so much since I started going in 2007, and it’s (almost) all for the better. It’s a finely tuned machine at this point, firing on all cylinders. Getting there isn’t as much of a chore as it used to be, the lines to Centeroo have been cut down considerably, water stations are now plentiful, the grounds have expanded and remain beautiful, the Food Truck Oasis/Kalliope Stage setup was perfect this year, and it really helped that they removed the center division at the What Stage pit. As you mentioned, it was the safest Roo ever, and what’s more, the weather cooperated and kept everyone cooler than normal. All in all, it was easily one of the best festivals I’ve personally attended. No lie: Bonnaroo’s “Radiate Positivity” mantra really did translate into a good vibe at the fest, even amidst the persistent “Fuck Kanye” graffiti.
Sure, Elton John didn’t leave the crowd ‘changed’ like Macca did in 2013, but maybe people don’t have an emotional connection to Elton like they do with Paul. Instead, they were just there to sing along and have a good time, which they did by the tens of thousands. Throw in Jack White and Nick Cave and the countless other acts who knocked it out of the park this year, and you’ve got a lineup that stands up to the best lineups in the past — both in theory and execution. There were very few disappointing sets, and even those were seemingly disappointing to a very small, albeit vocal, minority (ahem, Kanye, which I personally loved). Let’s not forget about all the SuperJams this year, which you won’t find anywhere but Bonnaroo. From top to bottom, this year was an absolute success, and if you only took the lineup into account, I think Roo would still be top two at worst. Factor in everything else, and it really cements its place as No. 1 in our power rankings.
Frank Mojica (FM): I really wish I could have gone to Bonnaroo this year. It isn’t often that I actually watch all of the headliners at a festival, and the lineup was solid from top to bottom. Also, a lower emphasis on EDM is always a good thing.
It wasn’t entirely surprising that Yeezus was figuratively nailed to a cross by attendees. Seriously, children, get over 2008, already. As for Sir Elton, I would love to see him and his hit-stuffed set sounded like a blast, even if it didn’t pack the same oomph as McCartney. But then again, what does? Bonnaroo’s SuperJams are a welcome break from the usual festival fare and are once-in-a-lifetime sets, really. I mean, where else can you see Warpaint covering “Pump Up the Jam”?
Speaking of which, I must say, they goofed by not giving Warpaint a longer set. They would have actually taken advantage of the extra time with their penchant for extended jams. Nevertheless, the webcast sounded incredible. It’s disheartening to hear that only a hundred or so people watched Nick Cave, though. At some point, festivals are surely going to stop booking people like Cave if people don’t start actually watching them, so let’s enjoy these bookings while they last.
MR: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down, Frank. We all know how insane you are about Warpaint. You’ve gotta remember, they’re still a rising, young act. I’m actually surprised they were even a part of the SuperJam, so I’d consider them lucky by Roo standards. Also, maybe I just caught them amidst some weird SXSW malaise, but I’ve yet to go bonkers for them on-stage, and I actually enjoy their albums. ANYWAYS…
I guess when it comes down to it, Bonnaroo really does offer a perfect mix of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I was going to start this off by discussing how they place such a precedence on the veterans, but really, that’s just not true anymore. They gave Skrillex a SuperJam set entirely to himself, while Elton John, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and Lionel Richie are the only real greying veterans at the top of their lineup. Hell, Vampire Weekend is listed as fifth — fifth! — pitting them ahead of Arctic Monkeys, or Skrillex, or even the festival’s beloved Flaming Lips. Granted, plenty of other fests have done the same thing (e.g., Governors Ball), but Bonnaroo is arguably the weightiest of the colossal Big Four. It just speaks to their eyes and how they’re not looking pre-2000 as much anymore, and that should help as the lineups get more and more difficult to piece together year after year.
“But Lollapalooza did the same thing this year, didn’t they? They booked Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, Skrillex, Eminem, and OutKast, who all claimed their spotlight post-2000,” you might argue, and you’d be right. But here’s the difference: story. With the exception of OutKast, who by then will have played over 30 sets, each one of those acts have played Lollapalooza in the past few years, and even worse, they aren’t supporting anything new. Each of their albums will be almost or a little over a year old, and while seeing how Arctic might fare as a headliner is intriguing, it’s not enough of a narrative to really pull you in. With Bonnaroo, they had a heroic return (Jack White), a rematch (Kanye West), the induction of two legends (Lionel Richie, Sir Elton John), and well, just go look at the lineup… it goes on and on. I think that’s what’s really necessary of the Big Four at this point; you need to have a narrative, a story, or at least character. And yeah, I’d have to agree, Bonnaroo did that again.
Here’s what I’d argue, though. Edge vs. narrative. In that department, FYF Fest wins hands down. This is a festival whose idea of a veteran is an act that’s either been dismissed (Interpol) or relatively out of the spotlight (The Strokes), where reunions require a short trip down memory lane (The Blood Brothers, Slowdive), and the greatest acts of today get the banner space they deserve and could host (HAIM, Grimes, Flying Lotus). Personally, this is the only lineup of the year that had me run to the bathroom to see if I actually did pee in my pants just a little. (Of course, I didn’t; it was just green tea.) I’m still taking my leftover Xanax in hopes to feel better about myself for missing this. And have you been to FYF? It’s one of the only festivals I know of where you can easily smooth over the conflicts by running to and from stages. Son of a bitch, how am I missing this?
Please talk amongst yourselves. Topic: How does FYF fare against it’s little cousin FFF? Are these small-scale reunions overhyped or just chances for the lesser known to get their due applause?
FM: Most people don’t care, sure, but for those that do, there’s little more exciting than the prospect of finally catching that beloved band that’s finally back together again. FYF really nailed it this year. Phoenix and The Strokes secured the attendance of the masses, and having several esoteric reunions guaranteed continuing support from their base of regulars. No wonder the event sold out.
MR: Hmm, it would appear as if that’s a common thread of any successful festival — especially a juggernaut like Lollapalooza. A few anchors move the tickets out the door, and the rest, well, they’re colorful shipmates. Going off that measure, do we value the anchors or the shipmates? Are we going in circles here? Look at last week’s news about C3′s Big Day Out! What happens when there’s a lack of anchors? Does the ship then drift away into nowhere? Or do the shipmates stand up? Sorry, apparently last night’s viewing of Master and Commander struck a nerve. Oh, that Russell Crowe.
CO: Going back to FYF/FFF — even though I just sang the praises of Bonnaroo, smaller fests like these are really where my interests lie these days. They don’t need as many ‘anchors’ since they don’t have to attract a small city to their gates. That also gives them freedom to make interesting bookings that aren’t part of your average festival lineup. FYF snagged Slowdive and Blood Brothers, while FFF got King Diamond and Judas Priest, among many others at both. Some of my favorites lineups in the recent past have been put together by Moogfest/Mountain Oasis, Big Ears, Pitchfork, Hopscotch, and other smaller festivals.
In general — to continue the metaphor — early in your festival-going life, I find you’re more likely to be drawn by the anchors. That’s how they draw the masses in, and hook the first-timers into going to their festival. But the more you go to festivals, the more enamored you become by the shipmates. Some of that has to do with the fact that there are only so many headliners to go around, and while some festivals do a solid job of keeping the top of their lineups fresh, others (*cough* Lollapalooza *cough*) seem content to just keep trotting out the same batch of anchors. In cases like that, you have to start getting more into the shipmates; otherwise, it’s pointless to keep going to the same festival to see the same bands over and over again. Even if your festival(s) of choice aren’t recycling their headliners in that fashion, as you get older and go to more festivals, it just feels natural to be more drawn to the smaller, more intriguing acts.
On the other hand, Big Day Out and countless other failed festivals prove the need for big anchors. There are always going to be huge music fans that get pumped about the bottom half of the lineup, but they are far outnumbered. No matter how established a festival is, or how good of an undercard they have, the masses are mostly just looking at the top two or three lines when making a decision on what festival to attend. They don’t care that Ty Segall is playing a late-night set. They don’t know or care what Mogwai represents. They’re there to party and see the bands in big bold letters at the top of the poster. If you don’t strike a chord with them there, you might be shit out of luck. Like it or not, it’s those type of people that make or break major festivals.
MR: And that’s a tragedy in itself, Carson. I recall in my early days of Lollapalooza — around 2005 and 2006 — I’d be riding with folks who wanted to hit up the festival early to see what they were offering, and I thought that was really open-minded of them. For one, they weren’t the biggest music fans, meaning they didn’t hit up the boards or obsess over songs the minute they surfaced, but they wanted to make every dollar of their purchase count. I don’t know if that’s a good way of thinking, but I imagine it’s led to some great discoveries on their part. Still, like you said, they wouldn’t have bought that ticket if Weezer or the Red Hot Chili Peppers weren’t on the lineup. But maybe one experience is worth an annual tradition regardless of the top-billed talent? Probably not.
Keeping this going, I’d like to re-address the story angle of festivals. What festival works off a powerful mythos this summer?
FM: I think the story of the summer could be Pemberton. The first, and only, edition was apparently well attended but plagued with logistical issues such as traffic and a limited capacity dance tent. These issues have been addressed by the new organizers, though. It will be interesting to see what happens with Pemberton’s reboot because I think it has the potential to be the next true North American destination festival due to its beautiful setting and impressive lineup.
And how about that lineup, eh? Truly something for everyone.
MR: It’s definitely a great lineup and one that also gives a fair shake to a variety of genres at the top level. As we saw with Sasquatch! this year, Soundgarden isn’t exactly a genuine sell, so it’s nice to know they’re getting another shot, albeit behind NIN, OutKast, and Deadmau5. The undercard is pretty brilliant, too. Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, Modest Mouse, and, um, Randy Newman? Come on. That last addition is the sort of creativity every veteran spot should warrant. Hell, they even nabbed Norm Macdonald in the comedy tent, which should account for 65% of the ticket alone. What do you think, Carson?
CO: I love it when major festivals book something completely out of left field. I’ve already talked about some of the more niche fests and their unique bookings, but seeing names like Randy Newman on a huge lineup makes me smile. Hell, just a few years ago we would have scoffed at the notion of Lionel Richie playing prime-time spots at these types of festivals, but now he’s killed at both ACL and Bonnaroo. Plus a vet like Norm and even someone like Tom Green (both at Pemberton) makes a comedy lineup a lot more interesting than your average festival. More bookings like those, please.
MR: If we’re talking about intriguing stories, I have to bring up Moogfest. Their soft return earlier this year kicked our heads with one of the most unique lineups we’ve been able to appreciate in North America. But ultimately, it was a failure, having lost $1.5 million in the process. Here’s the breakdown, according to Asheville’s Citizen-Times:
Moogfest ticket sales totaled more than $712,000, with food, beverage and merchandise sales at around $29,000. Expenses totaled more than $2.7 million. The majority of the festival costs came from talent. Festival organizers Moog Music spent more than $1.5 million on artists and artists travel, hotel, and meals.
Moogfest 2014, touted as a new economic development tool to coax more technology talent to the area, received $90,000 in funding from the county and $40,000 from the city of Asheville, along with another $50,000 in in-kind services
Ouch. Odds are it’s not coming back after that. Granted, we’ve seen some resilience with troubled festivals in the past years — Langerado and DeLuna, to name a couple — but with no sign of a return from A/C Entertainment’s Mountain Oasis Festival, it would appear that Asheville is off the map for festival season. So, could we really justifiably call this year’s Moogfest a top festival?
Based on creativity and originality, yes. But from an economical standpoint, perhaps, no. Is this another lesson to what we’ve been discussing all along: the importance of anchors? Or is this a premature conclusion, especially since most young festivals lose money in their fledgling years? Sub-question: Is Moogfest really a young festival anymore? Let’s tackle these and then we can hit up our lists.
CO: To answer your question, yes Moogfest is still a young festival. It shares a name with an older festival, but there’s no relation otherwise. They can go through the same growing pains that any other young fest would go through, especially between year one and year two. I will say that Moogfest definitely gets points for trying something different. Not only did they put together perhaps the most unique lineup of the year, they decided to go five days long and have a “day” lineup of presentations and panels, and a “night” lineup of music. It’s a dream festival for anyone who is into that scene on more than just a musical level.
The problem is, by stretching it out to five days, you’re limiting your audience greatly. Anyone with a job and little to no vacation time is automatically out. Some that would have free time might not be able to afford staying in Asheville for five days. Any way you slice it, five days is a long time for a music festival, no matter what other kind of peripheral activities are happening around the music. I’m taking a stab in the dark here, but I’m guessing that contributed to the small turnout — when you’ve got a niche festival like that, you’ve got to make it more accessible to out-of-towners.
I think they need to find the right balance between their vision of Moogfest and AC Entertainment’s versions if they truly want the festival to be a success. I, for one, hope we haven’t seen the last of Moogfest, no matter where they go from here.
FM: Moogfest may have been our last shot at a truly original, one-of-a-kind festival experience. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great lineups this year, but they are all massive outdoor events short on esoteric delights. The intimate, specialized event for the discerning music lover is a dying breed. As was the case with ATP, we apparently can’t have nice things and you can’t pay the bills with creativity points.
I agree with Carson’s assessment that five days may have been a bit much for Moogfest, especially for an event in April. Bad timing probably killed the S.S. Coachella, and it may be a factor here as well.
MR: Timing is everything with festivals and, yeah, five days is just too much. It stopped me from being able to attend and this is my life. You can’t aim to be South by Southwest in the first go-around, which is sort of what they attempted to do, come to think of it. Despite the pitfalls, I think we all agree it was a success, creatively speaking, and deserves its spot amongst the best of 2014. It’s just a shame we won’t be using the term “blockbuster” at all.
Boston Calling: Spring 2014 // Photo by Ben Kaye
On the plus side, there are several young festivals that deserve that title already. Look at Corona Capitol! Or Boston Calling’s sister installment for the fall! There are a lot of great junior festivals refusing to pull their punches, and it’s working out well for them.
I think this is about as great a time as any to break into our list. Shall we?
Né en 1996 à Ondres, dans les Landes, le groupe des frères Duplantier a atteint une renommée internationale qui l’emmène pour un mois de tournée aux Etats-Unis, de Las Vegas à Boston, en compagnie des mythiques Slayer.
Qui aurait pu imaginer qu’un petit groupe du sud des Landes, deviendrait un jour le plus international des groupes de rock en France ? Après dix-huit ans d’existence, Gojira, né à Ondres (40) d’une fratrie (Joseph et Mario Duplantier) et d’une bande de copains est devenu une pointure de la scène metal internationale. Gojira joue partout dans le monde, avec les plus grands (Metallica pour ne citer qu’eux) et bénéficie d’une aura et d’une respectabilité en acier trempé. Comment peut-on en arriver là ? Éléments de réponse avec Mario Duplantier, 32 ans, le batteur du groupe.
« Sud Ouest Dimanche ». Vous jouez partout dans le monde. Vous avez encore du temps à consacrer à vos terres d’origines, les Landes et le Pays Basque ?
Mario Duplantier. On ne vit pas tous à Ondres, mais le QG du groupe reste à Ondres, dans les Landes. On s’y retrouve pour préparer les tournées et ensuite on part sur la route. Mon frère a un appartement à New York où il passe du temps. C’est une ville qui l’inspire énormément. Et puis, le statut et l’emploi du temps du groupe le permettent. Nous sommes devenus un groupe international et nous tournons autant aux États-Unis qu’en Europe. Prendre un avion pour sept ou dix heures, maintenant c’est devenu la routine. Lorsque l’on rentre, le temps consacré à nos familles et à nos vies personnelles est devenu de plus en plus important.
Il faut bien s’entendre lorsque l’on est toujours ensemble, sur la route…
Il y a une sorte de fluidité entre nous qui est très précieuse et qui fait beaucoup pour le succès du groupe. On essaie de ne pas avoir la grosse tête car il y en a toujours un pour ramener l’autre sur terre. Je suis avec trois amis en permanence. Un frère et deux très bons amis et mon frère est aussi un ami. Et on a cette chance de voyager dans le monde tous ensemble.
Vous avez déjà joué aux États-Unis, mais la tournée que vous allez entamer en première partie de Slayer semble encore un niveau au-dessus…
Tourner avec Slayer, qui est une légende du metal, c’est jouer dans des salles prestigieuses. Donc oui cette tournée fait rêver. Surtout quand on vient de France et que l’on sait que l’on va jouer à Las Vegas, à Los Angeles, dans des salles de 5 000 places, que l’on va jouer au Madison Square Garden à New York, pour nous ça reste incroyable et on est émerveillés par ce qui nous attend.
L’an dernier vous avez joué avec Metallica, cette année avec Slayer. Comment un groupe français se fait repérer par ces légendes du rock américain ?
Metallica est un groupe très observateur. Ils sont à l’affût de ce qui se passe dans le milieu. Ils avaient constaté qu’il y avait quelque chose autour de Gojira, donc ils nous ont appelés et nous ont proposé de jouer en première partie. Peu avant notre tournée avec Metallica, le bassiste est venu nous voir jouer à San Francisco. Il était dans le public et sa présence m’avait marqué. J’ai l’impression qu’il était là pour voir si vraiment notre groupe tenait la route. Donc c’était vraiment un coup de cœur de Metallica.
Vous êtes aujourd’hui presque plus connus à l’étranger qu’en France. Nul n’est prophète en son pays ?
On a fait nos armes en France et il y a eu une période où l’on ne tournait qu’en France et où nous étions très populaires. Je me souviens de la sortie de notre album en 2005 où l’on a fait quasiment 40 000 ventes, ce qui est bien dans le metal. Il y avait énormément de critiques positives et nous étions une sorte de fierté nationale. Maintenant, le fait que l’on ait percé à l’étranger, qu’il y ait moins d’exclusivités pour la France, ça titille pas mal de gens, mais je trouve que l’on a quand même beaucoup de soutiens en France. On l’a vu notamment au Hellfest (NDLR : qui a réuni 100 000 festivaliers en 2013) où nous avons joué sur la grande scène. Les gens étaient là. Du moment où l’on s’expose, on est critiqués, mais je trouve que le public nous respecte.
La musique que vous jouez, le metal est parfois montrée du doigt, mal comprise. Comment le vivez-vous ?
Je pense que tout ça c’est une apparence. Il y a pas mal de tabous dans notre société. Quand quelqu’un dit qu’il va mal, ça embête les gens, quand quelqu’un parle de la mort ça embête les gens. Et puis beaucoup de ce qui est diffusé à la radio ou à la télé est assez médiocre. C’est de la musique easy listenning pour ne pas déranger les gens, pour ne pas rajouter des tracas à leur quotidien. Le metal, c’est une musique particulière et il peut y avoir des amalgames car on entend des hurlements, il y a une violence sonore donc physique aussi, mais c’est dommage parce que beaucoup de gens qui ne s’intéressent pas au metal pourraient adorer cette musique en grattant un peu. Il n’y a pas de tabous avec le metal. En tant que batteur, cela me permet de lâcher de la joie, de la peine, de la douleur. Pour moi c’est vraiment une expérience.
Savez-vous qu’une pétition circule sur Internet pour demander que vous représentiez la France à L’Eurovision ?
J’ai entendu dire ça. Mais pourquoi pas, si on veut bien de nous à l’Eurovision, je suis d’accord. Mais je n’ai pas envie d’avoir comme mission de faire connaître le metal à la masse. Sinon ça pourrait être marrant si on nous faisait cette proposition.
Shoegaze legends My Bloody Valentine who released their first album in over 21 years, mbv, earlier this year, have already done some North American dates since (like LA’s FYF Fest), and though those didn’t include any in NYC, now they are set to return and will play Hammerstein Ballroom on November 11 and 12! Tickets are not on sale yet, but check Ticketmaster for updates.
My Bloody Valentine — 2013 Tour Dates
06-09 Budapest, Hungary – Club 202
06-10 Prague, Czech Republic – Archa Theater
06-13 Copenhagen, Denmark – Vega
06-14 Hultsfred, Sweden – Hultsfred Festival
06-15 Oslo, Norway – Norwegian Wood Festival
07-07 Belfort, France – Eurockeennes Festival
07-13 Balado, Scotland – T in the Park
07-26 Niigata, Japan – Fuji Rock Festival
07-27 Ansan Daebu Island, Korea – Valley Rock Festival
08-04 Katowice, Poland – Off Festival
08-06 Vienna, Austria – Vienna Arena
08-08 Sibenik, Croatia – Terraneo Festival
08-10 Helsinki, Finland – Flow Festival
08-16 Austin, TX – Austin Music Hall
08-17 Grand Prairie, TX – Verizon Theatre
08-19 Denver, CO – Ogden Theatre
08-21 Seattle, WA – WaMu Theater at CenturyLink Events Center
08-23 San Francisco, CA – Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
08-25 Los Angeles, CA – FYF Fest
08-30 Laois, Ireland – Electric Picnic
09-05 Cologne, Germany – Cologne Live Music Hall
09-07 Berlin, Germany – Berlin Festival
09-08 Munich, Germany – Munich Tonhalle
10-31 Eindhoven, Netherlands – Effenaar
11-03 Lille, France – Aeronef
Japandroid’s singer/guitarist Brian King is taking a rare and much deserved break from the road. The topic of exhaustion has come up a few times in the course of our conversation – in songwriting, in touring, in the limitations of being a guitar-drum duo trying to get maximum sound from minimum instrumentation. King and his partner, drummer David Prowse, have been grinding it out non-stop over the course of the last year in support of their critically-lauded sophomore LP Celebration Rock – the pair had just gotten home from back-to-back 50 date tours that took them across North America and Europe when we spoke – and 2013 will be no different. But don’t worry – the Japandroids aren’t done, they’re just getting started.
“What exact change needs to occur to make sure that the next record continues on that lineage of getting better – because we’d like to think that we keep getting better, make better records – it’s a hard question to answer,” says King. “You’re on the second half of the record cycle, and it’s only now that you’re beginning to start to think about new ideas and new songs and stuff for the next record.”
“That’s what we’ve been thinking about – how do we make this one better than the last one. I think it’s probably going to be time to introduce something or change something to make a different kind of record.”
You can hear in King’s voice that he’s savoring this moment at the crossroads, that the imminent change is not worrisome or threatening, that the need for a new attack plan is not a sign that he’s drained the well of ideas, but rather that he’s a acutely aware of his outfit’s limitations and relishes the challenge of pushing the band beyond itself. It’s been nearly four years since Japandroids were anointed with buzz-band status by the kingmakers at Pitchfork, four years since their cascading, propulsive punk rock anthems began taking festivals and clubs by storm, igniting pogo-pits and stage-diving conflagrations in cities and towns world-wide. It’s been four years that have seen their peers in the buzz-bin explode, implode, or simply just melt down in response to a music industry that is chewing up bands and spitting them out at an unprecedented speed.
What distinguishes the ‘Droids from their flash-in-the-“Best New Music”-pan compatriots, what’s kept them in demand even after their name has drifted off the homepage, is a workman-like devotion to their craft and a consistent desire to improve as players, songwriters and entertainers. Their focus is not on keeping up with the indie-Joneses or staying in lockstep with the latest micro-trends in twee-tronica – there is no acknowledgment of the ephemeral accoutrements of the indie-stry, of market demands and cultural shifts. Japandroids’ sole mission is giving the audience – not their own egos – more of what they came for: more anthems, more energy, more explosive emotional catharsis. It is a rare level of focus for a young band lavished with so much attention, a rare approach in an era when indie bands use the smallest amount of success as an excuse to stock up on shiny lights and stop writing good songs.
“I think it’s really common that a lot of bands now start with their first record and it’s a pretty lo-fi record – cheaply recorded and lo-fi, which is how a lot of bands are introduced to the world these days, just like we were,” says King. “Then when they find some notoriety, when they find some success, some kind of popularity – get signed to a bigger label and people start to know who they are – then when it comes to the next record it’s – boom – into the nice studio with the producer, going from recording your album in a week to recording your album in a couple of months.
“And the change is too drastic, it’s too great. Sometimes it works, don’t get me wrong – Nirvana went from recording Bleach to recording Nevermind and that seemed to work out pretty well for them [laughs]. It can work, and it’s becoming more a more common thing these days. So there has to be some sort of middle ground in there, and that’s kind of what we’re looking for. Whatever that middle ground is.”
That middle ground, between staying true to one’s artistic vision and indulging the indie-media’s vampiric desires for novelty, isn’t going to be found on any map – there’s no fifty-paces-and-X-marks-the-spot. That middle ground is a mystical place, more a fable and a philosophical ideal than a divinable location, a pebble in the rapidly rushing river of the indie-celebrity complex, difficult to spot and even harder to hang on to. And it’s not a recent phenomenon either – the cut-out bins of the world are lousy with overstocked indie darlings that reached for the stars and came up with a fist of over-produced, underdeveloped dirt.
“I don’t think there’s ever been as much pressure on bands to try to penetrate that world and make that jump so quickly as there has been now,” says King. “There are so many bands – the internet has just exploded – and a band’s time in the limelight can be so short-lived. People aren’t selling records so it’s about getting what you can when you can. I watched so many bands that have come up at the same time as us follow that same path – sometimes it’s worked, but a lot of times it hasn’t. We’ve always been very, very fearful and wary of doing that ourselves.”
That devil nipping at their heals – the constant specter of irrelevance, the carcasses of indie bands piling up in the corner – makes Japandroids’ records so intensely immediate. Every guitar riff and drum fill on Celebration Rock feels like it’s going to explode, each note and bar of “The Nights Of Wine And Roses,” “Adrenaline Nightshift” and “The House That Heaven Built” are crammed with so much information and emotion you expect the band to combust at any moment. It’s as if each song could be their last, as if each coda could be their death rattle and they need to let the whole world know, as loud and enthusiastically as possible. In a scene where people change styles and sounds more frequently than they change undergarments, it’s the rare band that sticks to its guns while the vultures try to blow smoke up their collective ass.
“That’s how we’ve kept it in check. You know that’s why we said, after the success of our first record, we don’t need to go spend all this money going to a fancy studio spending six months doing what we can do in ten days,” say King. “And we don’t need to hire a producer to come in and tell us what we should be doing and what we shouldn’t be doing, how we should be doing it or how we shouldn’t be doing it.
“We don’t need to have the most expensive guitar and drum set that you can get and we don’t have to add keyboards because we didn’t have any on the first album or something like that. You know, it’s kinda like,‘We don’t need any of the stuff that’s popped up on our radar.’ We’re just going to keep everything the same which will showcase how our songwriting and our playing have improved.”
This sameness – the same players, the instrumentation, the same studio, the same set up from their earliest self-released singles to their latest album – has been a beneficial structure for the band, affording them an opportunity for exploration that doesn’t set them adrift in a sea of ideas that would dampen their energy. While the form laid out in early tracks like “Coma Complacency” and “ Press Corps” from the All Lies EP – soaring, anthemic punk chant-alongs – remains intact, each new recording builds upon the next, achieving new levels of technical proficiency and songwriting precision.
Where the Japandroids of Lullaby Death Jams – available alongside All Lies on the No Singles comp – are a scrappy outfit pushing their own boundaries and birthing a beautiful complexity almost by accident, the Japandroids of Celebration Rock zero in on the point-of-no return and blast their way through it with a technical prowess reserved for only the most decorated of veterans. By the time King sings “Remember when we had them on the run?” – as Powse’s “woo-ohs” rise up from this amidst a hail of snare-fire, when every upstroke of the guitar feels like it’s tripped a land mine and tom-toms rain down like mortar shells – the battle for rock and roll’s heart and soul has been won.
And as the fireworks explode and the final notes of “Continuous Thunder” – a cloudburst of absolution, baptism of low-note percussion and sweeping, staccatto string-work – close out the album the question arises: Where to next? Do they circle back and entrench the territory they’ve already secured, hiding out in a bunker of familiarity, insulating themselves from the threat of failure? Or do they soldier on and mark out for the unknown and the risk of utter destruction?
There’s no shame in sticking with what works and the process has worked pretty well for the Japandroids, but if there’s anything that’s clear from speaking with King it’s that the risk is the reason. That pushing themselves to the point of exhaustion and then pushing beyond is the very reason Japandroids exist – they do it because it needs to be done. Rock and roll still needs indefatigable heroes, artists willing to use everything in their arsenal to get the job done even if it means breaking with the strategy that got them to this point.
“I think this new record that we did takes that about as far as we’re capable of taking it. I don’t know how it could be better, so we’re at this weird turning point – we did these three records with the same lineage and not changed a thing,” says King. “And now it’s finally time to think about changing something so we can continue that lineage so we feel like we’re moving forward.”