The Incredible Disappearance Of Japandroids
This article was written before Japandroids reformed and published at Public Pressure. Though, we like it as it is now, a punk time capsule.
After performing in more than 40 countries from March of 2012 to November 2013, Japandroids had racked up over 200 shows in support of their critically acclaimed sophomore album Celebration Rock. Then suddenly, the cult two-piece completely disappeared, at the pinnacle of their power.
In a final post on their Facebook group singer and guitarist Brian King thanked everyone who came to their shows, those who,
“Drank, smoked, sweat, bled, puked, fucked, fought, danced, dove, yelled, screamed, sang, and most importantly rocked with us these last two years.”
King stated that the band would forever be grateful for the support shown by fans, but now it was,
“time for us to disappear into the ether for a while, y’all stay crazy/forever.”
It is probably rather unsurprising, in hindsight, that Japandroids’ initial existence would be as fleeting and explosive as what they refer to in one of their most admired tracks, ‘Adrenaline Nightshift’ as “a roman candle kiss”. The band’s continuation in the wake of a virtually unknown first album, was arguably as tumultuous as their now indefinite hiatus. In a biography posted on the band’s website it was explained that at no point after the duo’s first album or subsequent EP’s did Brian or David “even discuss the possibility of writing, let alone recording, a second Japandroids album”. Fortunately, in 2009 several outlets (most notably Pitchfork) discovered the band, giving them a new-found status. This emergence of popularity would coincide with perhaps the most pertinent reason for their continued life-or-death attitude, as King had “just about died” from a perforated ulcer when the band’s first album Post-Nothing finally took off.
“When they love you and they will / Tell them all, they’ll love in my shadow” – The House That Heaven Built
Having discussed the opportunity to write a second album, the two conceded that although it was a daunting task, it would be unthinkable not to capitalise on the opportunity presented. Working with Post-Nothing engineer Jesse Gander again, the two once more pursued the creation of an album that would mimic the spirit and energy of their blitzkrieg-like live shows. Talking to long term supporter Pitchfork, the two once more opted to forego customary studio techniques such as double tracking and overdubbing, while consciously taking into account the perceived reaction of their audience to hearing the songs in the context of a real gig.
It was ultimately a great success, Celebration Rock encapsulated the raw energy of their previous album, whilst a renewed focus on the quality of song-writing ensured that the album was a cult classic. Japandroids’ popularity was perhaps best described in its knowingly overblown qualities, it’s repeated call-to-arms and the band’s own carpe diem turned up to eleven. Every line became an epithet, a mantra for fans to live their lives by.
“Remember that night you were already in bed / Said, ‘Fuck it’ / Got up to drink with me instead?” – Younger Us
However, Japandroids’ greatest trick, was their own unprecedented disappearing act following their swift rise to success. In the modern music world, where stadium tours and record deals are the singular goal for some bands, the idea of quitting whilst at the top seems utterly ludicrous. The greatest example of such a ceremonious exit, is that of LCD Soundsystem’s, chronicled in the thunderous 2012 documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits. Rumours that the band were re-uniting in 2016 circulated by Consequence of Sound amongst others had Twitter ablaze recently, though DFA Records subsequently denounced the claim. Japandroids’ purposeful exit from the limelight is perhaps a bizarre notion to the many who would wish the band had churned out another album. Yet, there is something to be said for an artist willing to refuse the financial opportunities or disappoint the clamouring fans themselves, in order to preserve the quality of their collection of work, or conceding that they cannot carry on living the rock and roll lifestyle.
No one has quite written the Japandroids obituary yet, and for good reason. Incredibly, no news has been reported on the pair’s plans to release new material or confirm the disbanding of the act. Despite a number of articles pursuing the bands’ intentions Japandroids’ social media accounts remain stagnant further adding to the mythology of the ramshackle nature of the duo. This unavailability of information has been a source of both frustration and reinvigoration for many followers, usually able to access the minutiae of any artist’s communication.
Unsurprisingly, Japandroids still clearly remain in music culture’s consciousness, the reception to Philadelphia outfit Beach Slang’s excellent debut full-length album being a key indicator of this fact. In virtually all reviews of the aptly titled, The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us, more than a cursory nod was made to the now elusive Canadian act. From Pitchfork to Stereogum to Spin, and to The Telegraph, Japandroids were keenly referenced in album reviews for Beach Slang, solidifying the notion that the band has almost created an oeuvre in itself, paradoxically cultivated by their own disappearance.
Whether Japandroids’ return to sell out Wembley or not, the band’s evaporation is virtually unheard of in modern music circles. In Ian Cohen’s initial review of Post-nothing for Pitchfork that revived interest in the band, Cohen serendipitously compared ‘Young Hearts Spark Fire’ to LCD Soundsystem’s opus ‘All My Friends’. He labelled the song’s similar brilliance as being founded upon “trading wistful reminiscence for drunken defiance and pulsing electro for chaotic garage rock”, which in turn gives way to King’s most revealing line, “we used to dream/ Now we worry about dying/ I don’t want to worry about dying”. In reviewing their second album Cohen remarked that if Post-Nothing was an album obsessed over dying then Celebration Rock sees the band revel in “being alive”. Subsequently, while the mystery enshrouding the future of Japandroids remains, the mythos will be perpetuated, and the band itself refuses to die.
“Well, you can keep tomorrow / After tonight, we’re not going to need it” – Young Hearts Spark Fire