TORONTO –There was a point about four years ago when the Vancouver band Japandroids was nearing a breaking point.
As their “Celebration Rock” tour bounded towards its 20th month –and its 229th show –guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse were starting to clash.
Burnout was crippling their style. Short tempers were flaring. At times conflict overtook the rock duo’s usual comradery.
“There was a pretty present fear (the) exhaustion was about to take a negative toll on the shows,” remembers Prowse.
“It was getting to the point where it would’ve taken a toll on us.”
So instead of pushing themselves towards the brink, they decided to “chill out and take a step back,” he says.
It began with a cryptic message to fans.
“Time for us to disappear into the ether for a while ? y’all stay crazy,” they posted as part of a Facebook message that signalled the end of the tour, but also raised questions about whether they were breaking up.
It took King and Prowse more than three years before they fully recovered the confidence they once had in their band.
On Friday, their new album “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” marks an official rejuvenation. Packed with dingy rock club anthems, they’ve still got the carefree charm of their previous three studio releases, except now it’s built on a newfound maturity.
Getting there wasn’t easy, nor did it come quickly.
After decompressing for the first half of 2014, King says both he and Prowse were starting to feel the urge to write music again.
Unlike past albums, they decided to work separately.
King relocated and began to toil away at his Toronto home and his girlfriend’s place in Mexico City. Prowse sketched his ideas out in Vancouver.
They agreed that Japandroids needed to rediscover what once excited them about playing music together.
They found those answers, and chose to make a record that didn’t sound like a carbon copy of their past two studio albums and their earlier EPs, which were packaged together as the “No Singles” compilation album in 2010.
“We were interested in pushing ourselves on what we’d done in the past,” King says.
“(It) opened a bunch of doors that were previously closed.”
Occasionally they would meet in the same city to assess each others’ ideas and “work intensely” on improving whatever they had.
“We were actually really productive,” he says.
“As opposed to the slow-and-steady way of working that we used to do.”
After laying plans to record the album, they rented a house in New Orleans in the fall of 2014 and began to shape the final product.
One of the songs that emerged during those sessions was “Arc of Bar,” a seven-minute centrepiece to the album which is also its soul. The song unassumingly builds into what feels like it could be the band’s magnum opus.
Several other tracks were laid down the following year in Vancouver ahead of travelling to Connecticut for the final mix. Producer Peter Katis, who worked with Interpol and the National, helped craft the sound.
Once it was finished last summer, the album was set aside as plans were made for a grand return in the new year.
Japandroids will step back onto the stage in February to start another ambitious world tour starting in Austin, Texas.
They’ll play two shows in Toronto (Feb. 17 and 18) before plowing through the United States. A Vancouver show is slated for March 20 before they head to Europe.
With only 45 tour dates it’s certainly a more prudent approach to the road.
King seems confident that both of them will know if the Japandroids are pushing their limits too far this time around.
“Most decision making is reliant on coming to a consensus,” he says.
“One of the advantages of being in a duo is you’re not trying to organize five people.”