The itinerary for Canadian rock ’n’ roll sensation Japandroids’ first U.S. tour in almost four years includes stops at some of the biggest club-sized venues in the U.S., as well as some theaters: First Avenue in Minneapolis, the Fillmore in San Francisco, 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., the Vic in Chicago. Some of those dates sold out so fast they required a second show to be added.
So how is it that the Vancouver duo is kicking things off next week in Austin at the Mohawk — not on the larger outside stage, but in the much smaller indoor space?
The answer is that the sold-out Tuesday show is more like a tour warm-up of sorts, scheduled to coincide with pre-tour rehearsals in Austin. Guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse chose to come here because of their ties to Erick Sanger, whose company, Capital Radio Backline, is providing gear for the tour.
“I stage manage and backline tech for them, so it seemed logical to come to Austin and rehearse here,” Sanger explained Thursday. He began working with the group when they played at Fun Fun Fun Fest in 2012.
The Mohawk was glad to oblige when the band decided they’d like to play a small-venue show during the rehearsal stretch. “They just thought it’d be cool to do a fun underplay, showcase some new material, etc.,” show promoter Graham Williams noted via email. “And since it wasn’t part of the bigger tour, they wanted all the money to go to charity.” The band’s publicist recently confirmed that all proceeds from the Mohawk show will go to Planned Parenthood.
Fans not fortunate enough to get tickets to Tuesday’s show have another chance on Wednesday. Expect a capacity crowd at Waterloo Records when the band plays a free 5 p.m. in-store to promote the much-anticipated “Near to the Wild Heart of Life.” Released last week on renowned label Anti, it’s first new Japandroids album in nearly five years.
The tour takes them across North America in February and March (they’ll be on the West Coast during SXSW, so we won’t see them there), and then to Europe in April and May before festival season cranks up. Williams expects the band will return to Austin before long for a bigger show. “I’m sure they’ll be back sooner than later,” he said. Whether that’s a major club date, or perhaps a slot at Sound on Sound or the Austin City Limits Music Festival, remains to be seen.
In press materials for the album, King noted that he believes the new album is somewhat a departure for Japandroids, after three records that focused on trying “to recreate the raw energy and reckless abandon of our live show in the studio.” They felt they’d realized that goal with their last record. “If ‘Celebration Rock’ was the culmination of something, them ‘Near to the Wild Heart of Life’ can be considered the beginning of something else,” King writes.
He also cites some interesting touchstones that helped shape the new record. King’s temporary relocations to Toronto and Mexico City, as well as a house he and Prowse rented in New Orleans for a bit, changed the duo’s work habits. Musically, he gives a nod to Brooklyn band the National, whose co-producer Peter Katis mixed “Near to the Wild Heart of Life.” Perhaps most intriguing, though is this revelation: “Lyrically, this album was heavily influenced by both Tom Waits and Townes Van Zandt, as they were the two artists that I listened to the most during the past few years, and whose sense of storytelling I tried to emulate in my own songwriting.”
Here’s video of the band performing the new album’s title track on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” earlier this week: