Q&A: Japandroids

Japandroids are en route to a gig in San Francisco and singer-guitarist Brian King has a boner. In fact, he's had many of them in the weeks since the hard-rocking Canadian duo released its critically lauded sophomore album, "Celebration Rock."

No, it's not at all what you're thinking.

"The colloquial term for a phone interview in the van is a 'phoner,'" said King, 29, who performs with friend and drummer David Prowse Thursday at Lincoln Hall. "We've now deemed them 'boners' because that's just how juvenile we are."

Despite the guitarist's warnings, "Celebration Rock" actually reveals a band fast maturing, and the album manages to both expand on and refine the slash-and-burn template the pair established on 2009's "Post-Nothing." Reached in the midst of a West Coast tour swing, King opened up about the insecurities that plague his songwriting, his 2009 health scare and why he no longer worries about speeding tickets.

On "The House That Heaven Built" you sing, "Tell them all to go to hell." When's the last time you actually said that to someone?

Like five minutes before you called. It was our sound guy, possibly. Or our tour manager. It gets said by one of us to someone else almost constantly. It's a little nicer than [bleep] off, and no one in this van deserves to hear [bleep] off from anyone else.

Are you surprised how well-received the new album has been?

I mean, yes and no. No in the sense that we worked really hard to make an album we were proud of and we thought was really good. Being such big music fans, we were well aware of all the second album cliches--the sophomore slump and all that kind of stuff--and we really didn't want that to happen with us. Having said that, we were in no way prepared for everything that's happened. It's been pretty surreal.

Going in with that level of self-awareness about things like the sophomore slump, how did you avoid over-thinking things or completely freezing up?

Well, we did in the very beginning. To be perfectly blunt, it was just a [bleeping] grind. Nothing seemed to come naturally. Psychologically and mentally it was a totally different process to sit down in my room with a guitar than it was with "Post-Nothing." Back then all I really had to worry about when I was working on a song was, "What's Dave going to think of this?" This time there were mass amounts of editing and revisions and throwing things out.

Did you ever sit back after you finished a song and say, "Not bad, Brian, not bad at all," or were you constantly beating yourself up over every detail?

I can honestly say there was never a moment in making the record where I sat back and said, "That's not bad." Even in the mastering process I was really--what's the right word?--psychotic about the smallest details. Even though the record is done and out, I can still hear the things I wanted to do that we couldn't get to. All the songs will sort of always be unfinished to me, but at some point you have to let it go or everything turns into "Chinese Democracy."

You really sound drawn to the concepts of heaven and hell on this one.

I'm a big fan of not just the blues, but the music that's been influenced by the blues. That simple, biblical language is something early blues musicians used to use, and it filtered through all those sub-genres of rock 'n' roll right up to now. Those are just the kinds of themes and ideas that feel totally natural for me to write about and to sing about.

Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?

Not particularly--only because the word spiritual has a connotation that opens the door to a place I don't really care to tread.

That said, did you find yourself saying a quick prayer when you were hospitalized with a perforated ulcer back in April 2009 (King has suffered from stomach ulcers since he was a teenager.)?

Well, that, hmm, how do I say this? Everything happened so fast and I was in such pain that you don't really have time to think about it. By the time you understand what happened and realize you're OK it's sort of over. There was never a moment where I was conscious and rational enough to think, "This must be the end," and therefore say a prayer.

Did that experience have any effect on the songs you wrote for "Celebration Rock?"

I don't rule it out. There was never that moment like, "I want to sit down and write a song about this experience." To tell you the truth, I went to great lengths over the last two years to mentally block it out. It's a time in my life I'm happy to forget. But having said that, it was also one of the most profound and life-altering moments I've ever had. It changed me forever, and certainly it could have shaped the things I was interested in talking about and/or the way I felt about the things I always wanted to talk about.

You guys actually pull back a bit on the album's closer, "Continuous Thunder." Do you find it difficult to take your foot off the accelerator and slow down the tempo?

Holding back is really challenging for us. If you listen to that song, it feels like we could keep building and building and turn it into something that really starts rocking. We had to really pay attention to not let it go there because that's how we naturally like to play.

Do you find it's as every bit as difficult to keep your foot off the accelerator when you're, say, driving the tour van?

Thankfully I don't drive that much anymore. I have boners to do, and I can't drive and do boners at the same time.

When: 9 p.m. Thursday
Where: Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave.

Tickets: Sold out

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