Strokes guitarist, Nick Valensi
seems a bit fed up describing his music and explaining the concepts and reasoning
behind the sound of The Strokes. "What bothers me is when people stick to one
thing," he says, "They stick to the 70's thing when there are a bunch of other
influences that are obviously there. I don't mind when they mention 70's bands
but I do mind when that's all they mention."
The Strokes have been hailed
by many as the second coming of The Velvet Underground and critics have called
them a throw back to the 70's alt rock era with a modern rock twist, but Valensi
insists that the band is much more than simply that. "I don't feel like we got
a 70's vibe. I like to think it's a little more timeless than that. Our goal was
to always be really, really good and always get better. I don't know how the whole
sound and style happened, things just sort of fell into place, I guess. It's not
like we all sat down and talked about the direction our sound was gonna go in."
Valensi explains, "I don't mind comparisons, in a way I think it's good, ya know.
Being compared to the Velvet Underground is cool because we were influenced by
The Velvet Underground, The Strokes are a New York based band who earned their
bones within the gritty NY underground rock scene and rose to the surface due
to word of mouth, reputation and buzz. Although it is a worthy and highly complementary
comparison, it just irks Valensi every time he hears his band being compared to
the 70's genre. "If that's what people genuinely think then that's cool; if that's
what they hear then that's cool. But, it's not for real, it's not true that's
all I'm saying."
In 2000, The Strokes broke in England after their 3-song
EP "The Modern Age" became a huge hit in the U.K. "Yeah, we're popular over their,
we're big and lot's of people come to our shows, but it's not like fuckin' Beatle-Mania."
Says the very modest Valensi with a cynical laugh in his voice; "Our popularity
in New York City is pretty comparable to how popular we are all over England."
Popularity aside, The Strokes are a band of young men who are more interested
in being taken seriously than in record sales or MTV acceptance. In fact, their
first video for "Last Night" is deliberately low budget and low-tech and on promo
pics they blatantly expose their acne, messy hair and unshaven grills as a sort
of testament to the punk rock mentality that soaks deep in their thick NY skin.
Certainly mainstream TRLers will pass on their glossless personas as they quest
for pretty faces and peachy attitudes and that is exactly what the Strokes intended.
The Strokes are a cross between the street wise Lou Reed with the slacker
mentality of Beck, and their sound and attitude reflects both. Their major label
debut, "Is This It" on RCA Records, is a energetic 11-track collection that flirts
with the romance and passion of punk rock. Singer/songwriter, Julian Casablancas
is a swaggering street-poet who spits out towering pop songs awash with love,
hate, lust and the switchblade-agony of the misunderstood artist and it doesn't
get any more to the point than that. "What I really like about this album is that
there's no track that you skip over, there's no favorite song or anything." Valensi
says, "We just like to find sounds that just mesh with each other and sound really
cool with each other along with words that somehow fit the music but really can
mean many different things."
Powered with overridden vocals, smart guitar
riffs, and captivating vocal phrasing along with tight bass lines, guitar rock
mentality and addictive rhythms "Is This It" has been earning much praise from
critics and fans alike. Their first single "Last Night" is already climbing the
Billboard charts and getting plenty of play on rock radio nation wide.
The Strokes (Who also includes guitarist Albert Hammond, bassist Nikolai Fraiture
and drummer Fab Moretti) all came together at age 13 when they were attending
Manhattan's private prep school called Dwight School and would ultimately build
the kind of chemistry and camaraderie that most bands could never even fathom.
These are best bud's who made it from the garage to the big leagues sticking to
the only formula they knew; stay real, have fun and play what they like. "I couldn't
imagine playing in a band with strangers. Like meeting through a newspaper add
or something like that. To tell you the truth, I couldn't image playing music
with anyone but the four people I'm playing with right now."
Don Sill for Crud Magazine© 2001