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The Strokes

The Strokes

For about three months I was addicted to The Strokes. I knew it was completely uncool, and possibly even wrong, but I just couldn’t help it. You think these things happen to other people but this time it happened to me. I only felt a very vague interest when I first heard of this new band as I do with many new things – they looked pretty cool but I wasn’t going to be taken in by any press hype. Not me, I was way too smart for that, right? But then we were at the Trail of Dead NME show in London and I had my introduction to The Strokes. I remember sitting there watching the first couple of songs thinking. ‘you’re not going to impress me’ but I was soon taken in by the catchy retro tunes. It could have ended there but I found a copy of The Modern Age and played it constantly for the next few weeks until my co-conspirator Rob Strong pushed some more songs in my direction. I knew The Strokes weren’t doing anything particularly new or inventive but it was pop thrills of a sort I hadn’t heard in a good while. However, my enthusiasm faded even before the album was released, mainly due to the worryingly uneventful live shows and the way their interviews lacked that spark of personality or individuality. The final straw for me was that feature in the NME where they followed The Strokes about for a few days and applauded them for their womanising and drunken rock cliche behaviour. It was obvious then that The Strokes were some kids who got a lucky break and accepted everything fame threw at them with open arms and without question.

While still in my enthusiastic phase I managed to blag an interview with The Strokes on thier June UK tour despite their press people refusing to let fanzines interview the band. I just turned up and argued with their manager and Nick Valensi remembered me from the London Astoria aftershow rock shenanigans. Hmm. Anyway, I was allowed to borrow Fabrizio Moretti [drums] and Nicolai Fraiture [bass] for ten minutes so we sat on some steps in St Vincent Street and I asked them a few questions.

How’s the tour been going?
f: It’s been a lot of fun. you know, coming to the UK there’s like a bunch of people that really like music and that’s very very endearing and very welcoming.

Edinburgh seemed pretty crazy last night…
f: you know, I lost my hihats – I gave them away and they actually took them so I hope somebody enjoys those hihats as much as I did [laughs] I’m only joking.

You’ve been getting a lot of press attention over here and you’ve been in pretty much every magazine. Do you see this as a good thing or a bad thing?
f: I don’t know. it could be a very bad thing because a lot of people start to talk the wrong way, they start making stories up about you but it can also be a very good thing because we make music so that people can enjoy it you know. if we didn’t have an audience then we wouldn’t be anywhere so the more people that get to know us then the happier we are.

There’s a lot of people who are maybe into more underground bands who are very suspicious of you because you’ve come from nowhere and you’ve been in the press so much.
f: I know, but you see there’s like a fear that people do things because they have to live up to a credo and I’m not going to tell you that we’re an underground band because we don’t abide by any rules and fuck the press if they start telling lies and stuff like that. we want the audience, we want the people to come listen to our music, period. that’s all that it’s about. doesn’t matter how many people do. if there’s two people that like our music, that’s enough for me. if there’s a hundred that’s even fuckin’ better y’know. but it’s not about the press. and whoever says ‘I don’t like The Strokes because they’re on magazines’ they have to re-establish their tastes in music because that’s a wrong reason to dislike a band. dislike us because you don’t like our music, not because you won’t give us a chance. if you didn’t like us after listening to us then I’d still shake your hand and drink a beer with you.

How are you liking Scotland? Have you been able to see much of it?
f: Scotland, it’s a lot of fun. I gotta tell you, yesterday in Edinburgh, we got to see a little bit of the sights and stuff and it’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to. what do you think Nicolai?
n: I like Scotland a lot. It’s really nice. There’s a lot of bands from Scotland. Travis and all th ose bands.

The Strokes

You’ve been recording some songs for Top of the Pops recently?
f: It’s funny, we did that because we wanted to play television but it was an eyesore for us ‘cos when you see the format and the backstage and everything like that, the settings. It was still cool but it was a clash to have us onstage, after Sisqo. But that’s what it’s all about. It’s fun.

The other argument people have against you is the ‘style over content’ thing, because of the way that you dress and things like that…
f: Are you kidding?
n: That’s the whole fun of it, that people think that and if people don’t come and see a show then they continue to think that. If the come to a show then they’ll see that we work and…
f: I guarantee you this, I dress like this and I used to be made fun of all the time. This is not style to me. People call it style, I think because we make it look like we love dressing like this, that we’ve got friends that dress like each other and they like to say that it’s the style. But it’s not a style, it’s how Nicolai and I have been dressing ever since..we were not doing music. People have to look past all that stuff. I hope they listen to the music.

Do you think it’s been easier for you because of the press attention on bands like Trail of Dead and At The Drive-In doing similar things? Do you feel any affinity with them
f: I don’t know if we’re doing similar things to them but I can tell you Trail of Dead is such a cool band and I just appreciate them as musicians and stuff. we’re on the same boat so I like to give them kudos and I hope they give us the same kudos.

A fan comes up to get autographs and much back-slapping occurs.

Have you been talking to a lot of fans?
f: I don’t know if they’re fans, they’re more like friends. I haven’t met anyone that’s come to see a show that hasn’t been cool and I haven’t wanted to have a drink with them. I don’t know if they’re fans, I think they’re music lovers.

The tour sold out pretty fast. Did you think about moving up to bigger venues or do you prefer playing the smaller venues?
f: I gotta tell you, I like playing small venues. There’s just more of a friendship connection between the crowd and the band. Bigger places always seem a bit scary and you seem isolate I feel a bit isolated on stage. When I play smaller places I feel like I’m with the crowd.

You’re going to be playing the Reading Festival as well. That’ll be quite a big stage for you?
f: I’m very scared about that actually.. I’m excited though, it’s gonna be fun. we’re gonna be with a lot of really good musicians so we’ll have to prove ourselves. But I think it’s going to be really cool.

I was glad to see that you’re putting all your songs so far on the album – it looks like being a really good album. Are you worried that you’ll only make one great album or are you confident that you’ve got the songs to back it up for the next one?
f: I’m worried just like we were worried when we started to make this album. I’m going to do everything in my power to make a really good album. And one of our mottos is to never write a song that’s not as good or better than the last one that you wrote and I have a lot of confidence in Julian as a melody maker. Actually we’ve already started on one new song. I will be very disappointed in myself and in everyone else if we don’t make a better album than this. Plus this is only a snapshot of what’s to come, I think. What you saw yesterday, that’s the album, basically, that’s it from beginning to end.

A shout from their manager has them running off back upstairs and that’s my interview over. I still haven’t bought ‘Is This It’…

The Strokes website