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The Modern Age: 10 Facts You May Not Know About The Strokes

The Strokes' Julian Casablancas at ACL 2010
The Strokes' Julian Casablancas at ACL 2010
Marco Torres

This week marks 12 years since the Strokes debuted as a live band, at NYC's Spiral on September 14, 1999. The crowd, they recall, was five paying customers and assorted band girlfriends - humble beginnings for a band that would be both exalted and blamed for the state of indie-rock in the earliest throes of the 21st century.

About 10 years ago at this time, the band's debut LP Is This It hit store shelves as it was being promoted on MTV with the video for "Last Nite," which introduced the Strokes to the world as a pack of charming, thrift-store-outfitted, slovenly rockers, a far cry from the rap-rockers and spiky hair we had been dealing with for five years at that point.

But now we are getting all nostalgic and shit, so we will stop. It's not like the band was the Beatles or the Stones, but they did open the doors for a lot of what is on the charts now, at least in terms of creating a sea change in what you could show on MTV and what would sell at record stores.

Months and even years after the Strokes, the White Stripes, Kings of Leon, and Black Keys have all walked right through those doors, each with much different (and undecided) results.

The Modern Age: 10 Facts You May Not Know About The Strokes

Then there was the glut of bands out of the thrift stores and bars of the world that aimed to look, sound and act like the Strokes. Were they all cut from the same distressed cloth, like how you can even find similarly-attired hipsters in Russia or Orange (Texas), or were labels slapping tight jeans and ripped leather jackets on guys who looked like Disturbed months earlier?

Who knows, but a lot of those bands sucked, and we still see about seven dozen of them each year at SXSW.

The latest Strokes album, March's Angles - remember that crazy SXSW show at Auditorium Shores? - was a perfect synthesis of the members' work from their five-year Strokin' layoff. You can hear the best part of their solo efforts intertwined as one Transformer Stroke. It will no doubt be on plenty of year-end best-of lists.

So here ya go, following in the footsteps of ABBA, Metallica, Zeppelin, and the Doors, ten facts about the Strokes' illustrious, smoky, boozy, woozy career.

Gordon Raphael produced the band's first EP and debut album and currently seems to be based out of San Antonio, of all places. At the time, the music world was astounded by his recording techniques, the sounds he created from just a small, no-frills studio. Face it, some bands spend a million bucks to sound as muffled as Is This It. Now kids can make the same sounding record with a laptop and some cords in their kitchen.

Nigel Godrich was the band's first choice as the producer for 2003's Room On Fire, and did convene with the band in the studio for a bit - before being sacked for Raphael. The band has called the sessions "soulless"; later Godrich would admit that he and lead singer Julian Casablancas were much too alike to work together. Control freaks, yo.

 

Is This It?: The Strokes around the time of their debut album's release.
Is This It?: The Strokes around the time of their debut album's release.

Outside guest spots on friends' albums, Nick Valensi is the only Stroke to have not released a solo project; away from the band, his mates tinkered extensively. He probably wouldn't have a problem selling solo albums, either.

Julian was caught drinking at 14, and has struggled with the sauce for years since, quitting a few times when it was hindering songwriting. Explain Phrazes For The Young, then. OK, it wasn't that bad.

Casablancas' father John founded the Elite Modeling Agency. His mother, Jeanette Christjansen, was Miss Denmark 1965. So he's, like, royalty or something.

Guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. is the son of songwriter Albert Hammond, who had a hit in 1972 with "It Never Rains In Southern California," from his album of the same name. It's some pretty smooth shit, and not too far from his son's solo work.

"New York City Cops" was slated for Is This It track listing right up until 9/11. After the attacks, it was replaced with "When It Started." The lyrics included the line "New York City cops/ They ain't too smart," but by no means are they anti-cop from what we can see.

When "Last Nite" was released in 2001, everyone immediately heard the similarities with Tom Petty's "American Girl," and began waiting for a lawsuit from Petty's camp. Instead, the Strokes owned up to lifting the beat from the classic-rock hit, and Petty laughed it off.

After the successful Is This It and Room On Fire, the reaction to 2006 LP First Impressions of Earth gave the Strokes their first taste of backlash. Some called Earth a "shambling mess" in places, and claimed it suffered under its own weight; at 14 songs, it's the Strokes' longest album. The group took a five-year break (ongoing) after the album, and it seems that relations within the band weren't always very kind. Meanwhile, super-fans call it their "White Album" for all the experimentation.

It's not really a fact, but here's a clip of Casablancas and Strokes bassist Nikolai Fraiture walking out of a 1997 Jane's Addiction concert in in New York City. Still... it is a fact that the at least part of the band was at this show, right? Right?


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