08 November 2009

The Strokes

The Strokes are an American rock band formed in 1999 in New York City. They rose to fame in the early 2000s as leaders in the garage rock revival. The band's members are Julian Casablancas (lead vocals), Nick Valensi (lead guitar), Albert Hammond, Jr. (rhythm guitar), Nikolai Fraiture (bass guitar) and Fabrizio Moretti (drums and percussion).

Upon the release of their debut album Is This It in 2001, the group was met with much critical acclaim.[1] NME made Is This It their Album of the Year. Since then, the band has maintained a large fan base, mostly in the UK, US, Canada and Australia. They have been on an unofficial hiatus since First Impressions of Earth in 2006. A number of members have embarked on a variety of side projects.

Beginnings and The Modern Age EP: 1998-2001

Lead singer-songwriter Julian Casablancas, guitarist Nick Valensi, and drummer Fab Moretti started playing together while attending Dwight School in Manhattan. Bassist Nikolai Fraiture had been friends with Casablancas and was attending the Lycée Français de New York. At age 13, Casablancas was sent to Le Rosey, a boarding school in Switzerland to resolve his drinking problems and improve his academic performance. In Switzerland, Casablancas met guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr..

Later, when Hammond came to New York to attend New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, he shared an apartment with Casablancas. They started a band which performed on the Lower East Side of New York, and at Manhattan's popular Mercury Lounge. Ryan Gentles, the Mercury Lounge's booker, quit his job to become the band's manager.

The band began rehearsing a twelve song set which included "Last Nite", "The Modern Age", "This Life" (an early version of "Trying Your Luck"), "New York City Cops", "Soma" and "Someday". Most of these songs now feature different lyrics. A demo sent to the newly reformed Rough Trade Records in the UK sparked interest there, leading to their first release via UK website NME.COM who gave away a free mp3 download of Last Nite a week prior to physical release as part of The Modern Age EP in 2001. The EP sparked a bidding war among record labels; the largest for a rock and roll band in years.[2] The Strokes soon became the subject of enormous hype.
[edit] Is This It: 2001-2003

The Strokes released their debut album Is This It in the US in October 2001 on RCA after some delay due to changes made from the UK-released version (released 27 August 2001). The cover of the latter features a black-and-white photo of a gloved hand on a woman's naked backside, shown in semi-profile, and is said to reference Spinal Tap's fictitious Smell the Glove.[citation needed] The naked model on the cover was photographer Colin Lane's girlfriend at the time. The North American version replaces this with an image of particle collisions in the Big European Bubble Chamber and replaced the song "New York City Cops" with "When It Started". The replacement of "New York City Cops", which contains the refrain "New York City Cops, they ain't too smart", was made in good faith following the September 11 attacks.

The melodic garage rock sound of Is This It received positive reviews from both mainstream and independent publications, including 4 stars from Rolling Stone, and a 9.1 from Pitchfork Media; it made many critics' top 10 lists, and was named the best album of the year by Entertainment Weekly and TIME. NME, in an article previewing summer concerts, urged readers to attend their shows, claiming that the band was touring on the strength of some of the "best pop songs ever". The influence of 1970s CBGB stalwarts Television was noted by many reviewers.

After the release of Is This It, the band toured around the world, featuring dates in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and North America staging for the Rolling Stones. The band headlined UK's Carling Weekend festivals in 2002, largely chronicled by a mini-documentary entitled "In Transit" which was released to members of the now-defunct "Alone, Together" fan club. Today it can be seen on their official website.

In August 2002, the band played at New York's Radio City Music Hall on a bill with The White Stripes. Jack White joined the Strokes on stage to perform the guitar solo on "New York City Cops". During that period, the band also appeared as musical guests on various late-night talk shows. Is This It yielded several singles and music videos, all of which were directed by Roman Coppola.

The group began recording their follow-up in 2002 with producer Nigel Godrich (best known for his work with Radiohead), but later split with him in favor of Gordon Raphael, the producer of Is This It. Recordings with Godrich were never revealed. In August 2003, the band toured Japan, playing a couple of the upcoming songs: "Reptilia", "Meet Me In The Bathroom", "The Way It Is", "Between Love & Hate" (formerly known as "Ze Newie") and "12:51" (formerly known as "Supernova"). The band also played Paul Anka's "My Way" with Japanese lyrics.

As of 2007, Is This It has sold over 3.5 million copies worldwide.
[edit] Room on Fire: 2003-2005

The Strokes released their second album Room on Fire in October 2003. It received praise from critics but was less commercially successful, although it still went gold. The album's sound maintained the Strokes' familiar reference points, while also evoking groups such as The Cars, Bob Marley, and Blondie. In the process, they made the cover of Spin Magazine for the second time, with each member receiving his own cover. They also made the cover of Rolling Stone for the first time. Additional media coverage of the band came from the relationship between Moretti and actress Drew Barrymore, which ended in January 2007.

The first single taken from Room on Fire was the song "12:51", which used distinct keyboard-like sounds produced by Valensi's guitar. The video was also directed by Roman Coppola, and was inspired by the futuristic look of the 1980s film Tron. This consisted of a mainly black scene, with instances of glowing picton blue and riptide. In November 2003, The Strokes played on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, performing "Reptilia", "What Ever Happened", "Under Control" and "I Can't Win". During the 2003/2004 "Room on Fire Tour", the band played with Kings of Leon as support act and Regina Spektor. While on tour, Spektor and the Strokes recorded the song "Modern Girls & Old Fashion Men", released as a B-side on the "Reptilia" single. Also during the tour, the band included The Clash's "Clampdown" as a cover, which was released as the B-side for The End Has No End.

In late 2004, The Strokes revealed plans to release a live album. The Live in London LP was planned for release in October 2004, but was abandoned, reportedly due to recording quality problems. The chosen gig was one held at the legendary Alexandra Palace in North London. In February 2005, Julian Casablancas wed long-time friend and assistant band manager Juliet Joslin. The Strokes had a three-concert South American tour in October 2005, with dates in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina.
[edit] First Impressions of Earth and Recess: 2005-2008

In late September 2005, "Juicebox", the first single from The Strokes then unreleased third album, was leaked online, forcing the single's release date to be advanced. The single was then released as an exclusive on online download services. "Juicebox" became The Strokes' second UK Top 10 hit, as well as their second US Modern Rock Top 10 success. During November and December 2005 the Strokes did a promotional tour for the still unreleased album, which involved doing one-off shows in major cities around the world.

Their third album, First Impressions of Earth, was released in January 2006 to mixed reviews and debuted at number four in the US and number one in the UK, a first for the band. In Japan it went gold within the first week of release. It was also the most downloaded album for two weeks on iTunes. Fraiture claimed that the album was "like a scientific breakthrough".[3] In January 2006, the band then made their second appearance on Saturday Night Live playing "Juicebox" and "You Only Live Once".

The album was somewhat a departure from the band's two previous albums. One reason for this was a switch of producers from Gordon Raphael to David Kahne. Despite its initial strong sales, First Impressions of Earth received the worst reception, both commercially and critically, of all their three albums.

In 2006, the band played 18 sold-out shows during their UK tour. In February 2006, The Strokes won "Best International Band" at the NME Awards. In March, the band returned to the US with their longest tour yet. The second single off First Impressions of Earth, "Heart in a Cage", was released in March 2006.

During the summer of 2006, The Strokes played several festival dates in Europe, including the Hultsfred Festival in Sweden, Roskilde Festival in Denmark, the Oxegen Festival in Ireland (during this concert they were to be followed by The Who but due to the overwhelming reaction of the crowd they ended up staying on longer than scheduled), the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the FIB (Festival Internacional de Benicàssim) in Spain, Fuji Rock Festival in Japan and headlining Pentaport Rock Festival in South Korea.[citation needed] They then toured Australia and Mexico in late August and early September, followed by the second leg of the United States tour. While in the US, The Strokes opened for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers for five shows during their Highway Companion tour.[citation needed]

The Strokes went on to complete another US tour. During this final tour Casablancas stated to fans that the band would be taking an extensive break after it finished. An e-mail was sent out soon afterwards by Strokes manager Ryan Gentles, confirming that a "much needed break" would be taken. A new band website went online in May 2007 along with the release of an alternate video to their single "You Only Live Once" directed by Warren Fu. The video also featured a brief interlude with "Ize of the World", also from "First Impressions of Earth". In late 2007, the song "You Talk Way Too Much" was used in a commercial for the Ford Sync. Aleks Cisneros became the Strokes new assistant manager in late 2007.
[edit] Fourth studio album: 2008-Present

The Strokes' frontman Julian Casablancas and guitarist Nick Valensi started writing new material for their band's forthcoming new album in the latter stages of January 2009, with the intent of entering the studio in February of the same year.[3] Julian commented in Rolling Stone magazine that they have completed about three songs that sound like a mixture of 70's rock and "music from the future".[4]

As stated on their myspace on March 31, 2009: "After a long and much needed hibernation period that saw many of the band's various other musical projects emerge, we're pleased to announce that The Strokes are now all back hard at work in their NYC space on writing and rehearsing new material for a 4th full-length album. No recording studio time has been booked yet, as they sketch out the blue-prints of new songs and fine tune plans in their rehearsal space, but it will undoubtedly be all mapped out and etched in stone at some point in the not-too-distant future."

In an NME News article, Pharrell Williams expressed interest in producing the The Strokes' next album.[5] This followed the news that Casablancas had collaborated with Williams and Santigold on 'My Drive Thru,' a track commemorating the 100th anniversary of Converse's Chuck Taylor All-Stars shoe. The song was available as a free download from the official Converse site.[6]

On April 3, 2009, media site RipcordNews.com received an update from The Strokes reporting,“I wish I could tell you that this definitely meant we can expect an album release date before the end of 2009, but it’s just too soon to speculate on that for sure yet,” he wrote. “One way or another…suffice to say, the work has begun!”.[7]

On July 18, 2009, The Strokes' official website stated that the band are spending the summer of 2009 recording material for a new album. The website states: "The Strokes are working away in the city on their next record. The album is still on schedule for early next year release as previously announced."[8]

Julian Casablancas has confirmed plans for a solo album, entitled Phrazes for the Young. NME reports that the album, recorded in Los Angeles, Nebraska and New York, has been produced by Jason Leader and Mike Mogis (of Bright Eyes fame). It will be released on the 2nd of November 2009, and is expected to be supported by a string of tour dates.[9] Casablancas has stated that he wants to do a "series of over-the-top Disney style shows".[10]


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