As The Strokes plot a ‘global comeback’ in 2019, here's a look at their many side projects
Indie icons The Strokes have just confirmed their first show of 2019, taking top billing at Spain’s Bilbao BBK Festival and performing alongside the likes of Thom Yorke and Weezer
Any true fan of rock who was around during the turn of the millennium will undoubtedly have a soft corner for the Strokes. With their 2001 debut 'Is This It', the five ragtag New York City rockers — frontman Julian Casablancas, guitarists Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr., bassist Nikolai Fraiture and drummer Fabrizio Moretti — ushered in an era of garage rock revivalism, going on to influence hundreds of bands across the both sides of the Atlantic and taking a super-charged defibrillator to the dying heart of rock music.
Almost two decades later now, the force majeure of The Strokes has slowly faded away, and although the band never officially split, things have been on the lull. The last original material we saw from the band was their confusingly experimental 2016 EP 'Future Present Past', their first EP in 15 years, which most fans will remember as something best forgotten as quickly as possible.
After the disastrous EP, Nick Valensi indicated that the band were "slowly but surely working on an album, we’re kind of just in writing sessions". In July 2017, Albert Hammond Jr's father let slip that the Strokes are working with Rick Rubin. But Hammond Jr. took to Twitter to clarify that “we met and played a few music ideas for Rick to feel out a vibe but even a theoretical album plan would be years away, if at all.” He also added, "Sorry everyone we are not in the studio recording" and that there were "a lot of unknowns and nothing worth speaking about at this time," putting the growing buzz of excitement to rest again.
Still, every year, diehard fans pray that the stars align and The Strokes return in all the glory of their heydays.
Well, the prayers could be answered soon because the indie icons have just confirmed their first show of 2019, taking top billing at Spain’s Bilbao BBK Festival. Performing alongside the likes of Thom Yorke, Weezer, Brockhampton, Hot Chip and Idles, the gig marks The Strokes' first live performance since 2017.
But wait, it gets better: A representative of the band has confirmed in a press release that the forthcoming performance will be part of "a global comeback" for the band. Whether that translates to the boys hunkering down in the studio and working on new material is yet to be confirmed and there's no official word on it yet, but we'll gladly accept this as the first step in the right direction.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly when The Strokes started to lose steam. After two back to back super-hit albums, their 2006 album 'First Impressions of Earth' could probably be seen as the first bump in the road as the poppier and more polished album was the first to polarize both fans and critics.
After a tour in support of the album, the band took a temporary hiatus as individual members set off on their side projects. Some may argue that the band was never the same after the break, and 2011's highly divisive 'Angles' arrived after a five-year gap. Even after Angles, it would be hard to see what was to come next — a steady decline in both commercial and critical responses that came with 2013's 'Comedown Machine', which might have been the last nail in the coffin.
It was probably for the best that the members of The Strokes started focusing on their own different projects. There's no point trying to jam an oddly fitting piece of a jigsaw puzzle when it doesn't fit and the band probably realized that early on. The band still continued touring together though and their most recent outing included the full South American circuit of Lollapalooza. When they played Lollapalooza Argentina, the crowd in attendance was reportedly 90,000 strong, making it The Strokes' single biggest concert till date.
A lot has changed over the last decade for the band, as well as the constantly shifting landscape of rock. So before we prematurely celebrate the highly anticipated return of one of the most influential rock acts of the 21st century, let's take a moment to check out some of the more notable side projects born out of The Strokes.
Of the many ventures that frontman Juilan Casablancas embarked on after the 2006 hiatus, it wasn't his solo albums that shone the brightest. In 2013, Casablancas channeled all his experimental leanings into a project called Julian Casablancas+The Voidz. Wanting to earn a greater sense of respect as a band, rather than be perceived as a “side-project” of Julian's, the band officially changed their name from "Julian Casablancas + The Voidz" to simply "The Voidz" in 2017.
Although their first album was a respectable effort in its own right, The Voidz outdid themselves with this year's sophomore record 'Virtue', which features on our list of The 25 Best Albums of 2018. Although the opening track 'Leave it in my Dreams' is instantly relatable with the sound and feel of The Strokes, the rest of the album is a far cry from it. From the psychedelic comic horror of 'Pyramid of Bones' to the bizarre breakdowns of 'ALieNNation' and 'All Wordz Are Made Up', the new album is a sign that Casablancas is still in his element and could be a sign of great things to come for The Strokes in the future.
While Juilan took the experimental route with the Voidz, guitarist Nick Valensi bridged the non existing gaps between power pop and heavy metal with his new band CRX. Although they received much lesser attention than The Voidz, there's no denying that their debut effort 'New Skin', which released in 2016, was just as emphatic, if not more than The Voidz's new material. Valensi tapped Queens of the Stone Age frontman Joshua Homme to helm production on the album and the result is 30 minutes of thunderous twin-guitar-driven power pop that will rattle the bones in your skull while making it nearly impossible to not groove to the slick beats!
Albert Hammond's Solo Works
Of all the side projects that sprouted from The Strokes, it is guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. who retained the most of the essence of the signature sound of the band, most evident on his debut solo effort, 2006's 'Yours To Keep'.
The album saw guest spots from Strokes members Casablancas and manager Ryan Gentles along with other big names from the industry including John Lennon's son Sean Lennon, Jody Porter of Fountains of Wayne and Sammy James Jr. among others. Hammond's solo career continues to flourish and he's put out four great albums till date, with the most recent one being 2018's Francis Trouble which was released via Red Bull Records earlier this March.
The hiatus after 'First Impressions of Earth' turned out to be quite productive for the members of the band. While Julian and Albert Hammond set off on their own solo projects, drummer Fabrizio Moretti teamed up with members of Brazilian rock outfit Los Hermanos to form the supergroup Little Joy. Their self-titled debut album was hailed by Pitchfork Media as "one of the sweetest, most listenable, consistently enjoyable records of the season" and acclaimed writer Nick Hornby even declared it as his favorite album of 2008. Unfortunately, the band lost steam soon after (mostly due to the difficulty of overlapping schedules) and went on hiatus in 2010.
Probably the most underrated of all the projects listed here was bassist Nikolai Fraiture's new band Summer Moon, which was formed with Jane’s Addiction’s drummer Stephen Perkins, Uh Huh Her’s keyboardist/vocalist Camila Grey, and The Airborne Toxic Event's guitarist Noah Harmon.
It wouldn't be wrong to call them a supergroup in their own right, but for some reason, the band slipped in their debut record 'With You Tonight' with such radio silence that it almost slipped by unnoticed. Summer Moon showcases highly fine-tuned pop sensibilities, driven by Fraiture's infinitely groovy basslines, and fortified with Grey's dreamy soundscapes and Harmon's deft guitar work. Just like the plight of Valenci's CRX, things are pretty low-key and there's no official word if more music will follow soon, but we sure hope there's more to come.