We all search to be connected in this vast universe and one of my absolute favorite things is that music is universal, no matter the genre it can unite even the most random people. People you would never think you’d ever meet in a lifetime, even after knowing the hazards of meeting people online because of “stranger danger,” you can connect and befriend someone 500+ miles away online and dissect and analyze your favorite songs/lyrics of a band because of the mutual love you share. This is something I’m all too familiar with, in the best possible way, because I’ve been in love with a band since 2001 because of their music as well as the camaraderie of the passionate fans.
2001 was a memorable year for so many historic (and tragic) things, I was an impressionable sophomore in high school and I found a band that was my refuge, my safe haven. They were there for all the ups and downs throughout my high school life. Whether it was the heartaches, the headaches, or the stress filled homework… They were there through it all.
Now, they’re still currently my sanctuary in my young adult life. They’re still with me through my anxiety riddled twenties whether they’re on a mix cd for a road trip to SXSW or they are the soundtrack of a get-together of a motley crew of friends, whom all share a love of a band. This band you’re wondering about… Perhaps you’ve heard of them, they’re called The Strokes.
I am writing this because I’m appreciative for their catalog of music that seems to always be there for me. I’m not writing this to try and convince anyone (although if someone genuinely falls in love as I have well, that’s pretty amazing) but mostly I’m writing this is to show my sliver of admiration, respect, and veneration. It in no way can compare to everything they’ve accomplished but it’s my way of never giving up on them even through the difficult times.
The Strokes kicked their way into my heart, complete with their Chuck Taylors, their seismic entry paved the way for other legendary bands like the White Stripes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs because at the time bands like Linkin Park, Creed, Nickelback, and Limp Bizkit were part of the nu-metal norm that was at the top of the charts. They turned the music industry inside out with a legion of loyal and devoted fans. Some later turned out to be musicians in their own successful right. Those influenced musicians created bands that turned into Arctic Monkeys, Kings of Leon, Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, and many many others are all fans of the Strokes (if you listen to their debuts, you can actually hear the influence). Of course, music is subjective and it all speaks to us differently and for me, the Strokes are like lighting in a bottle and it has to be said, there’s something about this band since they had the power to continue to alter mainstream media. Which is what the Strokes did (and continue to do), their influence is powerful and doesn’t go unnoticed.
Julian Casablancas’ perfectionist ways pay off because his love of the music and perfecting his craft is understandable when you have a vision. The overthinking and overanalyzing is a blessing and a curse, it’s reminiscent of Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) to achieve the perfect sound. Of course, Casablancas’ isn’t the only perfectionist in the band because their music’s structure is so tightly synchronized and yet there is a nonchalant confidence to it. Their unity was solid with touches of wary moments it currently seems nostalgic and taut. Casablancas may be the frontman/vox of the band but don’t underestimate the power of dynamics.
Albert Hammond, Jr., Nick Valensi, Nikolai Fraiture, and Fabrizio Moretti are all equally and incredibly important factors of the Strokes. For example, 80’s Comedown Machine and Undercover of Darkness were written by all five members.
It’s a prime example of the tones the band sets and how all of their tracks differentiate from the other. Is This It is most certainly different to Comedown Machine and Angles is nothing like Room on Fire and we can’t forget about First Impressions of Earth. Their latest release, Future Present Past EP, is a perfect collection of songs from the good ol’ days to now. All of their songs seem relatable and applicable all the while, the Strokes music is wizardry and calculated and savagely overthought. The way Valensi and Hammond, Jr.’s guitar’s intersect across the bands catalog is labyrinthine and comes across organically instead of forced. Fraiture’s stoic charm enhances without overly intensifying the songs, his smooth but booming bass is the perfect complimentary resonant. Then we have Moretti’s drumming, it’s premeditated and almost perceptible. His agile moves are delicate and ferocious at the same time. Together, the Strokes make one hell of a band that is not into flashy social media gimmicks (but they’re genius at quietly promoting, though, remember their Future Present Past promo? Or their Hyde Park tease?) and there is no diva behavior from these guys, there is only performing and inviting the listener into their world. Their persona, their music, their vibe is palpable. It’s a feeling that they exude when they perform, it’s difficult to put into words but I can say (and I’m sure that many other fans can agree) that true happiness in its purest form is being at a Strokes concert. Barricade, middle, or back row… It’s an exuberance that is undeniable (example 1 and example 2).
I’ve yet to fully and properly thank the Strokes for being my constant refuge since I first heard Is This It during my science class my sophomore year in 2001 (fun fact: Hard to Explain is the first single I heard). I wanted to write this essay/love letter to thank them for constantly being my solace and my sanctuary when I needed them the most. I don’t know if this will ever reach Julian Casablancas, Albert Hammond, Jr., Nick Valensi, Fab Moretti, Nikolai Fraiture, or even Ryan Gentles but I am writing this without expectation but rather just as a form of gratitude. I am forever grateful that they came into my life at such a difficult time, being able to have an escape and being able to fall in love musically means the absolute world to me. They are the one true constant for me whether they were there in moments of happiness, anger, heartache, depression (and every in between) the Strokes certainly left their mark on me throughout the years and even currently still have my heart beating in its cage.