Julian Casablancas played a host of new material at SXSW over the weekend with his newly-formed backing band The Voidz after their live debut in Washington. The shows featured new tracks from JC and co’s forthcoming LP – the follow up to 2009’s ‘Phrazes For The Young’ – and, judging by the snippets in the album teaser, they seem set to be a prowling return to the effortlessly cool NY indie-punk that The Strokes frontman does best, peppered with enough weird synth samples to show the singer’s far from satisfied to sink into the obvious (as if there was ever any doubt).
To celebrate the return of JC (just in time for Easter!), here’s a walk through of all The Strokes’ extra-curricular activities from over the years…
Albert Hammond Jr – solo artist
The first (and, arguably, still the best) solo project to emerge from Camp Strokes was Albert Hammond Jr’s solo LP ‘Yours To Keep’. A sun-drenched slice of wistful indie-pop that seemed far more rooted on the beaches of California than the graffiti-sprayed back streets of NY, it showed that the guitarist could not only turn his hand to a largely different musical tone, but that he had a pretty decent pair of pipes on him too. 2008, meanwhile, saw follow-up ‘Como Te Llama?’, while Albert’s latest offering was EP ‘AHJ’ last October.
Nick Valensi and Devendra Banhart
Though guitarist Nick Valensi has largely been the quietest of the quintet between Strokes releases, he did pair up with Texan psych-folk star Devendra Banhart in 2007 to provide guitar and backing vocals on his track ‘Shabop Shalom’. Opening with a mystical spoken word paragraph before turning into an almost 50s crooning ballad, it was about as far a departure from leathers and skinny jeans as you could imagine.
On to 2008 and the next full LP to emerge came courtesy of drummer Fab Moretti and his band Little Joy – formed of Moretti, Binki Shapiro and Rodrigo Amarante. Born out of a late night plan hatched by the three friends, their self-titled (and, to date, only) album was an Adam Green-esque mix of laid-back warmth and lo-fi sky-gazing. Proof that Fab was far more than just the one at the back.
Julian Casablancas x Pharrell x Santigold
Meanwhile, as Fab was crafting luscious pop songs with his mates, Julian was in the studio collaborating on something altogether more high profile. Teaming up with Santigold and Pharrell for a specially-commissioned track for Converse, Casablancas’ first solo outing was on ‘My Drive Thru’. As effortlessly dancefloor-ready as you’d imagine from such a stellar trio, its earworm grooves were so good it didn’t even matter that they were subconsciously trying to make you buy shoes.
‘A Kind of Dream’
And now for something completely different. Bassist Nikolai Fraiture’s first venture away from the mothership was a 30-minute, black and white silent movie entitled ‘A Kind of Dream’, in which he starred alongside his wife Illy. Fraiture also composed the soundtrack for the release and, though it’s now almost impossible to find, we imagine it probably didn’t sound that much like ‘Reptilia’.
It wasn’t long before Nikolai was plugged back up to eleven, however, and at the start of 2009 the bassist turned frontman with the release of debut solo LP ‘The Time of the Assassins’ under the not-exactly-hard-to-work-out pseudonym of Nickel Eye. Though the album’s slightly monotone tracks weren’t quite as critically well-received as some of his bandmates’ solo work, the album still had enough zingers in the likes of ‘Brandy For The Damned’ to keep it afloat.
Julian Casablancas goes solo
Strangely, one of the last Strokes to release an LP was their frontman, but in 2009 Julian finally offered up ‘Phrazes For The Young’ – a short and sweet, synth-heavy release that perhaps best hinted at the direction The Strokes would soon begin to take. Also, in ‘11th Dimension’, the singer crafted easily the biggest banger of the quintet’s collective solo wares.
And just to show that he was no work-shy slacker, in the same year Julian set up his own label, Cult Records. Originally releasing his own material, JC then made his first outside signing – jangly indie types The Virgins – in 2012. Now, the Cult Records roster has swelled to include an impressively diverse array of artists include US punks Cerebral Ballzy, Ryan Jarman of The Cribs’ side project Exclamation Pony and cult singer Har Mar Superstar.
Fab Moretti and Har Mar Superstar
Speaking of Har Mar Superstar, Fab has also teamed up with the Minnesota singer, playing drums in Har Mar’s live band on a number of tours over the past few years.
And bringing us nearly up to date is a cut from little known, completely under-the-radar niche release ‘Random Access Memories’ last year. You probably won’t have heard of that one. Track five, ‘Instant Crush’, on Daft Punk’s triumphant comeback LP again featured Casablancas on vocals, proving that, more than ten years on from The Strokes’ first emergence, their members were still cool enough to feature on the biggest release of the year.