One of the most pivotal storytellers in Lizzy Goodman’s oral-history-cum-music-documentary Meet Me In The Bathroom, isn’t a journalist, or a scrappy New York City band from the early ‘00s, but a magazine. Spliced between scenes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ first performances, The Strokes roughing each other up at the airport on the way to their first UK gig, and Interpol walking in downtown Manhattan debris on September 11, are bold bright covers of NME.
In 2001, the year the second coming of rock was at its fever-pitch, The Strokes graced the cover of NME twice, not to mention the countless live reviews, album explainers, and recounts of their debauched nights out on both sides of the Atlantic that made up the rest of the mag. While the world waited with bated breath to see if the five Manhattan friends and the new batch of bands coming up behind them would live up to the hype, NME was there for the ride.
As part of the inaugural NME Screens event, fans will have an exclusive opportunity at London’s Rich Mix to relive those moments live before the film officially premieres in the UK. Find out more details about the event here.
Leading up to the screening, we’re looking back at some of the NME covers from that era, highlighting the bands, stories, and music that shifted and shaped rock music as we know it forever.
The Strokes, June 2001
The Strokes’ first NME cover depicts the band huddled together in second-hand jackets under dishevelled hair on a sidewalk in Manhattan with the words “why New York’s finest will change your life forever!” emblazoned across them in big bold red letters. But if the cover’s striking, the story behind it is even more dramatic. A fight breaks out in the opening sentence and the rest of the story follows the band defiantly wandering around NYC, as frontman Julian Casablancas pushes against the “saviours of rock” title: “A lot of this hype is bullshit,” before adding, “we have to get better songs”. The most foreshadowing bit of the feature, however, lands at the end, as NME notes: “A band like The Strokes only comes along once in a lifetime. You should be grateful that they’ve come along in yours.”
The Strokes, August 2001
In just a matter of months, and before ‘Is This It’ was even released in the UK, The Strokes found themselves on the cover of NME again. This time, the story outlines a day with the band on tour playing Los Angeles’ iconic venue The Troubadour as a swirl of celebrities, fans, and the band who were all under 22-years-old at the time tried to make sense of their fame before most of their world had even heard their debut album.
White Stripes, November 2001
Though Jack White talked about playing on the same bill as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and his admiration for guitarist Nick Zinner in Lizzy Goodman’s oral history, the band from Detroit doesn’t get as much screen time in the New York City-centric screen adaptation of the book. But The White Stripes do play an integral part in the scene that shaped rock forever, and even gave NME an exclusive interview at the start of the career back in 2001, while rumours were still running rampant around whether Jack and Meg White were partners or siblings.
The Hives, February 2002
As Marc Spitz tells it in Meet Me In The Bathroom, “The Hives were punk rock kids from Stockholm who had this atypical sophistication and beauty.” Even Sweden was on the hunt for the next ‘It Band’ and by 2002, and lucky for them they found one. The cover promised “72 hours in the sleazy world of The Hives” and came with a photo of frontman Pelle Almqvist sweaty and smiling, and access to their exclusive NME gig to boot.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, March 2003
With one hand on her hip, and another holding her microphone, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ formidable frontwoman Karen O glared from the stage on the cover of NME in spring of 2003. It was less than a month before the band’s seminal punk-laden dance floor debut ‘Fever To Tell’ was set to drop. “Cool! Sexy! Drunk!” the text next to her asks, noting the questions swirling around the band at the time, pointing to O’s stage antics at the time. In Meet Me In The Bathroom, O outlines her contentious relationship with the press at the time, and her confident stance in the photo is a stark contrast to the weight of fame she wrestled with at the time.
Interpol, March 2003
In the spring of 2003, almost a year after the release of their sonically sinister debut ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’, Interpol nabbed their first NME cover. Dressed in their customary tailored suits and wearing smirks to match their far-off glances, the cover promised to tell fans how the band “survived the war in style”, pointing to their alleged combative rivalry with fellow cover star counterparts, The Strokes – both bands have since denied any conflict.
Franz Ferdinand, January 2004
With power stances and frontman Alex Kapranos’ wicked grin front and centre, Franz Ferdinand took on the cover of NME, resurrecting the same coverline used for the Strokes years earlier: “this band will change your life”. The Scottish indie rockers were gearing up to release their debut album proving the rock revival had made its mark worldwide.
Vampire Weekend, January 2010
Vampire Weekend’s rise comes towards the end of Meet Me In The Bathroom, as the musical uprising shifts from Manhattan to Brooklyn, and the internet boom becomes a natural part of music consumption. Almost a decade after The Strokes sparked a rock revival in New York, Vampire Weekend had the opportunity to “redefine” it according to the NME cover story, giving an indie-pop slant to the sound pouring out of the Boroughs.
LCD Soundsystem, April 2010
The trials, tribulations, and even ecstasy that led to James Murphy forming LCD Soundsystem take centre stage in Meet Me In The Bathroom. Nearly a decade later, the electronic indie-punk icon looked back on those days and the state of the music industry in general, as part of a special 10 covers issue of NME, marking the relaunch of the mag. “I’d love to see the record labels crash and burn,” the DFA records founder said at the time. The defiant interview also included Murphy preaching the end of the “album format” seven years before he must have changed his mind, dropping the comeback LP, ‘American Dream’.
The Killers, August 2020
Though archival footage and interviews from The Killers aren’t as present in the documentary as in the oral history, their chapter stands out in the overall story of the early noughties rock scene. Unlike their contemporaries who grew up in The Big Apple, the foursome came together in Las Vegas with their ears and aspirations set on what was happening in New York. In 2020, long after the release of their debut album ‘Hot Fuss’, the band talked to NME about the healthy competition they had with the bands from the big city, saying that Vampire Weekend’s had inspired their 2020 album, ‘Imploding The Mirage’, noting that it propelled them to create the same way The Strokes debut ‘Is This It’ had.
Meet Me In The Bathroom will be released in UK and Irish cinemas from Friday March 10, Australian cinemas on March 16 and available to stream on demand from Monday March 27.