The Strokes’ first release was via NME.com, when they gave away a free MP3 download of ‘Last Nite’ a week prior to physical release as part of ‘The Modern Age EP’ in 2001. NME went on to give the group’s debut album ‘Is This It’ a 10 out of 10 review, and name it album of the year.
Albert Hammond Jr’s father, London-born Albert Hammond, was a hugely successful songwriter. Songs he either wrote or co-wrote include Starship’s ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’, Whitney Houston’s One Moment In Time’, Leo Sayer’s ‘When I Need You’, and ‘Don’t Turn Around’, a UK Number 1 for Aswad in 1988.
The Strokes’ favourite foods? Julian cites his favourite dish as lasagne, while Nick enjoys a "juicy pineapple". Albert prefers the Japanese BBQ favourite Kushiyaki. The rest of the band are less picky: Fab claims to enjoy a hearty feast of "food and water", while Nikolai cites his favourite food as, er, "shit sandwich".
Albert Hammond Jr converted to Judaism shortly after the release of ‘Is This It’ – purely so that Nick Valensi wouldn’t be the only Jew in the band. It has had certain benefits. "The first time I told a guy I was Jewish was in LA," Hammond recalls. "He pulled me into the corner, and I discovered this whole secret world. He even got me laid that night."
In contrast with the privileged upbringings of Casablancas and Hammond, bassist Nikolai Fraiture (right) grew up poor, in a two-room apartment (with his parents, brother and adopted sister). His father was a security man at Macy’s. One day he caught Nikolai stealing a Luke Skywalker doll from the department store.
Pic: Dean Chalkely
The Strokes are massive Arctic Monkeys fans. They were blown away by the Sheffield group when they toured with them in Ireland. Julian Casablancas gushed: "We’ve seen a seriously fucking great band. Arctic Monkeys, how about those guys? They’re good, maybe a little too fucking good.â
7The Strokes studio shoot – Washington
Albert Hammond Jr (far left) is the most organised and business-like of the band. In the early days, he booked shows and harassed record executives, claiming to be the band’s manager and using the pseudonym Paul Spencer.
Pic: PA Photos
Every time Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ is played on the radio, Albert Hammond Jr’s Dad gets a royalty payment. That’s because he was originally granted a co-songwriting credit on the song, owing to its similarity to The Hollies’ The Air That I Breathe’, which he co-wrote in 1973.
9The Strokes, live in Japan, NME 08/2003
When The Strokes played London’s Alexandra Palace in December 2003, Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, then aged 17, was in the audience. By chance he met Pete Doherty and had his picture taken with him.
Pic: Alex Maguire
10The Strokes, posed. Pub orig NME 10/2005 p28
Despite being inundated with major label offers when they first appeared on the scene, The Strokes finally signed to RCA because it was the only company that didn’t balk when the band stated they’d never want to make a video. Casablancas revealed the reason for this in a 2001 interview with ‘Penthouse’: "The idea of lip-synching to songs on a film just seems retarded to me."
Pic: Pieter M Van Hattem
11Fab of the The Strokes playing the drums. Rock / indie band in NYC 10/2004 NME.
In 2007, Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti revealed that he had contracted infectious Lyme disease. The illness is an acute inflammatory tick-borne disease in which joint swelling, fever, and rash occur, sometimes accompanied by cardiac or nervous system complications. In rare cases, Lyme disease can be fatal.
12The Strokes, live in Japan, NME 08/2003
Julian Casablancas is passionate about the perils of taking heroin. "Doing heroin is like walking around with a terrorist as your friend," he once explained. "It’s like taking a terrorist around to parties. You never know when it’s going to blow up on you."
Pic: Alex Maguire
13The Strokes, posed. Pub orig NME 10/2005 p28
Julian Casablancas is a major investor in a newly-opened Korean BBQ restaurant, Shin, in Hollywood. Other major investors include Mark Ronson and DJ Aokie. The restaurant, named after Simon Shin the head chef, allows guests to cook their own food on table top grills. The marinated ribs are said to be particularly good.
14Nick of the The Strokes holding a guitar. Rock / indie band in NYC 10/2004 NME.
Strokes guitarist Nick Valensi’s (pictured) ‘porn star name’ is Fluffy Delberg, according to a 2002 NME interview in which fans’ questions were put to the band. Julian Casablancas’ is Valentine Kitchenson.
Pic: Pieter M Van Hattem
Having battled a past drinking problem (even having a spell in Phoenix House rehab centre while still in high school), Julian Casablancas went completely sober for the recording sessions of ‘First Impressions Of Earth’ (2006), as he felt the alcohol inhibited his songwriting. These sentiments were expressed the record’s defiantly upbeat number ‘Heart In A Cage’: "And I don’t write better/when I’m stuck in the ground."
Pic: Pieter M Van Hattem
16The Strokes, posed dressed up/ fancy dress. Not used NME 12/2005
When The Strokes released their debut album ‘Is This It’ in 2001, the cover image of a gloved hand caressing a naked behind (a glib reference to Spinal Tap’s fictional ‘Smell The Glove’ album) proved too shocking for the US market, and was replaced with an abstract image taken from a particle physics experiment. The only UK retailer to complain about the original sleeve was Woolworths.
Pic: Dean Chalkley
The Strokes’ debut London show was an NME Awards gig at the London Astoria, Saturday February 3, 2001. They were first on the bill, before sets by Peaches, Rocket From The Crypt and (headliners) …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead.
At a very early show in New York, The Strokes opened for a band called Girl Harbour. After the gig guitarist Nick Valensi was caught having sex with a girl backstage. Girl Harbour took a photo and used it as the flyer for their next show, with the tagline: ‘This is what happened at our last show!’
It was Julian Casablancas who came up with the name The Strokes, in late 1998. Nikolai Fraiture recalls: "We had a running joke that every time we met up we had to have a certain number of names. Some were horrible. One day Julian said, ‘How about The Strokes?’ and it was the one name we all didn’t disagree on."
The Strokes admit to being drunk while recording the bulk of ‘Is This It’. Nikolai Fraiture recalls: "’Hard To Explain’ was a ball of confusion. The vibe in the studio at the time was a lot of alcohol and focus." To hear The Strokes discuss the stories behind all their classic songs, head to NME.COM/VIDEO.
21NME Awards 2006
‘Is This It”s sleevenotes feature a credit for a mysterious ‘guru’, JP Bowersock. This was in fact Julian and Albert’s guitar teacher.