The Strokes guitarist Nick Valensi turns singer

Updated: 2016-11-03 07:38

By Agence France-Presse in Los Angeles(China Daily USA)

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In the 15 years since The Strokes became a breakout global sensation, guitarist Nick Valensi has found comfort in the shadows, taking the limelight only when he wants.

So he began his latest vocation - as a frontman for his side project CRX, which releases its debut album on Friday - with little idea of what to do.

"I didn't really want to be a singer. I like singing backup vocals. I like writing melodies. But being the frontman of a band seemed kind of a tall order," Valensi says over coffee sitting at a sunlit sidewalk cafe in Los Angeles, the native New Yorker's adopted home.

"Being the frontman for a rock band, a lot of it has to do with talent, but a lot of it has to do also with your personality and how comfortable you are commanding attention," he says.

"I like attention, but I like it when I'm ready for it, and as a guitar player you're always afforded that ability to kind of step out and get a lot of attention, but also step back and retreat into the shadows a little bit."

Still, Valensi is at ease with his own voice on the new album, New Skin. He confidently, if not flamboyantly, carries songs largely consistent with The Strokes' rough-around-the-edges punk revival sound, albeit with a touch more keyboard.

But working apart from The Strokes' charismatic frontman Julian Casablancas, Valensi says he struggled to write lyrics, spending a full year penning out thoughts.

"To be honest, man, at first I really sucked at it," he says.

He eventually settled on songs about his life experiences - Broken Bones from his time with his arm in a sling - and distaste for social phoniness.

But mostly Valensi let the music take the lead, saying he has an ear for lyrics that complement the sound, even if he doesn't see himself as a poet.

"I'm a big believer that anyone can get better at anything just by doing it over and over again," he says.

The 35-year-old says he was longing to return to the road with CRX, but to play mid-sized clubs rather than The Strokes' festival-headlining sets.

The Strokes played several shows this year and released an EP, Future Present Past.

But Valensi - mentioning nothing about friction with his bandmates - likens The Strokes to a freight train that needs time to get up to speed.

For their last album, 2013's Comedown Machine, The Strokes decided against any tour or promotional activity.

"I've been doing this for over 15 years already and sometimes it's hard to just remember what was fun about it in the first place," Valensi says.

Delighting in the warm weather and relaxed vibe of Los Angeles, Valensi teamed up with his California friends for CRX.

Josh Homme, the rocker from Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal, produced New Skin. CRX's lineup includes Willowz frontman Richie Follin.

 The Strokes guitarist Nick Valensi turns singer

Nick Valensi performs during the 64th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes. AFP

(China Daily USA 11/03/2016 page8)