Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas speaks out about his solo disc

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David Hall | Boulder Weekly

More than three years have passed since New York band the
Strokes released their third album, First Impressions of Earth.
Since then, the question has loomed: When, if ever, will they return?

The group has given various answers, indicating they had
begun recording a fourth disc in January, then later posting a message in July
that they would spend the summer working toward an early 2010 release. Numerous
delays have emerged lately, however, as most members of the quintet have
devoted time to side projects.

Guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. embarked on a solo career in
2006 with “Yours to Keep” and has since released another album,
2008’s Como Te Llama? Drummer Fabrizio Moretti, meanwhile, teamed
with Brazilian singer/guitarist Rodrigo Amarante to form Lucky Joy, which put
out its self-titled debut in late 2008.

Even the Strokes’ bassist, Nikolai Fraiture, formed his own
group, the cleverly titled Nickel Eye, which issued its first work, The
Time of the Assassins
, in January.

So it makes some sense that, after lending his modern
crooner vocals to collaborations with various other artists — Santigold, Danger
Mouse, Sparklehorse, even Andy Samberg’s comedy troupe the Lonely Island —
Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas would concoct his own solo record, Phrazes for the Young, which arrived last week.

“I never wanted to do it,” Casablancas said during
a phone interview Thursday, “but I feel like I was kind of forced a
little, to be quite honest. The band wanted to go do their own thing, and
that’s cool — I respect that they need to go do that. But I didn’t want to sit
around.”

To promote the release, which Casablancas describes as
“something between the Wailers and Thom Yorke,” the singer has
undertaken a Friday-night residency this month at the rarely used Downtown
Palace Theatre in Los Angeles.

As a precursor to the four-night stint, Casablancas did a
club gig Nov. 2 as a surprise opener for Happy Hollows, which he says gave him
the chance to “work out the kinks.”

So far, his only other planned performances comprise a
string of dates along the West Coast, with stops in San Francisco, Seattle and
Vancouver, followed by a short trek through the U.K. and Western Europe,
wrapping in mid-December.

“Hopefully people (will) see something that they don’t
usually see, and that excites and inspires, and hopefully gets the word going
around so that we can do this crazy show in other places, too,”
Casablancas says.

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Phrazes for the Young, sporting only eight
tracks (11 if you splurge for the deluxe edition), references in its title
Oscar Wilde’s “Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young,” a
short list of witty advice tidbits first published in 1894. Casablancas says he
happened upon the list in a volume of Wilde’s works several years ago, and
decided to incorporate the concept into his work. “I did a similar thing
with First Impressions, where I had these little hidden sentences in the
artwork for each song,” he explains. “So it’s kind of an evolution of
that.”

Inside his solo disc’s booklet, Casablancas included his own
original phrases above each song title. “There’s so much knowledge and
wisdom you lose from generation to generation,” he notes, that “those
were just some of those things that I just wish someone had told me when I was
16, (things) that took me so much time to learn.”

Casablancas is feeling mostly optimistic about the L.A.
residency. “(My band is) really talented … and the songs are sounding
pretty crazy,” he says.

Still, he remains modest about his first full-on non-Strokes
undertaking. “You’re struggling because you know it’s like a new thing
that people don’t know what to expect, but at the same time you want to create
this illusion that you’re coming in highly ranked.”

Whatever the outcome, fans need not worry about the Strokes
disappearing permanently. “Whether it takes off or not, I’ll still do
Strokes stuff,” Casablancas says. “I think (recording) is going to
start in January, but I’m free for them whenever.”

The first two singles off Phrazes for the Young, “11th
Dimension” and “River of Brake Lights,” are available for a free
listen on Casablancas’ MySpace page. The album in its entirety costs $4.99
($9.99 for the deluxe package) on iTunes and Amazon; a “luxury edition box
set” can be purchased at www.ainr.com.

Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.