Strokes bassist Nikolai Fraiture tells us about the band's new album
Time Out Bahrain staff
By now you’ve probably read that The Strokes’ new fourth LP, Angles, was recorded in piecemeal fashion due to interband friction. That’s only half the story, though: the end product is quite impressive, offering proof that the New York quintet has moved far beyond the garage chic that marked its early efforts. We asked Strokes bassist Nikolai Fraiture to tell us more.
We heard that the recording process of this new album has been fragmented, with members making their contributions separately. How do you feel about that way of working? Well, I think that it is slightly misrepresented. We did spend quite a lot of time writing the album together and working on ideas, and drawing things back and forth. I think that people just focused on the fact that Julian wasn’t there for much of the recording of it. But that was only for that period of time that he wasn’t there. It was a different process that we had to adapt to.
This is the first time that others besides Julian have contributed to the writing? I guess, yes – this is the first significant time. There are other things here and there. But this is the first extremely collaborative situation.
How does it work? Does someone bring in a demo and others add elements to it? Or do you put the songs together collaboratively? We’ve always had a collaborative way of working on Julian’s parts. A long time ago, he’d always bring in melodies and guitar parts and we’d build around that. We still use that format. Everybody has a different process. Somebody can bring a small part or bring in an actual demo of a part or a whole song. During the writing period, when we were all together, that’s when we were choosing what was working and what wasn’t.
In this day and age, are you committed to making full-length albums? Is it still a valid art form? I think it is. I enjoy doing it. With the five of us there are a lot of ideas. It’s an enjoyable process. Once you’re done and finished, it feels good to finish an album. But it is a new age, and people’s attention spans are pretty small. There are people who still listen to entire albums, but it has kind of turned into something different.
The band is just coming off a long hiatus. How do you guys decide when it’s time to start making music again? Who makes that call? I think at some point everyone in the band tried, but at those points, someone else wasn’t ready yet. After about three years, we got back in the studio and started writing and forging ahead to finish the album. But there was a lot of starting and stopping. At first it was Fabrizio and Nick, our drummer and guitarist, and me in the studio. And then Julian came in at some point. Eventually we realised after that amount of time we all had to confront the decision of whether this was going to continue or not. And after that much time, you kind of become a reunion band and we didn’t want to become that.
Do you like like having that extended time off? For me, I was hoping to get back sooner. But I think we all needed time to rest and recuperate, and really just find ourselves as individuals and musicians again. I’ve known Julian since the first grade, and we met the other members when we were in our teens. We’ve been living on top of each other for so many years. At that point, for the sake of longevity, we just kind of needed to take a break and explore different avenues.
Do you think you’ll move into the next record in a different way? Yeah, I think now a lot of the groundwork has been established. It’s a lot less confusing as to what’s going on. The goal is much more clear. We want to make music together, and if you want a song on the album you have to bring it in and work on everybody else’s songs just as hard.
So where is the Strokes’ home base these days? Most of us are in New York. Our guitarist Nick is in Los Angles. But we are based in New York. If we work on anything, Nick flies out to us. And we set aside time to write, rehearse, record and whatever we have to do. Do you have more plans to continue your solo projects? At the time, it was kind of filling time and trying to stay on top of myself musically and explore different things. Right now, for me, the Strokes is the No 1 priority. I always work on that kind of music for fun on the side. I have material, but the Strokes is the priority.
You ran the marathon last year. Are you going to run another? Yeah, definitely. The marathon was an amazing challenge. It kind of becomes addictive. You want to beat your time every time you do it. It was during our break. The training kept me on the straight and narrow and kept me healthy.
I wanted to ask a Time Out-related question. I read that Steve Ralbovsky, who had a big hand in signing you guys, learned about the band through an article in this magazine. Yeah, I remember Time Out used a picture of us in a pool. When we were starting out in New York it was like every little thing we were so excited about. And when Time Out, which is of course a respected publication, caught wind of us it was really exciting. Angles is on sale now