Strokes frontman goes it alone

Ever since his groundbreaking 2001 debut with The Strokes, “Is This It,” bandleader Julian Casablancas thought his musical career was set in stone.

“Because I literally put everything I had into The Strokes,” he says. “And that whole Sting-Police vibe? I just always shut out that idea with the group, like, ‘Nope. Not doing it.’ I didn’t want to do a solo record. So without really honestly explaining everything, I kind of felt like I was forced into it, like I had no choice.”

Whatever the motivation, Strokes fans should rejoice in the singer’s new “Phrazes for the Young” debut on his own Cult Records imprint.

The album — which Casablancas will draw from during a solo San Francisco gig tonight — is a brilliant showcase that recaptures that ephemeral “Is This It” spark, in a disco-campy “11th Dimension,” the barroom waltz “Ludlow St.” and a punk-propulsive “Out of the Blue.”

He had so much fun making it, he even tacked on a zany bonus track to the deluxe edition: The “Saturday Night Live” seasonal synth-fest “I Wish It Was Christmas Today.”

As Casablancas tells it, he was blindsided a couple years ago when his band members requested time off to pursue individual projects.

He didn’t sit idly by. With Santigold, he recorded a song, “Drive Thru,” for Converse. He appeared on “Boombox” with Andy Samberg’s Lonely Island and partnered in a new Los Angeles Korean restaurant called Shin. He married his longtime gal-pal, Juliet, with whom he’s expecting a child in February.

The Strokes, he says, “needed space, and I respect that. And everyone went off in different directions, and that’s cool. So I’ve been negotiating that, and it’s been tough.”

Left to his own devices, Casablancas, 31, swapped guitar for keyboards and computers, self-sculpted every cut and recruited seasoned players to play more complicated parts.

“I learned that keyboard tones are way more sensitive than guitar tones,” he says. “With a keyboard, it’s more like clothing — there’s a very fine line between looking sexy and looking ridiculous.”

The purposely misspelled “Phrazes” title was inspired by Oscar Wilde, who prompted the composer to shelve all his previous lyrics and delve deeper. Casablancas says Wilde’s books were “commenting on what shallow, superficial animals we are. It was like the witty, intellectual stand-up comedy of the day.”

Flying solo, Casablancas says, “was weird and hard mentally, even emotionally, to make the switch. So I’ll always be down to do Strokes records and play Strokes shows. But it’s also nice to feel appreciated for what you do on your own, too.”

IF YOU GO

Julian Casablancas

  • Where: The Regency Ballroom, 1290 Sutter St., San Francisco
  • When: 8 p.m. today
  • Tickets: $30 to $33
  • Contact: www.goldenvoice.com

artsentertainmentJulian CasablancasOther Artssolo

Just Posted

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler, pictured in July at Oracle Park, says team members simultaneously can be “measured and calm” and “looking to push the accelerator.” (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
How Gabe Kapler sets the tone for Giants’ success with strategy, mindset

‘There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the hands-down manager of the year’

Artist Agnieszka Pilat, pictured with Spot the Robot Dog from Boston Robotics, has a gallery show opening at Modernism. (Courtesy Agnieszka Pilat)
Screenshots of VCs, Kanye and tech parties by the Bay

In this week’s roundup, Ben Horowitz’s surprising hip-hop knowledge and the chic tech crowd at Shack15

If he secured a full term in the Senate, Newsom would become the most powerful Californian Democrat since Phil Burton at the height of his career, or maybe ever. <ins>(Kevin Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Firefighters extinguish burning material near Lake Tahoe on Sept. 3 in the wake of the Caldor Fire; environmental scientists say the huge fire is bringing to light deficiencies in forest management. <ins>(Max Whittaker/New York Times)</ins>
Cal Fire, timber industry must face an inconvenient truth

We are logging further into the wildfire and climate crisis

Speaker of the Parliament of Mongolia Gombojav Zandanshatar said his country and San Francisco face similar challenges on issues including COVID recovery and climate change.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Mongolian leaders meet with tech, film leaders on city tour

‘I really want San Franciscans to meet the new Mongolian generation’

Most Read