BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: Entertainment: Music
Front Page 
UK Politics 
TV and Radio 
New Media 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Sunday, 10 June, 2001, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
New York's new sound
The Strokes
The Strokes: Saviours of the New York sound?
By BBC News Online's Ian Youngs

The bands have had no hits and little exposure, but tickets for their sold-out, small-scale UK tour are some of the hottest of the year.

New York band The Strokes - headliners on the 16-stop tour - have kick-started a revival of the city's music scene and are the most talked-about new band since Oasis, according to the music press.

Fellow New Yorkers The Moldy Peaches and Britain's Mull Historical Society, who complete the line-up, are also hotly-tipped - and tickets are like gold dust.

"New York's most exciting band for 25 years," was how the New Musical Express described The Strokes after putting the five young, irresistibly unkempt and attitude-filled members on its cover after only one EP release.

Their looks and music make them heirs to the 70s New York punk legacy, with comparisons invariably including The Velvet Underground, The Stooges and Television.

But they do not come across as mere copyists.

Their scruffy-but-suave style and restless, compulsive songs encapsulate the hot, edgy streets of the pre-Giuliani city, with their first release triggering a rare buzz among music fans.

15 seconds

Geoff Travis, boss of London's ultra-indie Rough Trade Records - the label that gave the world The Smiths - needed no persuasion to release the band's debut EP, The Modern Age.

The Strokes: Julian, Fab and Nick
The Strokes: Julian, Fab and Nick
After hearing the first 15 seconds of the first track down a trans-Atlantic phone line, he called their manager.

"A few days later, he was in New York to see us play," lead singer Julian Casablancas told BBC News Online.

Julian plays down their billing as the New York music scene's saviours, despite their loyal following in the city.

"There's lots of creativity going on in New York right now," he says. "But I don't know if it's really a resurgence."

And he adds that Britain is more receptive to their music than the rest of America because "there is a bigger undercurrent of people who are interested in finding good music rather than being spoon-fed it".

The band members' frayed looks betray their backgrounds - Julian's dad John started the Elite modelling agency 25 years ago and Julian met guitarist Albert Hammond Jr while the pair were at school in Switzerland.

New York inheritance

The Strokes were born after Julian met the others - Fabrizio Moretti, Nick Valensi and Nikolai Fraiture - at a later school in New York.

Their first gigs quickly earned them a reputation as incendiary live performers with natural style and energy inherited from the city's old masters.

Geoff Travis says he instantly knew that The Strokes were something special - but that he later realised they are even better than he first thought.

"I've been quite surprised by how good they really are," he said.

"I had no idea that all this was going to happen so quickly - I had a nice feeling that something might happen, but you never know."

Stage bunnies

The Strokes' support band on the tour and fellow New York hot properties The Moldy Peaches were also snapped up by Travis.

Moldy Peaches: Kimya and Adam
Moldy Peaches: Kimya and Adam
"Although they [The Strokes] were attractive, they weren't as super-cute as he wanted," says the Peaches' Adam Green of Travis' motives for adding them to his roster.

Whether dressing up in bunny outfits and Peter Pan costumes on stage can be described as super-cute is debatable - but it is typical of the Peaches' unique style that veers between madness and greatness.

They first started making music when Adam and his babysitter Kimya Dawson began to make up insane but insanely catchy songs when he was 13 and she was 19.

And, six years later, they have not stopped - with the result being infectiously childish lullabies about completely random subjects.

"I think we're pretty childlike, for such mature geniuses," says Kimya, half-convincingly.

"Some of the songs are a little bit more serious, but it's mostly just us sitting around and somebody will say something silly and a guitar comes out and it all just fits together."


She says New York's best music scene - called anti-folk and comprising singer-songwriters who perform informally - did not get covered by the NME's recent cover story about the city.

"To be an entertainer with just a guitar, you have to be an amazing person to make people be quiet and listen to you," Adam says.

"I feel like we're continuing a folk tradition of embracing imperfection."

Travis says one of the best things about both bands is that neither takes themselves too seriously - a breath of fresh air in a hit-obsessed climate.

"The thing we really like is their attitude towards what they're doing. It's not just 'we want to be famous'. It's a whole different mentality, and that fits into how we feel about things at Rough Trade."

The first band on stage during the tour, The Mull Historical Society - who are also signed to Rough Trade - should not be ignored, and could be in line for the British rock throne currently occupied by Travis and the Stereophonics.

By the time the tour ends, a lot more people will have seen the future of alternative music.

The Strokes, The Moldy Peaches and The Mull Historical Society are on tour in the UK from 10-28 June.

The Strokes
"There's lots of creativity going on in New York right now"
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Music stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Music stories