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This was it: how the Strokes and New York rock ripped up British music

In 2001, the Strokes arrived in Britain on a wave of hype that would help launch the careers of Interpol, Kings of Leon, the Rapture and the Libertines. Here, those bands recount the feverish impact of the Manhattanites arrival in the UK

Kelly Kiley (manager of Rough Trade Records): Ive never known a band to get security so quickly.

Laura Young (blogger): The first time I ever saw the Strokes, in the middle of the show, Julian started staring off into the distance. Then you just see him jump into the crowd, and there was a kerfuffle. He was getting into a fight. Very quickly, one of the bouncers came in and broke it up, but I was like: Oh my God, this is so awesome. They had this reputation in the press of being bad boys. Drinking a lot, getting into trouble. That was their whole persona, cool New York, dont-give-a-fuck type of dudes.

Albert Hammond Jr (guitarist, the Strokes): Everyone thought we were fighters. I couldnt care less about fighting. I want to fight off women, not men.

Adam Green (frontman, the Moldy Peaches): We were in Glasgow and some guys decided that they didnt like my Robin Hood outfit.

Fabrizio Moretti (drummer, the Strokes): We were waiting for chicken tikka masala late at night. Or chicken korma. I cant remember what it was. A chicken dish that was delicious when everything else is closed and you are so hungry and so wasted. Some man started to make fun of Adams outfit in that Glaswegian drawl where you barely understand what hes saying but you get the intonation. So I said something about how he should go fuck himself.

Moldy
Moldy Peaches, 2001. Photograph: Peter Holderness/record company handout

Adam Green: Fab was like: Fuck you! I like his Robin Hood outfit.

Fabrizio Moretti: Julian was a little more sober and probably more realistic and he was like: What?! And he grabbed me and pulled me outside.

Albert Hammond Jr: Julian was like: Come on, dude, this guy is big, lets get out of here, theres no point in fighting, British people are crazy.

Adam Green: Fab was just so angry, he just punched a mailbox and broke his hand.

Kelly Kiley: During that second UK tour, after the EP had come out, there was lunacy. They played Oxford and Kate Moss was there. It was: Of course shes going to be there, this is the new thing, so shes going to get on it as early as possible.

Russell Warby (UK booker, the Strokes): I dont think that when Kate first met the Strokes that she thought they were especially nice to her. They were a bit like, you know Hi being very cool about it. Im sure she would have liked them to be very excited.

Kelly Kiley: I loved how Julian would not give a shit about any of the celebs he just didnt care. Julian has always been the most reserved, the most against all of the adulation, the celeb stuff, and just more conservative, or down to earth. Julian is a control freak, but he was the most real.

Interpol.
Interpol, 2002. Photograph: Peter Pakvis/Redferns

Nick Valensi (guitarist, the Strokes): The previous time wed been in England, we went to these indie nights at clubs in London. We were in the loudest club in the world, and there was this guy sitting in the corner, surrounded by girls, and he was playing the acoustic guitar in this super-loud club. He wanted to talk to me, show me songs he had written, telling me hes starting a band. He was with this Italian girl, and the whole thing felt like there was sexual undertones. They were obviously together, but there was kind of insinuations of, Well, maybe well all get together tonight, that kind of thing. He wanted to come back to my hotel with me, and I was like: No, man, Im sorry, I have to go. I remember leaving, thinking: That guy was fucking crazy. I think the club was called Trash.

Paul Banks (frontman, Interpol): We went all the time. Because we were a band from New York, we could get into those clubs and jump the line.

Caleb Followill(frontman, Kings of Leon): Trash was fucking amazing. We would walk in with sunglasses on and people are just handing you stuff and youre just putting it in your mouth. It was like the movies, like John Travolta walking into a bar; we would walk in the bar and people would just be handing you drinks, drugs.

Nick Valensi: So then we went to England to do our second tour, and Geoff Travis from Rough Trade said: I have this great band, theyre called the Libertines, and theyre going to open for you. We get to the venue, the first gig of the tour, and who is the guy singing but the crazy guy with the acoustic guitar from the night at that club. It was Pete Doherty! He remembered me very clearly.

Kings
Kings of Leon, 2003. Photograph: Peter Pakvis/Redferns

Carl Bart (frontman, the Libertines): They were on Rough Trade in England and that was a big thing. And we had been to see a gig in Liverpool. We jumped the train. Their EP had just come out and we stole it from the shop in the station and we were looking at the lyrics on the way up. We were like: These motherfuckers from America we wear those clothes! We do this!

Albert Hammond Jr: I remember meeting Pete Doherty and Carl in Liverpool. They gave me acid and tried to get on our bus. Then six months later they had formed a band and were opening for us.

Nick Valensi: I could see that Pete kind of looked like Julian, and I could see how they dressed like us. I didnt think their music really sounded like us, though. Were musically very precise, we have very tight arrangements, and theyre very loose. Pete and Carl certainly looked not that different from us.

Carl Bart: I think the boys were kind enough to lend us some money after the show. We went for some chips and then departed company. I think it was Nick who pulled out a fan of notes and I pointed out which ones Id like. Hed possibly not seen pounds much before and maybe we took a little bit of advantage of that.

Jeannette Lee (co-founder of Rough Trade records): Julian really did not take to Peter. His response was: Who is that guy?

Julian Casablancas (frontman, the Strokes): I mean we played shows with them, I think, somewhere. Leeds, or I cant remember where. I never really brod out with those guys.

The
The Libertines, 2003. Photograph: Nicky J. Sims/Redferns

Jeannette Lee: Peter is trying to pick everybodys pocket, trying to take everybodys credit cards when they are not looking. Also, the Libertines had a very open attitude toward drugs as well. I mean, they didnt bother to try to conceal it.

Mark Ronson: I remember asking someone what the Libertines were and they said that they were like the British version of the Strokes, and I remember being like: Well, I have the Strokes, I dont really need the British version. I know English kids who are seven years younger, who that band was so seminal for that theyd cry if Cant Stand Me Now comes on at a certain point in the evening. It didnt grab me, and like I said, if this is the British Strokes, well, we have the Strokes. I wasnt super interested in it.

Conor Oberst (frontman, Bright Eyes): That summer, the summer of 2001, was really the summer of the Strokes over there. We were touring England and thats where I first saw someone walking around with that original T-shirt. I thought: The Strokes. Do they mean, like, have a stroke? Or a pool stroke? It kind of looked like the Storks if you looked at it wrong. The record wasnt out in America yet but in every club we were playing, theyd be playing it as we walked in the door.

Jeannette Lee: They touched the same spot in me as seeing the Sex Pistols and the Clash had. Not because they sounded like them but there was something about the energy.

Mark Ronson: I was obsessed with that record. Their song Someday starts with that kick and snare before the song comes in. I took that and chopped it up for Rhymefests first album. Id see Albert out, wed all be fucked up, and Id be like: Would you come play guitar on this song if we redid it? Hed called me one night and said: I got your message, yeah, is this the part you want? He put down the phone and picks up a guitar, and I hear him playing the part. I played that recording for everyone. I mean, I was obsessed. It even feeds into the stuff I did with Amy Winehouse because when we were doing the demos for Back to Black, when Amy first came to New York, she would play me the songs shed written on the guitar, then shed leave me overnight to experiment with different arrangement ideas until I had something. I remember her coming to the studio as I was putting the verse to Rehab together. I was like: Let me try this kind of beat. And she was like: Are you trying to make me sound like the bloody Libertines?

Mark
Mark Ronson in New York City, 2004. Photograph: Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

If I had been only in my own hip-hop world, it wouldnt have occurred to me to make some of those records. I think thats part of the reason that Amys record was so massively received by the NME and those indie places. I mean, partly because she was such a firebrand and looked like such an outcast rebel and awesome iconic figure, but its also that they were all guitar-based records. There hadnt been anything like that with guitars in it in soul music for 20 years.

Geoff Travis (founder, Rough Trade Records): The Strokes arrival was a bomb in the middle of a plastic pool.

Nick Valensi: You cant underestimate how important it is for an American band to get across the Atlantic.

Daniel Kessler (guitarist, Interpol): It was funny, we couldnt get arrested to save our lives six months before the Strokes took off, then all of a sudden it was lunacy.

Luke Jenner (frontman, the Rapture): I was really excited because I would go on Avenue A to this magazine store and buy copies of NME and be like: Dude! This is all happening around me and eventually theyre gonna find me!

Daniel Kessler: It was a fever. British journalists needed story angles on a weekly basis, and fortunately, there were a lot of good bands here.

Mark Ronson: It became almost like the 60s again. It really made the NME a super-relevant New York publication again Thats where we have to go to read about our things.

Anthony Rossomando (guitarist, Dirty Pretty Things): In England, America is a much bigger deal than it is at home.

Adam Green: I remember when Kimya and I went to England to play with the Strokes. We arrived and the Strokes are playing Top of the Pops that night, so we go to the television studio. We started walking around and everyone was saying: Oh, you guys are the Moldy Peaches! We just read about you in NME! We were blown away. We didnt know anything about England and wed obviously never experienced anything like that before. People were stopping us on the street and inviting us into their houses. We basically went from New York to England and just never worked another job again.

Steve Schiltz (frontman, Longwave): Its important to remember that this was before Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter. At that time, there were probably only like two or three pictures of the Strokes. Even though I was their friend, thats how fucking cool it was, how convincing it was to see them in a magazine looking like the coolest band you ever saw in your life. I believed it so much that I thought I would never be friends with them again. They were mysterious. They were gone.

Sam Fogarino (drummer, Interpol): We went over to the UK, before we were signed, before we even had management, to do a little tour and record a Peel Session, which was a big deal. The Strokes had just been there and it was a frenzy. It was a craze. The next thing you know, as a result of that trip there was this issue of NME the cover just said: We Heart New York. The Strokes were at the top of the list but there was Interpol in there, with no record deal. We just had this single out. Being the older guy, I said: Oh, I remember when NME did We Love Seattle. It was just a decade prior, you know? Something was shifting. I knew it was just a matter of time.

Jason Gordon (blogger): It wasnt about one band igniting all of this. It was this energy that surrounded all these bands. Maybe not between the actual band members, but between the people that would see all these separate bands. It used to be: Punks dont go to dance shows. Dance kids dont go to rock shows. Now, suddenly, it was: I am a punk, and I am going to go dancing at the Rapture show tonight.

Luke Jenner: People just thought of us as a disco Strokes. They were like: We need to sign a band like the Strokes, and youre it! And we were like: Cool! Heres my bank account number.

Steve Schiltz: The Strokes happened and you realised: Oh, wait, these guys are like 21 years old, their manager is 22, and theyre the coolest thing happening, and theyre friends of ours!? You start thinking: Wow, maybe you dont have to listen to this bullshit from people that say they know everything about the music industry. Maybe we can do this too.

This is an extract from Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011 by Lizzy Goodman, published by Faber and Faber on 3 August, 20, 12.99 ebook.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/jul/27/that-was-it-how-the-strokes-and-new-york-rock-ripped-up-british-music

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