The growing pains of Julian Casablancas

Julian Casablancas is confused. "Teetotal," he says, rolling the word around in his mouth.

"Tee-total. I'm sorry... what does that mean?" It's a balmy afternoon in Los Angeles and Casablancas, unspeakably hip frontman of New York rockers The Strokes, is discussing his long-running battle with booze.



After nearly a decade in the fast lane, he had, he says, reached a point where round-the-clock partying was beginning to take over his life. So he took the fateful decision to go on the wagon (for the record, he isn't being coy when he professes utter ignorance of "teetotal" -- tellingly, it's not a word that crops up very often in fashionable corners of Manhattan).



"I've always worked sober," he is careful to point out. "Room On Fire [The Strokes' second album]... that was done sober. You know, drinking is what happens once the work is done. It wasn't like I would sit in my room with a guitar and think, 'hey, nothing's happening... let me drink a bottle of whiskey and write a song'."



Nevertheless, all of the boozing eventually started to extract a heavy toll. Did friends intervene or was the decision to go sober made of of his own volition?



"Actually, people broke into my house in the middle of the night and kidnapped me."



Really? He laughs. "No, I'm kidding. I stopped on my own. The alcohol was affecting sober time. Basically, I was in a lot of pain from drinking. So that was the problem. It was time to stop."



Casablancas is taking maximum advantage of his new-found sobriety. He and his wife of four years, Juliet Joslin, are about to have their first child. He's tentatively started on the long-awaited fourth Strokes album (though it's far too early, he insists, to make any predictions as to what the results will sound like). And he's just announced a European tour which includes a date at Dublin's Academy on December 14 to promote his rather sweet solo record, Phrazes For The Young, an LP which suggests that, far from being the pretty-boy, empty-headed frontman he's often painted as, Casablancas may have been the major song-writing talent in The Strokes all along.



"The title comes from Oscar Wilde," he says. "He wrote a book called Phrases And Philosophies For The Use Of The Young. I saw the name on the spine and the vibe of it really spoke to me. Before that I would never have described myself as a Wilde fan. I'd read a little of him in school, I guess -- we did a bit of Picture of Dorian Gray. However, when I saw that book, I was like, 'wow... what's this? I wanna know more'. It's almost like the stand-up comedy of the day. I think in many ways Wilde was a Lenny Bruce kind of character."



Casablancas is lounging by the veranda of his rehearsal studio in Santa Monica. If you associate The Strokes with a certain stripe of NYC cool -- one that involves rumpled leather jackets, shaggy hair and mirror-shades worn at all times -- it's quite a leap to picture him kicking back in sun-kissed LA. Does he hanker for the brooding streets of the East Village?



"I don't itch to go home, no. The weather here... I guess it's probably what the weather in heaven is like. People are always arguing: New York or LA? They're both great places, you know."



In interviews, Casablancas can come off as a tad too louche for his own good. Yet today he's perfectly sweet. He's happy to talk about The Strokes, insisting the band is still a going concern notwithstanding the rumours of their demise that have swirled since the release in 2006 of their underwhelming third album, First Impressions Of Earth (the mediocre reviews of which had no effect on him, he says.)



Nor does he get all huffy -- as he has in the past -- as the conversation strays towards his privileged childhood in leafy Manhattan. "People think I grew up in the French riviera," sighs the singer, whose father, John Casablancas, founded the Elite Model Agency and whose mother Jeanette was a Danish supermodel.



"It's been blown out of proportion," he says of his upbringing, which included a stint at Institut Le Rosey, the Swiss finishing school which counts the offspring of Elizabeth Taylor, John Lennon, Aristotle Onassis and Winston Churchill as past-pupils (it's where he met future Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr).



"I say our childhood was like the movie Kids. It's New York, we're kind of roaming around, drinking beer on stoops. You know some of the people in The Strokes, yeah, their parents had success -- but we didn't live like yuppies. My parents separated when I was eight. I grew up with my mom alone. Starting the band, we didn't say, 'hey, let's all put on leather jackets and pretend to be cool', you know what I'm saying? It was who we were."



Rock and roll had been crying out for years for a band like The Strokes when they fetched up in late 2000. With their skinny jeans, '70s haircuts and cherubic pouts, they were the most exciting thing to hit the Manhattan scene since the heyday of CBGBs. Their music, a down and dirty conflation of '70s rock and '80s power pop, was pretty great too. Their first album, 2001's Is This It, was hailed as an instant classic, a record that brought together 30 years of New York rock cliches while sounding completely of its time.



Overnight, The Strokes were catapulted into a maelstrom of celebrity -- Drew Barrymore and Kate Moss started hanging out backstage; Radiohead and U2 would name-drop the band in interviews and seek them out after shows. Then again, Casablancas had grown up surrounded by supermodels. Many of us assumed this world of the beautiful and the famous was where he came from, not where he was going.



"The actors and the musicians, that was new," he says. "The models... well, I can't lie. My dad was a model agent. While I didn't live with him, I'd see him when I was young. Going backstage... the kind of people who were showing up... Kate Moss and the Radiohead people or whoever. That was a crazy new world. But like I said, I knew the modelling world. I won't say that I'd never seen a model before in my life."



He visibly perks up when I ask about his relationship with Bono, a prominent admirer of The Strokes.



"We hung out with Bono and The Edge and it was pretty darn magical and delightful," he says. "They came with their kids to one of our shows in France. Their kids dragged them there. They live in the south of France some of the time, and they invited us to the house. That's what they do. It's kind of like a royal court. They were entertaining different people every night. We showed up and the next day, I think it was [footballer Zinedine] Zidane. I gotta say, it was pretty damn rad."



After Casablancas let it be known he'd recorded a solo record, the assumption was that he was seeking to underscore his independence from The Strokes. Reading between the lines, though, it appears that he only put out the album after the rest of the band bluntly informed him they were doing their own thing. He was, in other words, at a bit of a loose end.



"The Strokes were kind of suffering a little bit of how to get everyone interested. I wanted to get back and get to work. Then it came up that Albert was doing another record and then Nicolai [Fraiture, bassist] was doing a record and hadn't mentioned it. Everyone was doing something and weren't in The Strokes 100 per cent. I don't know... I kind of felt that I had to do something. Everyone was stepping outside the box. I respect that. I felt like I needed to do the same thing."



A tinge of sadness enters his voice as he says this. You sense a hankering in him for the early days of The Strokes, when band tensions didn't exist, and everyone was enjoying the rollercoaster ride.



"It was a democracy and I was the president," he says. "Of course, there have always been five alpha males in the band. That's been one of the things I liked about The Strokes. However, it did get tough, creatively. If people want to argue about different things, well fine. If it comes to stifling something creative, that's when I have a problem with it. People putting their foot down, going, 'I don't like this' ... it's like, 'well, we haven't even chased the idea through'."



But they're all still friends, right? He sighs. "We see each other semi-regularly. There are no tensions. But you know, a band is a good way to break up a friendship."



Phrazes for the Young is released today. Julian Casablancas plays The Academy, Dublin, on December 14





Source: The Irish Independent

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
    Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

    Stolen youth

    Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
    Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

    Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

    He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
    Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

    Made by Versace, designed by her children

    Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
    Anyone for pulled chicken?

    Pulling chicks

    Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
    9 best steam generator irons

    9 best steam generator irons

    To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
    England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
    ‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

    ‘We knew he was something special’

    Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York