Nick Valensi Reflects on A Year of CRX

Nick Valensi Reflects on A Year of CRX

Guitarist-turned-frontman Nick Valensi talks to V on the first anniversary of CRX's debut album 'New Skin.'

Guitarist-turned-frontman Nick Valensi talks to V on the first anniversary of CRX's debut album 'New Skin.'

Text: Christina Cacouris

After 2016's Future, Present, Past EP, mum's been the word on the future of The Strokes and releases to come. Due to their on-again-off-again status and many a haitus, members of the seminal New York band have each begun to branch off to creating their own music projects, with guitarist Nick Valensi being the latest to pick up the microphone and head up his own band: CRX, which released their debut album New Skin last year. On the cusp of the album’s first anniversary, we caught up with Valensi to hear his reflections on the past year and where CRX is going from here.

It’s almost the one-year anniversary of New Skin; I wanted to see what thoughts you had reflecting on the last year.

It was an awesome year for us. We did a lot of touring across the country. When I recorded the album, I had yet to play any live shows as a singer and front man, so it was really fun for me to get to do that. I feel that the second CRX album is going to be markedly different, because when I made the first album I was all by myself, composing all these songs on my laptop—and then I got this awesome band behind me and we’re writing a lot of stuff together, and most of the stuff we’re writing is in the rehearsal room as a band. I feel like I’ve learned how to use my voice in an effective way a bit better.

Is the title New Skin in some ways a reference to the fact that it’s your first time being a front man?

Yeah, I liked that it had this serpentine aspect to it, but the idea was shedding an old skin and putting on a new skin.

Having done the full tour, how do you feel as a front man?

I love it. I love it! It’s more of a discipline than it is just being the guitar player—being the guitar player, it’s pretty easy to do a late show and then go out all night, drink, talk, maybe get just three or four hours sleep, get on the bus the next day, drive to wherever you’re going and do another show. It’s not that physical. As a singer, you have to look at it a little bit more like an athletic performance or something because if you don’t get enough sleep, if you go out drinking and talking, you lose your voice. I don’t care if you’re Bruce Springsteen or Bruno Mars. You lose your voice. So there was a bit of a learning curve there for me, just how to behave on the road… being the singer can sometimes be not as much fun as being the guitar player, but I’m up for the challenge!

Obviously you’ve been in the spotlight from a young age, but now that you’re front and center, do you consider your personal appearance and style more?

Right now I’m wearing the same exact thing I’d wear to go and play a show. I’ve been that way since I was a teenager. That was the MO with The Strokes when we were first starting out—that we should always dress like we’re going onstage, and I adopted that philosophy as a teenager and I stick to it. But that’s not like I’m super fancy to go onstage; I’m not Liberace. It’s just cool jeans, a tshirt, maybe a button down on top. That’s it.

In terms of your songwriting process, it sounds like your first album was done in a solo way, and now you’re in a much more collaborative space.

When I first started writing that first CRX album, the impetus there was that I just wanted to get onstage and do some shows, and I didn’t have the songs to do that, so I had to write an album. It took a year or two. This one is going to be a lot quicker; we’re already in the writing stage of it and it’s a lot more collaborative, a lot less of a grind on me personally. It’s freed up a lot of my mental space to focus more on melodies and lyrics because I’ve got this group of amazing musicians playing with me who are able to provide a lot.

And that’s not my sole responsibility in this band anymore. It’s cool for me also that I’m able to delineate the responsibilities between The Strokes and CRX a little more clearly; in The Strokes, I basically provide just music. I don’t work on any lyrics in The Strokes. That’s mostly Julian [Casablancas]’s domain, and I am there to provide the music for him to sing on. In CRX, it’s becoming the other way around where they’re providing me with all this music and I’m coming up with stuff to sing on top of it. It’s been very cool for me, and I feel more fully developed. I’m learning a lot more, becoming more developed as a songwriter.

I was wondering with the first album if it felt as if you had to split your artistry between working on material for The Strokes and CRX and how you can differentiate between them.

I have to do that a little bit—but not so much, because at the time with The Strokes, we weren’t doing an album. We were in an off cycle and I got a little bit antsy and I just wanted to go and perform. Now that I’ve got two projects going on simultaneously, sometimes you get a little bit torn when you write something and don’t know exactly where to put it, but my feeling is if I write a piece of music and I feel like Julian could do something better than what I could do on it [lyrically], then it goes there. Julian’s a great lyricist; he’s an amazing singer. I’ve been making music with him literally since I was 13 years old.

What can we expect on the next album?

It’s early right now; we’re doing local LA shows every so often and trying out new material. I have an 11-year-old daughter who has become obsessed with Talking Heads. We live in LA so we’re in the car a lot; we listen to a lot of Talking Heads, a lot of Pink Floyd. So ‘70s rock-funk stuff you’ll see on the next CRX album for sure.

Listen to 'New Skin' below, and take a look at V's first feature on The Strokes in V6.

Credits: photo by Darian Zahedi

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