For the first time in ages, the Strokes are all back in New York, hard at work on album number four in their midtown studio. "We have three songs," Julian Casablancas tells the Smoking Section, three weeks into the sessions. "I would say it's going great. We have a lot of work to do, though." It's been more than three years since First Impressions of Earth, and what's helping the process is good vibes and honesty. "It feels like we're new," says Casablancas. "We didn't used to be honest – there would always be minifeuds over stupid shit. Now, if Nick [Valensi] and Fab [Moretti] or anyone are saying they like it fast or slow, we'll talk about it, as opposed to saying, 'Well, I never liked your sister.'" Casablancas says that they've resisted jamming on old tunes; instead they're forging ahead. "Some of the new stuff has a Seventies vibe, like Thin Lizzy or Elvis Costello," he says. "But then some of it is bizarre music from the future that we're trying to tone down to sound catchy. So we're trapped between the future and the Seventies."
The S.S. never intended to start the Indie War of '09, but when Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne went off on Arcade Fire recently, we had to go public. "We've played some shows with them, and they treated everyone in their vicinity like shit," Coyne told Rolling Stone's Andy Greene, clarifying that Arcade Fire were assholes to their crew and fans. Though AF turned down a request to respond, frontman Win Butler took to the Web. "The only time we have ever shared a stage with the Flaming Lips was… over three years ago," Butler wrote. "We arrived the morning of the show from Brazil, slept all day and awoke into some surreal Vegas jet-lag dream in which we were playing after [them]." Butler tries to take the high road, mentioning his love for the Lips" 95 album Clouds Taste Metallic, but then succumbs. "Unless I was way more jet-lagged then [sic] I remember, I hope I was less of a 'prick' then [sic] telling Rolling Stone that a bunch of people I don't know at all are all really assholes." It's on!
Are the Faces, the greatest party band ever, going to reunite? "We might do a couple of big gigs, film them and put it out as a DVD," says Faces piano man Ian McLagan. "Frankly, I'd rather tour the world." While Ron Wood and Rod Stewart remain in limbo, we've been enjoying McLagan's latest, Never Say Never. Mac now lives in Austin ("If you're a musician, you can starve here better than anywhere else," he says), and he wrote the album while mourning his late wife, Kim – "I Will Follow" and "Where Angels Hide" were inspired by her. But the album still rocks; it's a celebration, and like everything McLagan's played on, it's meant to be played loud! "Kids, take those stupid earphones out of your ears," he instructs. "Buy some speakers and a great amplifier and buy music that you can hold."
This story is from the April 2nd, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone.