The Strokes' so-called fashion sense can largely be attributed to him. Before he was in a band, he dressed like he was in one and enjoyed the kick of getting into concerts for free by pretending that he was in the group playing that night. He also once got into a sold-out Weezer concert by arguing with the box-office attendant for twenty minutes that he had ordered seats through Ticketmaster, though of course he hadn't. He is a wolf in thrift-shop sheepskin. And right now, he's hungry.
"I only eat two things for lunch," he says. "Breakfast or sushi."
Hammond already has the phone numbers for every restaurant under consideration programmed into the speed dial of his cell phone. "Every time I call 411, I put the number into speed dial," he says. "It's, like, a dollar every time you call information." He settles on sushi at Blue Ribbon. As he sits down to the meal, his phone rings. It's his mother. He doesn't answer it.
"I'm a bad son," he says. "I don't call her enough. She'll just keep me on the phone and tell me that she loves me. And I'll be like, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mom, I gotta go.' The last thing you want to do when you're home after a tour and your girlfriend's over is call your mom."
Baptized Episcopalian, Hammond informally converted to Judaism, he says, a year and a half ago, so that Valensi wouldn't be the only Jew in the band. "The first time I told a guy I was Jewish was in L.A.," Hammond recalls. "He pulled me into the corner, and I discovered this whole secret world. He even got me laid that night."
After eating, we walk to the luxury hotel 60 Thompson, where the Strokes are doing interviews with the international press in the penthouse suite. At the moment, a German reporter is asking Moretti and Fraiture questions such as "What's the difference between your first album and this one?" Midquestion, Moretti wanders away, leaving Fraiture with the reporter. "That douche bag," Moretti says.
Outside, Moretti sits on a stoop and pensively responds to questions. We have until 11:30 p.m. to hang out, at which point he wants to watch his girlfriend, Drew Barrymore, on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. Throughout the conversation, he drums his fingers incessantly against his leg and explains that it's an obsessive-compulsive habit — beating out the cadences of his thoughts and speech. "We have cadence in everything that we do," he says. He then points to the feet of people passing by. "Look, they're creating beats walking down the street. One, two. And their heartbeat is in a certain rhythm. Their fucking step is in a certain rhythm."
He admits that not everyone likes it when he taps his fingers all the time. "It annoyed friends, girlfriends, parents," he says. "'Stop that incessant tapping, you son of a bitch.'" In fact, Casablancas says the first thing he thought when he met the then-hyperactive Moretti in high school was that the kid was "a little annoying." He point-blank asked Moretti not to talk around him. But now, Moretti has become the group's soft-spoken intellectual.
Afterward, Moretti heads to the Strokes' office in the East Village to watch Leno. Fraiture, shy, happy-go-lucky and wearing a Ricky Skaggs shirt, arrives in the office and collapses on the couch, not far from the two office video games — Galaga and Golden Tee. Casablancas met his band-mates over the years at various private schools — elementary, boarding and high school. When the band got serious, Fraiture decided that it was time to begin learning the bass his grandfather had bought him for Christmas, playing along with songs by Blur and the Jackson 5. Unlike his classmates, Fraiture grew up crammed into a two-room apartment with his parents, his brother, his brother's girlfriend and his adopted sister. He still lives in the apartment, but only with his brother now. His father was the manager of security at Macy's and suffered the ensuing shame when, one day, he caught his very own Nikolai stealing a Luke Skywalker doll from the department store.
Moretti settles on the couch, flips on Leno and cranks up the sound. One of the hardest things about dating Barrymore, he says, is seeing her kiss someone onscreen. The couple met backstage at a concert more than a year ago and recently bought an apartment together in the East Village.
When she comes on TV, Moretti stares at her rapt, clearly smitten. "Her mom gave her that bracelet," he says. "I gave her the necklace."
A car pulls up outside. The driver is here to take Moretti to the airport to pick up Barrymore, but Moretti wants to finish watching her on TV first. Barrymore shows Leno some photos she has taken, two of which are of Moretti. She mentions his name, but not his band. Moretti is unsure about the whole thing, worrying that discussing him seems cheesy or boring.
"She's just like that in person," Moretti says. "She is always so positive and energetic. That's the first thing I noticed about her when we met."
After Moretti takes off for the airport, I meet Hammond and Casablancas at 2A. It's a rough night for Casablancas, who's complaining about how he dislikes Pringles again. Hammond, who is dating Catherine Pierce (one-half of the countrified-pop sister duo the Pierces), is hanging out with the boys tonight. I last see him at the bottom of the stairs, asking where his shoes are. He is wearing them. (Says Casablancas, "For the record, none of us do drugs. Hi, Mom.")
At 5:30 a.m., an hour after I've left the bar, Hammond calls to ask where everyone is. He's still considering going out. The next afternoon, at 12:20 p.m., he calls again.
Hammond: Did you call me this morning?
Me: Um, no. You called me. Don't you remember?
Hammond: OK, sure. How are you feeling?
Me: OK. And you?
Hammond: It's been a while since I went out like that. I needed that.
Me: Yeah, good times.
Hammond: Yeah. I partied so much that my ears hurt.
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