Julian Casablancas was partly inspired to write his new Voidz single, “Did My Best,” by Algerian street vendors in Paris — specifically the Auto-Tuned Arabic music they listened to while “selling tourist crap. That seeped into my subconscious,” he tells Rolling Stone.
When he acquired an Auto-Tune pedal, his imagination took off. “In Indian music and Middle Eastern music, they use more notes [than in Western music],” he says. “But the truth is, those notes are secretly in Western music. … When you do a melody with Auto-Tune, it’s almost a different melody. Ten percent of the melodies jump off to a new level with Auto-Tune. It’s a whole other level of harmony.”
Auto-Tune colors the end of the song, where Casablancas repeats the phrase, “I can only change what I can change,” and features heavily on “The Eternal Tao,” released in May of this year. That song and “Did My Best” appear in a new video from the Voidz out Friday, which features the band having a party with a bunch of sex dolls. Mac DeMarco and Kirin J Callinan also appear in the video; DeMarco engineered both songs, while Callinan “dream weaved,” Casablancas says.
“I started the way I start most things, with a vague, blurry end vision in mind,” he says of the video. “It’s like one of those videos people make at parties. It’s like, ‘What is this world? Who are these people?’ It was [a] simple, dumb idea that could have been 10 seconds long, but I decided to [do that and add] robots.” The video was directed by Johann Rashid (Promiseland), with animation by Benjamin Portas.
Despite the Auto-Tune, “Did My Best” sounds more like a traditional Casablancas track and is, in part, about the singer’s disdain for nostalgia. “Some people might hear the political stuff, some people might hear the ‘hanging out in a bar’ stuff, some people might hear the philosophical stuff,” he says. “That song is about nostalgia and not giving a shit about it personally, but that’s only one of many topics in the song.”
“Eternal Tao” was inspired by Tao Te Ching — and it’s much more out-there than “Did My Best.” “That book is insane,” Casablancas says. “It seems like the ancient wisdoms of the old world, the top minds, got together and wrote this universal truths thing. It has so much in it and it’s so amazing. That took over my life for a second.”
With his trusty pedal in tow, the singer says he has more than 50 songs in the can. He’s not sure how the band will release them, but says they’ll likely come out as singles. “I think we’re just going to put out songs here and there. Does it matter, this day and age?” he says.
As for the Strokes, he says the band is similarly in limbo — and that there’s no plans for new music. “If you ask me in a week, the answer might be different. Right now not, but it could change at any moment,” he says.
The Strokes are currently set to play a slew of dates, including a New Year’s show in New York, 2020’s Shaky Knees Festival, and several iterations of Lollapalooza overseas. Their last album was 2013’s Comedown Machine, while Voidz dropped their more recent album, Virtue, in 2018. Casablancas’ Strokes bandmates Albert Hammond Jr. and Fabrizio Moretti also recently put out new music; Hammond Jr.’s Francis Trouble dropped in 2018 and Moretti’s Conduit came out this week under the name Machinegum.