I would choose being good over being successful any day,” says Strokes vocalist Julian Casablancas, but that’s not a choice he’s got to make. New York City’s best young rock band has since last fall gone from playing in nearly empty rooms to packing the sweatiest rock clubs–all on the strength of one three-song EP, The Modern Age. They’ll release a new single on the U.K. label Rough Trade this spring and are contemplating offers from more than ten labels. The Strokes’ songs bristle with nervous energy and cooler-than-you attitude, echoing both the tightly crafted pop of Sixties garage groups like the Music Machine and art-rock innovators like the Velvet Underground and Television. “We want our album to not have any song you skip over, so that every song is your favorite fucking song,” says Casablancas, who met his band mates while attending Manhattan’s private Dwight School. The boys, all between twenty and twenty-two years old, recently quit their day jobs, and Casablancas admits that they’d better sign a deal soon, because he’s two months behind on the rent. “Five days from now is like a mystery to me,” he says. “We’re bums. We’re not signed to a label. It seems like it’s going to be a fun, scary road.”
This story is from the April 12th, 2001 issue of Rolling Stone.