Why does Julian Casablancas need the Voidz, his new band, when he's already got the Strokes? He and two of his bandmates – guitarist Beardo and bassist-keyboardist Jake Bercovici – answered that and many other questions when they sat down with host Brian Hiatt at SiriusXM's studios for a recent episode of our podcast, Rolling Stone Music Now. For Casablancas, the band's second album, Virtue, due March 30th, is "a record that is still forward-thinking, but that maybe a more mainstream, bigger audience will love as much as we love the first record."
To hear the entire interview, which goes deep on the making of the new album and much more, press play above or download and subscribe to Rolling Stone Music Now on iTunes or Spotify. Here are some highlights:
Casablancas has a long answer about the necessity of the Voidz, one he doesn't want taken out of context – so we'll quote it (nearly) in full. "I feel you could probably just listen to the record and figure it out," he begins. "I don't know how to answer that. [The] Strokes are brothers and will always be. I think that we have a chemistry, too – you play that many hours together, just that alone. I don't feel the need to, you know, kind of shut that off for any specific reason if I have free time. But at the same time, my personal vision quest from day one has not altered and I think that I can't tell other people what to do and I don't want to tell other people what to do. And I think that with the Voidz, I think we're on the same wavelength. And with the Strokes it's more like everyone does what they do. And I'm more about getting along and not about, like, you know, tension or toxic, you know what I mean? I don't want to have to disagree, you know what I mean? I just want to work with people you agree on. And it's not that we disagree, it's just that if I was trying to do a song like [the Voidz'] "QYURRYUS," I wouldn't want to have to, like, convince people against their will to do it. Not that they wouldn't want to do it, but maybe in the past there are things that I've wanted to do – there's many things I wanted to do – that I haven't been able to do. So I feel like I'm all for collaboration and I'm all for like, you know, best ideas in the room win. And I think that, uh, to my objective judgment, that was not always happening."
Casablancas admits to one artistic trick. "You kind of put all this work to make it seem casual and easy, which is, I think an important trick, like a magician. You know, posing like you don't care."
Casablancas ended up forming the Voidz after deciding his 2009 solo debut played it too safe. "I basically had stuff that I liked that was weird – not in a key, not, like, going by musical rules and weird and dark – that I personally really loved. And then there was more like, I hate to say happy-sounding, but safer-sounding stuff." Listening to the "weird stuff," he thought, "OK, if I venture out alone and I do this, people might just think of some weird side vanity, like, 'Don't listen to this' thing. So I kind of went with the more kind of safer stuff. And also I recorded all in [Pro Tools] which I regretted as soon as we started rehearsing for the first solo thing. Writing with musicians, bouncing off people live in the room is really what I love to do. So there's many layers of regrets. And then afterwards, it was a long quest to find a cool, like 'dream team,' musical soul mates on a wavelength of the kind of stuff I wanted to do. But then eventually there's the Voidz."
Casablancas is something of a fan of the television network Russia Today, despite being well aware that it is "obviously" pro-Putin propaganda – and he's not fond of "the whole mainstream resistance to Trump." "The dissident voices like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, you used to see them a little bit in the mainstream," he argues. "And now it's so repressed that people have to go to like, RT, to speak their opinion, and now they're trying to shut RT down. It's almost like the new Star Wars where there's like 10 people left on a ship and that's, like, the Resistance. That's all that left... [Russia Today] is giving shows to Jesse Ventura and Chris Hedges and they're not telling them what to say. Like. if you want to go to Russia and speak truth to Putin, you know, maybe you have to be like on an American television show or something. Anyway, I'm not saying RT is the answer, but my point is, is that the whole mainstream resistance to Trump, I think completely misses the point. He's just like a symbolic facade, puppet of the real problems."
Casablancas isn't a Beatles fan. "I have that maybe advantage that I didn't like or listen to the Beatles," he says. "I feel like that's almost like the branch of, like, 98-percent of stuff you hear. But then there's the Velvet Underground. I know Lou Reed hated the Beatles." [He is correct.]