In the midst of all the hype and excitement surrounding The Strokes’ arrival to Barton Hall this coming Sunday, Daze takes some time out with bassist Nikolai Fraiture to discusses music, Mexico and the band’s unbelievable success.
DAZE: Cornell’s really amped to have you guys come up and play. How does performing at a college arena differ from a normal venue?
Nikolai Fraiture, bass: I don’t know, we haven’t really played at a college campus before, so we’ll see.
DAZE: Well, you guys are joining a legacy of awesome bands to play here in Ithaca like Franz Ferdinand and Grateful Dead.
NF: Oh, cool.
DAZE: How’s the tour been going so far?
Nikolai: It’s been pretty good. We’ve been out on the road for a year now so it’s been pretty long, but it’s been cool.
DAZE: Starting out in those small hole-in-the-wall clubs in the Lower East Side, did you ever imagine that you’d be playing sold-out shows around the world?
NF: No, definitely not. When we started off, Irving Plaza in New York, which was about 1,100 capacity, was a huge club for us. We were dreaming of the day we would play that room, and then one day we did; it just got bigger and bigger from there.
DAZE: Has your music changed as a result of the venues you have played?
NF No, because we still play all types of venues. We definitely don’t write songs for venues.
DAZE: 2005’s First Impressions of Earth was a great album but it received much more acclaim in Britain than the U.S. What do you think that tells you about the state of music in America?
NF: At the risk of always seeming bitter, I think that the U.K. population is much more open and much more inviting to new music. In America, it feels like if it’s not on MTV, it won’t sell.
DAZE: What are you guys listening to in the tour bus right now?
NF: Since we were young, our favorite bands were Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Built to Spill, Guided By Voices. The list goes on.
DAZE: We heard that you guys called First Impressions of Earth a “seedless watermelon.” Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
NF: I think that was Julian’s (lead vocalist) description of it. I’m speaking for him, but I think what he meant that the essence of the seedless watermelon was amazing — like a scientific breakthrough.
DAZE: How does the songwriting process work for you guys?
NF: We pretty much all collaborate. Julian will sometimes come in with a melody or a guitar part and bring that into the studio. Us five will just sit around for hours and hours and finish each song until each song sounds good.
DAZE: Out of all the venues you have played around the world, what’s been your favorite?
NF: Around the world, I’d say our biggest headline tour was in Mexico. That was kind of one of our craziest and maybe one of our best shows.
DAZE: You guys were down in Mexico last month. Tell us how playing in Mexico was different from playing in front of an American crowd.
NF: This time, it was a bigger venue so it was kind of more controlled. But it was still crazy; they were pretty nuts.
DAZE: I know what you mean. We’ve all had some crazy stories down in Mexico at one point.
NF: Oh, cool. (Laughs)
DAZE Are you guys envisioning anything new going on in the studio anytime soon?
NF: We’ll be done with this tour in October, so after that we’re probably going to take a little bit of a break. We’ve been doing this for five years nonstop. But I think we’re all excited to go back in the studio — we all have new ideas.
DAZE: Tuesday, September 12th was a pretty huge day for new releases. Are there any new buzz bands that you’re pretty impressed with?
NF: I’m looking forward to the Arcade Fire album.
DAZE: Before they blew up, the Arcade Fire actually played at a Cornell cafeteria (Noyes) two years ago, and it was one of the most rocking shows. It was crazy seeing them play a cafeteria.
DAZE: Tell us how Television and Velvet Underground have influenced the evolution of your sound.
NF: Well, we were never big fans of Television, people would just say we sounded like them. We were fans of Velvet Underground; that whole style and era influenced the way we thought and the way we thought about music itself — like guitar tones and how things sounded. But we also looked to David Bowie and Iggy Pop too.
Be sure to see the Strokes at Barton Hall on Sunday, September 17. Doors open at 8 o’clock.