Nick Valensi has spent over 15 years as The Strokes’ lead guitarist, a band famous for their infectious and catchy guitar riffs and solos; but as the band has only performed 16 shows in the past 5 years, Valensi has been itching to get back on the road for quite a while now. This frustration bubbled over in the form of his new solo outfit, CRX, which released their debut album New Skin on October 28th. Taking the crunchy riffs he’s known for but orienting them to a more pop-punk setting, New Skin is an ambitious, catchy, and high-energy romp all the way from simple power-pop with “Ways to Fake It” to grittier hard rock on “Unnatural.” Prior to his Boston show at Brighton Music Hall on November 20th, Melisma got the chance to talk with Valensi about being back on tour
In the past you’ve said that part of the motivation behind creating CRX was a desire to get out on tour again. How has touring as CRX compared to the past tours you’ve been on?
Touring with CRX has been nothing but fun, and playing clubs again is a really cool balance to some of the bigger shows that I do with the strokes.
When writing the album, did you feel a pressure to break away from writing songs that sound like the Strokes?
Not really. I don’t think about stuff like that when I’m writing a song. I just kind of gravitate to what turns me on. I think what gets me most excited is when something feels new and fresh. Novelty is always kind of exciting.
What can you tell me about the art direction with the cover? Where did it originate?
The cover is by a U.K. artist named Boneface. We recorded the album with Josh Homme, and he had a bunch of Boneface’s art up at his studio, so all this art was kind of intermingling. All the graphics and layout were done by Warren Fu, who I’ve worked with a lot in the past.
I saw on the liner notes that you give a special thanks to Fab, what can you tell me about his role in the whole thing?
Fab’s a constant source of support for me. He’s my brother and my best friend. When I started working on this album, he was one of the first people I reached out to for feedback. He’s just a great dude, and he’s always had my back, and I’m super grateful for him and our friendship. So that’s why he gets the special shoutout.
What was the motivation behind doing a few shows before the album’s release?
The whole point of making this album was to get onstage and go on tour so, once we finished recording, we rehearsed and booked some shows. Our first shows were months before the album came out, so we played to crowds who’d never heard any of the music before, which was alternately thrilling and awkward. I’m having so much fun performing with this band.
What did you think of Julian’s Tyranny and the very intense direction he took with it?
I was really proud of Julian when I heard that album. I thought it was bold, challenging, original, and really fucking good.
What is the number-one item you need in your van when you’re road tripping on tour? Have you had any memorable moments from the journey yet?
I think I’d have a miserable time touring without an iPhone. The most memorable thing to happen on this tour so far was the insane goddamn presidential election, which we listened to in a van driving through red states.