EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with Nick Valensi of CRX, The Strokes

In anticipation of CRX’s show this Saturday at Stubb’s, Hilltop Views interviewed frontman Nick Valensi about his band’s latest album “New Skin.” Valensi, the Strokes’ lead guitarist, talked about writing lyrics for the first time, CRX’s future and plans with the Strokes.

What was your original vision for the album? Is the result wildly different from what you had in mind at the start of the project?

I didn’t really have any preconceptions about what the album would be. I didn’t know what to expect.

The initial goal was simply to put together an album that I could hit the road with, because I was really wanting to play live more. The first few songs I wrote were kind of heavy and more aggressive than what I do with The Strokes, and that was exciting to me, so I pursued it.

But halfway through the writing process, I wrote ‘Ways To Fake It,’ which has a much more power-pop vibe to it. I ended up with an album that reflects the different musical tastes that I have.

I understand this is your first big musical project aside from The Strokes. How has working with CRX differed from working with them? How has being frontman shaped you as a musician?

After having the experience of writing an album’s worth of lyrics for the first time, I feel a bit more fully formed as a songwriter. I’m looking forward to developing it further and evolving. I want to try different stuff on the next CRX album.

What has been your biggest challenge with writing lyrics? How would you describe the relationship between the words and the music on this album?

Lyrics have never been my role in The Strokes, and I had never seriously tried to put words to music before now. I guess I’m just a late bloomer. But I’m a firm believer that you can get pretty good at just about anything with a lot of practice.

So for me it was about taking the time and doing it every day, for about a year, until things started to take shape and feel right. I still feel like I have a long way to go, but I’m enjoying getting better at it.

I read you’re excited to be on tour again (which has presumably contributed to your voice loss). Do you think you’ll have your fill by the end of this or are you looking forward to more work with CRX? Any other solo projects?

I’ve been having too much fun on tour and, yeah, I’m on the verge of losing my voice. Typical new singer mistake, I guess. I’ll figure it out. But, yeah, I look forward to doing a ton more stuff with CRX. I want this to be an ongoing project for sure.

There are themes and questions of authenticity on the album. How do you think this album has allowed you to express yourself as an artist and how has having so much creative control allowed you to stay true to your sound and inspirations?

I got to express myself however I wanted to do. It was fun.

So, the Strokes are working on new stuff. Are there plans to tour for this time around? How do you think your work with CRX is informing your contributions to the Strokes’ new album?

I think everything you do informs the next thing you do. In the same way that what I’ve done with The Strokes has influenced CRX: what I’m doing with CRX will inform what I bring next to The Strokes. It’s symbiotic whether you want it to be or not.

In terms of the Strokes’ activity, we aren’t recording yet or anything, we’re just tossing a few musical ideas around. It’s too early to say what’s gonna happen with it. But there’s some good shit taking shape.