Nick Valensi first came into prominence as one-fifth of the downtown New York band The Strokes. Formed in 1998, The Strokes became one of the world’s top rock bands in 2002, going on to sell millions of records. While more music is in the works from The Strokes, lead guitarist Nick Valensi is staying further active with the band CRX.
CRX released its debut album, New Skin on Oct. 28 via Columbia Records. Produced by Queens Of The Stone Age leader Josh Homme, lead-off track “Ways To Take It” was the first single released from New Skin. CRX — which also includes drummer Ralph Alexander, guitarists Darian Zahedi and Richie Follin, and bassist Jon Safley — will be playing at The Bowery Ballroom alongside Streets Of Laredo on Nov. 18. Fans of Elvis Costello, The Cars and Cheap Trick ought to appreciate the poppier fare of CRX.
Downtown caught up with Nick for some Q&A who has also notably collaborated with Devendra Banhart, Regina Spektor, Kate Pierson and Sia over the years. CRX can be visited online at www.crxmusic.com.
How would you describe CRX to someone familiar with The Strokes but hasn’t seen your band live before?
Nick Valensi: There are some similarities between CRX and The Strokes, mainly in the guitar arrangements. Since I play guitar in both bands, I guess that’s kind of inevitable. Someone who likes The Strokes will find a lot to enjoy in CRX. There are differences too, though. CRX has some songs that are heavier and more aggressive than The Strokes. And obviously, I’m not the singer in the strokes, so that’s the gonna be the most apparent difference.
Having played some of the world’s largest venues and been part of so many iconic musical moments with The Strokes, is it ever difficult to play more intimates venues like the Bowery Ballroom?
NV: On the contrary, I love it. Bowery Ballroom is one of my favorite venues in the country. And part of the reason I started CRX was to have some balance from the bigger gigs I get to do. The Strokes don’t perform that much anymore and, when we do, it’s generally at one of those huge music festivals, which I love, but I wanna be able to do both. It’s more about balance. Likewise, if I only ever got to play the Bowery Ballrooms of the world, I’d probably get sick of that, and I’d be thinking, “shit, I’d love to get on one of those festival stages.” So it’s cool for me to get to do both.
What is coming up for you professionally after this CRX show in New York?
NV: Once we wrap up the North American tour, we’ll head to the UK and Europe. I want CRX to be a band that tours a lot and puts on a really good show, so we’ll be doing a lot of that, and working on getting better at what we do. In between all the CRX stuff, I’m also finding time to work on material for The Strokes. We’re writing together and slowly stockpiling material for our next album, so it’s been a pretty busy time for me lately.
Do you have any goals for CRX? Or is it just about playing out and staying active as a musician?
NV: I wanna be able to make different sounding music and not be confined by anything. I wanna keep learning about music, and work on become a better singer, frontman, and songwriter. And above all, I want CRX to be something fun and simple that I can do whenever I feel like it.
I heard rumors of you soundchecking with “Hot For Teacher” by Van Halen years ago on a tour with Longwave. Do you have a secret hard rock past?
NV: It’s no secret. I have a “hard rock” past, present, and future.
CRX aside, do you have a favorite album of 2016?
NV: Iggy Pop’s Post Pop Depression and 2 Chainz’s Collegrove.
Finally, what is your favorite restaurant in New York?
NV: My mom’s restaurant Mon Petit Cafe.