Last August, the Strokes’ guitarist Nick Valensi announced the start of a new side project — CRX. The band’s debut album, “New Skin,” dropped Oct. 28 to mixed reviews on popular music blogs such as Consequence of Sound and other news sites including The Guardian.
In a recent interview with THE PHOENIX, Valensi talks about the inspiration that motivated him to branch off from the Strokes, his relationship with his new bandmates and his collaboration with Devendra Banhart, a Venezuelan-American artist and songwriter.
PHOENIX: What made you want to branch out from the Strokes and create CRX?
VALENSI: I missed being on the road and playing shows every night. In between Strokes albums, I found myself with extra downtime, and I figured I’d try to put together some songs and go on tour. I spent about a year working on my singing and writing on my own until I finally hit a wall and totally lost perspective. I just felt stuck. That’s when I reached out to some musician friends in LA for feedback.
PHOENIX: How did that work out for you?
Valensi: At first, I just wanted to know what they thought of this new music I was working on. But it quickly turned into collaboration, and all of a sudden they were helping me finish write the album. That’s kind of how the band came together, because the guys who I reached out to are the guys in CRX.
PHOENIX: Your sound is, understandably, different in CRX — do you have a preference in genres?
Valensi: Well, no, because part of what I wanted to get out of CRX was balance from my old band. I’m excited about being able to do both in the future, and be turned on by all of it without having to choose a favorite. CRX is a new project, and it’s really fun and exciting for me right now, but that doesn’t take away from my faith and dedication in The Strokes.
PHOENIX: You collaborated with Devendra Banhart on his 2007 album, “Thunder Canyon.” What was that like?
Valensi: It doesn’t really feel like working. I think because he’s so inherently creative, his process just seems very casual to me. Like he’s always nonchalantly creating something, so I guess he’s always kind of working. Whereas me, I have a more black and white approach, and I need to just turn s*** off sometimes. But he’s actually a very inspiring person, and a dear friend, and someone who keeps a warm spot in my cold little heart.
PHOENIX: Is CRX already thinking about their next album?
Valensi: It’s funny because the day the album came out, I just felt a huge sense of relief all day, like I’ve finally finished this big thing, and it was really satisfying. And then the day right after it came out, I was thinking, “I should go back and check out those new song ideas on my phone and start working on those.” Kind of the feeling you’d get after finishing a long book, like a really epic tome you’ve been reading for, like, years, and it’s finally over, and you slowly read the last sentence, on the last page, and you close the book with a gentle yet satisfying thud. And you get up and place the book on the shelf, and you start thinking about what you’re gonna read next. It’s kinda like that.
CRX is playing the Empty Bottle (1035 N. Western Ave.) Nov. 11. Tickets cost $15 and are on sale now at emptybottle.com.