Nick Valensi is no stranger to the stage. Since founding The Strokes alongside singer-songwriter Julian Casablancas and drummer Fabrizio Moretti in 1998 while the three where still in high school, Valensi has zigzagged his way across the globe and back again playing shows of every scale imaginable. Indeed, when you’re the lead guitarist of one of the world’s most in demand bands, touring is a must, not a maybe.
Fortunately this fundamental element of being in a band is one the New York-bred, LA-based Valensi values above all, and as it so happens, was catalyst for his new side project, CRX, for which he acts as lead vocalist and guitarist. “The whole thing started with me getting to a point where I really wanted to go on tour and play on stage more, because The Strokes don’t play that much these days. Even though it’s really awesome when we do, I got to a point where I had a hankering to be out there in front of audiences more,” says Valensi.
So, with that in mind, Valensi began writing and demoing songs at home with his guitar of choice: a 1990s Epiphone Riviera with Gibson P-94 pickups – and for the first time, wrote lyrics and sang them. “I’ve always liked to sing and was able to but never really wanted to … Growing up I always identified with the guitar player and never so much with the frontman. I just wanted to put a new thing together, go on tour and be on some new stages so badly that I wanted as few obstacles in the way as possible – so I chose to sing. I’ve got to say that I resisted it for a long time,” he concedes.
Having earned rock star status early on – the Strokes were barely in their twenties when they released their debut album, Is This It in 2001 – Valensi says it’s “the excitement of starting something new and having to win an audience over as opposed to having a stable of hits you can go to,” that he enjoys most. He recalls CRX’s first show: “For the first couple of songs people were just staring at us and I had a flash of, ‘Oh maybe we should have released some music first,’ but by the second half of the show somehow even though these kids had never heard the music before, we won them over and there was a massive mosh pit.”
Now, with the recent release of CRX’s debut album New Skin – produced by Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, on which Valensi played all instruments other than drums – supported by a two-month tour of North America, the group’s swaggering form of garage-rock infused with Cars-inspired hooks is sure to make its mark on fresh ears and industry tastemakers eager to follow the band’s evolution. Needless to say, this 22-date string of shows is something Valensi has been keenly anticipating since forming the band in 2013. “I’m looking forward to taking CRX out on the road – getting out there on a plane, a train, a bus, a van, whatever it may be, and just connecting with audiences.”
“I just wanted to put a new thing together, go on tour and be on some new stages so badly that I wanted as few obstacles in the way as possible – so I chose to sing.”