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Strokes guitarist launches new band

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Nick Valensi has a different musical stroke these days.

The Strokes guitarist is still part of that band, but he's also launched another one, CRX, with a debut album "New Skin" produced by Queens of the Stone Ages' Josh Homme. The set has its Strokes-like moments, notably the opening track and first single "Ways To Fake It," but it also lets Valensi flex some different stylistic muscles throughout, from heavy rock to vintage New Wave.

It's also let him hit the road with the ensemble, letting Strokes fans see at least one-fifth of the group whose own live appearances are few and far between...

The Strokes' sporadic schedule was Valensi's prime motivation for starting CRX. "The whole thing started with finishing a Strokes record (2013's 'Comedown Machine') that we didn't tour and just getting a hankering to be on stage, be on tour, just perform more," Valensi, 35, explains by phone from Los Angeles. "Y'know, you write songs, you record music and you perform music, so there's kind of this trifecta of stuff, and when the balance is off I feel that. So I just wanted more balance and to perform more. The end goal was getting on stage."

Becoming the frontman and lead singer himself was new for Valensi. "That was the big decision, who's gonna sing this stuff that I'm writing?" he recalls. "I had to force myself out of my comfort zone a little bit and push myself to be the singer on the project. Once I wrote and recorded an album I didn't want any obstacles in the way of getting on tour, so that meant me singing, too."

Josh Homme was one of the early friends Valensi reached out to for opinions about what he was doing, which led to Homme producing "New Skin." "I played him all these demos and he really got excited by all these songs and wanted to produce them," Valensi says. "I'm no dummy; Josh Homme, produce my record? Uh...yeah. Josh was really one of my biggest supporters and was really helpful in giving me the confidence boost that I needed to finish the record."

Valensi has every intention of keeping CRX a going concern alongside the Strokes. "The Strokes is still my main thing and it'll always be my main thing," he says, "but the Strokes don't do as much touring a we used to. We mainly do kind of one-off shows, festival shows. And there's all these Strokes side projects and different things going on. So as a result there's a lot of down time, and I wanted to have a project that during Strokes down time I could just pick this thing up and take it on tour whenever I wanted to. I can go do a charity thing if I want to, whenever I want to. If my cousin asks me to play his bar mitzvah, sure, I can do it. I don't have to be at the whim of this big machine that is the Strokes."

And about those Strokes..."The Strokes are always kind of passively working on something, always," Valensi says. "There's always material floating around. There's a Dropbox that's constantly being edited and fooled with, and every couple of weeks we all reconvene in New York for writing session that last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. We're slowly but surely working on an album. I don't know when it's gonna be ready, but we're working on stuff."

CRX, Streets of Laredo and the Gloomies

Saturday, Nov. 12. Doors open at 8 p.m.

El Club, 4115 W. Vernor Highway.

Tickets are $13.

Visit elclubdetroit.com.

Web Site: www.elclubdetroit.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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