Q&A with Nick Valensi of CRX

by Benjamin Selesnick

Q&A with Nick Valensi of CRX

On Tuesday, 11/15, Nick Valensi, famous for being the lead guitarist and backup vocalist for The Strokes, spoke to WRBB about his new side project, CRX. CRX released their first album on October 28th titled, “New Skin”, with Columbia Records. They’ll be performing at Brighton Music Hall in Allston on Sunday, November 20th.

Now six shows into your tour with CRX, what has the experience of being the frontman and lead singer been like?

We’re having a really good time, man. We’re having so much fun. Touring the country and a little bit of Canada too, playing clubs for the first time in a long time, which has got to be, you know, a large part of why I wanted to start this band was to get the opportunity to play on some smaller stages and now it’s out, the shows I’ve done with The Strokes, so we’re just having a great time. And singing for me, fronting the band, is really fun! Something I resisted for a long time. I thought I might not enjoy it, but I’m actually taking to it more than I thought it would.

Did you think singing was going to be scary?

No, not scary so much as unrelenting.

Have you found that you’ve hit a new demographic of fans with CRX?

No, not really so far, but it’s so new at this point. The album just came out a few weeks ago. The shows right now for the most part feels like mostly people who know me from the Strokes and maybe a couple other projects. But we’ll see where it goes.

Throughout “New Skin”, your lyrics follow themes of insatiability and chasing something that you’re not sure that you want. Where did these themes spawn from?

[Laughs] I don’t know, man. I just kinda wrote a bunch of stuff. I spent really about a year writing this for the first time and really pursuing the singer thing. The lyric thing took me a while to get the hang of. And I would just kinda write just every day, sometimes it would be more organized attempts, freer and stream of consciousness, but eventually over time certain themes, certain lines, certain ideas kept coming up again and those things in the end felt most natural and most true for me to sing about. But I don’t know where they come from.

With the first two songs off of “New Skin”, “Ways to Fake It” and “Broken Bones” there’s a certain dichotomy between a much more aggressive sound and a power pop sound that follows through the rest of the album. Did these two styles come about naturally or was it an intentional difference you wanted to make?

No, it wasn’t really intentional. It was the way that I write songs. The beginning of the process is just really trying to be free and just seeing whatever comes out. Throwing everything against the wall and see what sticks. Well, I guess, seeing what kinda turns you on after you write it. I went into this album with really no preconceptions about what it’ll sound like or what it’ll be or where it would go. I really just wanted to book some shows and be on tour and be on stage more and play live, and I figured that I had to write some songs and try to put an album together in order to achieve that goal. So, it wasn’t really that thought out. The first couple songs that I wrote kinda had this heavy vibe. Like, “Unnatural” and “Monkey Machine” were in the first batch of songs that I wrote that actually made the album. And I liked that aggressive thing and it comes to be like a cool thing that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do with The Strokes. And then I kept writing. Other kinds of songs were coming out of me. “Ways to Fake It” was the first to have this power-pop vibe to it and I didn’t know what to do with it at first and I actually left it on my hard drive for a while after I demoed it. I was kinda not sure what I was gonna do with it. It wasn’t until a couple months later for some of the other guys in the band and the producer, Josh Homme, it was really everybody else, who convinced me to do it. And that really opened up the door for other songs that had the power pop vibe. There’s one called “Anything” that’s in that realm. So yeah, there’s not just one vibe on the album. There’s a couple different things. There’s heavier stuff and poppier stuff.

Talking about “Ways to Fake It”, why’d you decide to do a music video for that song?

Well, even when we were recording the album, even before we really started recording and they were just demos, everyone in the band and Josh, our producer, had a pretty good sense that that would be in the running to be a single. When we finished, we all still felt that way and the people at Columbia Records certainly felt that way also. And they gave some money to make the video so we went for it.

How’s it been balancing CRX with all your other obligations?

I’m busier all of a sudden than I have been in a long time. On tour obviously right now with CRX, also finding time to squeeze in some song writing, and hanging out with the guys in the Strokes, and balancing all that with a wife and kid in Los Angeles. So you know, I’m busy, I’m busy, but I’m doing good. I’m enjoying it.

Thank you to Nick Valensi for taking the time to interview Benjamin Selesnick of WRBB, and thank you to Shannon Cosgrove of BB Gun Press for coordinating.

Listen to New Skin here:

Be sure to catch CRX on the rest of their CRX Live! tour.

Tour Dates:

Nov. 18 | Bowery Ballroom | New York, NY

Nov. 19 | CODA | Philadelphia, PA

Nov. 20 | Brighton Music Hall | Allston, MA | Tickets

Nov. 29 | DOUG FIR LOUNGE | Portland, OR

Nov. 30 | Biltmore Cabaret | Vancouver, Canada

Dec. 1 | Chop Suey | Seattle, WA

Dec. 3 | Slim’s | San Francisco, CA

Dec. 5 | Observatory, Constellation Room | Santa Ana, CA

Dec. 6 | Teragram Ballroom | Los Angeles, CA

Dec. 7 | Casbah | San Diego, CA

Dec. 8 | Crescent Ballroom | Phoenix, AZ

Dec. 10 | Emos | Austin, TX

Dec. 11 | Trees | Dallas, TX

Dec. 12 | Warehouse Live Studio | Houston, TX

Dec. 14 | The Lowbrow Palace | El Paso, TX

Dec. 15 | The Launchpad | Albuquerque, NM

Dec. 17 | Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Vinyl | Las Vegas, NV