The afternoon of his performance at The Observatory last November, Julian Casablancas made the trip down to our Pearl Street studio to talk his new side project, politics, and Daft Punk with KX FM 104.7 afternoon show host Brian Holst.

Though most simply know him as the frontman of The Strokes since the band’s 1998 inception, Julian Casablancas has had a much more eclectic career than that label suggests. Like all musicians, The Strokes have had their personal and professional ups and downs. Following the poor reception of their third studio album, First Impressions of Earth, and escalating tensions among bandmates, the group announced an extensive hiatus in 2006. This triggered a five-year gap between the releases of their third and fourth LPs, in which time both Casablancas and guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. launched successful solo efforts. Julian took full advantage of the break, founding his own record label and teaming up with an array of artists such as Danger Mouse, Pharrell, Santigold and The Lonely Island. And if that roster of diverse collaborations was not impressive enough, he added to it in 2013 when he featured on the fifth track off Daft Punk’s Grammy-winning Album of the Year, Random Access Memories.

From its first few bars, one could almost mistake the pseudo-love song, Instant Crush, for a Strokes track as pulsing, staccato Daft Punk JC collab | Generational Alternative Rock KX FM 104.7 FMguitar riffs and dreamy synths underscore Casablancas’ tender vocals. The famed French electronic duo’s influence is clarified in the chorus when the synths kick it up a notch and embellish their signature detuned vocal effects. Brian made sure to ask about this joining of musical forces in the interview. On working with Daft Punk on the track, Casablancas says, “…they played me two songs. One was the verse of ‘Instant Crush’ and one was the chorus, and I was like, ‘Well, can we combine these two things?’” He even shed some light on the mysterious duo’s creative process: “One guy’s more like creative details, one guy’s more like vibe control…One guy’s like working, turning knobs, theorizing, and then the other guy will be like cool [or] not cool, thumbs up or thumbs down…I mean, he does more than that but that’s a caricature for you…”

Album art Julian Casablancas and the Voidz | Generational Alternative Rock KX FM 104.7 FM

In 2013, Casablancas formed experimental rock side project Julian Casablancas+The Voidz with five other guys and released their debut album, Tyranny, on his own Cult Records last September. Labeled “neo-psychedelia” by some, perhaps the best word to sum up The Voidz’ sound is, as Brian characterizes it, “dystopian”. The album is flooded in dissonance, odd time-signatures, off-beat percussion, and general abstraction. On the inspiration for this unconventionality, Casablancas tells Brian, “I decided that I really just wanted to do what I thought was cool and what I would want to hear. I felt like if I did that then hopefully other people would like it, too, more than if I’d tried to…please other people. When I first started I had that mentality more and I kind of lost my way a little bit”. He goes on to talk more about how hard it is to ignore what everybody says about you when you’re in the public eye. Through Tyranny, Casablancas expresses this shift in maturity in waving goodbye to the mainstream. The first single off the album, “Human Sadness”, is a bizarre, 11-minute sonic journey; With other song titles like “M.utually A.ssured D.estruction”, “Nintendo Blood” and “Johan Von Bronx”, Julian makes clear from the tracklist that he has no more time for appeasing the masses. The politically-charged “Where No Eagles Fly” hints at Casablancas’ strongly-held societal views. Asked whether Tyranny is in part a reaction to the state of the country, Julian responds, “It’s pretty clear that our system is based on money and companies, I mean, it’s not like democracy. You look at what people actually want and what goes on and [they don’t] have anything to do with each other”.

The Voidz + Casablancas | Generational Alternative Rock KX FM 104.7 FM
Julian Casablancas + The Voidz


The Strokes announced at the end of 2013 that they would be “returning to the scene” in the next year, and return they did, headlining New York’s 2014 Governor’s Ball Music Festival and FYF fest in LA. In a Rolling Stone interview last October, Casablancas made waves when he referred to his lack of passion when performing live with The Strokes. His sentiment that just because “something has commercial value, doesn’t mean it’s good” seems to reflect much of his anti-establishment-esque philosophy. Any implications that the formation of The Voidz may have on The Strokes remains to be seen, but for now Casablancas definitely seems most focused on his new side project.

Brian closes the interview by asking about Casablancas’ future plans, to which he responds, “…I’ve got a lot of things on the backburner”. We’ll be waiting patiently.


To hear the full audio from the interview, listen to the podcast below and check out for more interesting conversations, live performances & more.