“CRX is almost certainly an odd option for a band name, but to me it sums up what our music sounds like.” Strokes guitarist Nick Valensi is explaining the origins of the name for his new side band.
It grew out of an ancient Roland CR-78 drum machine that Valensi employed on CRX’s new album, New Skin. But at some point the initials became a sort of studio shorthand for the vibe the guitarist was after.
Crunchy and concise are words that possibly ideal describe the ten tight tunes that comprise New Skin. They veer from new wavey energy pop euphoria to a darker strain of challenging-hitting rock. The widespread denominators are Valensi’s plaintive lead vocals—heard for the first time on this disc—and a bright, spiky palette of guitar sounds. All played by Valensi, the guitars muscle their way into the foreground, meshing and colliding in a gritty explosion of sound.
The songs on New Skin grew out of a need on Valensi’s portion to get back to the sort of small, gritty rock venues where the Strokes 1st rose to fame in the early 2000s.
“I’ve been on so a lot of big festival stages,” he says. “I missed becoming on a tiny club or theater stage. So I began writing songs with the intention of singing on them for the 1st time, and also writing lyrics for the initial time in my life. My idea at 1st was to have some thing a tiny heavier and a bit more aggressive than the Strokes, like early Metallica stuff, just a Kill ’Em All type of vibe. That and early Guns N’ Roses have constantly been a huge influence on my guitar playing. But then other songs began coming out that felt a lot more on the energy pop side of things—like the Cars, Elvis Costello and Inexpensive Trick, which have also been huge influences.”
At 1st Valensi was concerned that these two stylistic directions would clash. But New Skin’s producer, rock polymath Josh Homme, convinced him that the tune stack’s diversity is its strength. Which is certainly the case. Valensi recorded significantly of New Skin at Homme’s Pink Duck Studios in Burbank. He played all the instruments except for drums on the recordings. But in the time considering that then, CRX has evolved into a full 5-piece band touring across the U.S. and Europe.
Does this imply the Strokes are on hiatus? “Not at all,” says Valensi. “In amongst a lot of side projects, we’re actually writing a new album. We hope to have it prepared subsequent year.”
But for now, Valensi is relishing his center-stage function with CRX.