Albert Hammond Jr.'s Hiatus From the Strokes Made Him a Songwriter

Albert Hammond Jr.'s Hiatus From the Strokes Made Him a Songwriter
Jason McDonald

Since the early aughts, Albert Hammond, Jr. is a face many music fans associate with indie rock. As the rhythm guitarist of The Strokes, Hammond has been in the public eye for both his music and off-stage exploits, which includes forays into fashion, along with his famous girlfriends and a father who wrote the iconic "It Never Rains in Southern California." But there's more to Hammond's career than just his day job and other activities.

Hammond released two interesting, but inconsistent albums in 2006 and 2008, that seemed to be stymied by his drug use at the time. Once the guitarist got his life in order, moved away from New York City to upstate New York, and exchanged nuptials with Justyna Sroka, Hammond's songwriting started to flourish. He started reaching the potential that was sporadically showcased on Yours to Keep and ¿Cómo Te Llama?, especially the latter where Hammond wishes some songs were tighter.

For the guitiarist-come-songwriter, the narrative began to change in 2013 following the release of his lauded AHJ EP. It was on this release after he kicked his bad habits that many began to take Hammond seriously as a budding songwriter.

"After doing that tour and going out cold -- especially since you don't get much attention on an EP -- that became the template of what was to come," Hammond says while heading down South for more solo shows following a Strokes festival appearance the night before. "The EP gave me more confidence for the next thing I'd do."

Working with frequent Strokes collaborator and good friend Gus Oberg, Hammond's latest album,

Momentary Masters

is easily his most well-received to date. Featuring a sound that's prominent for fusing the Lower East Side lo-fi that The Strokes mastered along with the dance punk that was beginning to emerge across the river in Williamsburg, the album took only six weeks to make. Despite being longtime friends, there was push-and-pull between Oberg and Hammond that led to some creative jostling, but the songwriter says that was ultimately a good thing, even if it was frustrating at the time. The quick pace of the sessions served Hammond well, pointing to that "You change so much as time goes by, if you wait until something is perfect, you're never going to put anything out."

On his own terms, Hammond has developed a small, but loyal following that's dedicated to his solo material. Fans have discovered Hammond's new project almost organically, which has provided him a welcome outlet that's different from The Strokes.

"It's probably just more fun," he admits. "They're getting to learn new songs, so you see a different reaction. I didn't get as much press as when The Strokes started and they're almost coming to shows and learning it. You can experience music in different ways. You go and you discover it and you can enjoy it where you just know it."

Not too long ago, Albert Hammond Jr. wouldn't have expected for his solo career to become a vital part of his creative life. Yet Momentary Masters has demonstrated that Hammond's career could survive on a path that it isn't dependent on The Strokes. Following The Strokes appearance in Washington, D.C., Julian Casablancas declared to the crowd that a new album was imminent. However, for the foreseeable future, Hammond is focused on his solo material.

"I want it to stand on it's own," he says. "I want to see if I can play music for the rest of my life as a living. I never know what The Strokes are doing and I like playing music and I like entertaining so I just want to keep moving forward. If you're trying to establish a career, you have to push and can't sit at home watching it."

Albert Hammond Jr. performs at the Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, CA. (714) 957-0600, www.observatoryoc.com, Tues. Oct. 13, 8 p.m., $20. All ages.

See also: The 50 Best Things About the OC Music Scene The 50 Worst Things About the OC Music Scene The 25 Greatest OC Bands of All Time: The Complete List

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