CRX Gives Nick Valensi's Retro Rock Some Down and Dirty Desert Flavor
Amanda de Cadanet
My first reaction to the breakout full-length from CRX was towards the lead vocals of Nick Valensi, guitarist for The Strokes. Not hearing Julian Casablanca’s voice over those recognizable guitar licks was foreign at first, but my attention was quickly diverted by fuzzy guitar riffs, driving rhythm, dynamic interplay between members, and ear-catching variation in tone on tracks like “Broken Bones,” “On Edge,” and “Monkey Machine.” Word is that Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age stepped in to help Valensi behind the production wheel, which inevitably cast a desert dust cloud over tracks that crunch and sizzle from start to finish. The team of musicians, consisting of Nick Valensi on guitar and vocals, Ralph Alexander on drums, Richie Follin on keyboards, Darian Zahedi on guitar, and Jon Safley on bass, coalesced with a strong creative team, yielding the album New Skin. When CRX plays Constellation Room Monday, December 5th, don’t let it be a show that slips by.
What made you want to work on this project for yourself?
Nick Valensi: At first, it was really a simple desire to play and be on stage more. Over the course of a couple years, it morphed into a band, a recording, a record label, and now a tour. It’s fun to have a new thing, and it’s fun to watch it evolve from this really simple idea—to just play some shows and demo songs on the computer, to reaching out to friends, then all of a sudden having all these people help me finish an album, and then Columbia Records is involved.
How do you describe the sound on New Skin?
It’s a guitar driven record that would fall into the category of rock music, maybe even retro rock music. I love guitar and I love drums, so if you like listening to those, it’s a sure bet. To me it feels like it sounds like something new, and I don’t where that comes from—if it’s just my voice as a singer, and it’s a voice that no one’s heard before—it just feels fresh.
Can you describe Josh Homme’s role as producer?
Initially Josh was someone that I reached out to as a friend to play my demos for to get his take on my singing and the song writing, and the kind of direction I was going with this thing. When he first listened to the demo tapes, he was picking elements that he really loved. I needed someone who I trusted to come in and help close a lot of doors for me. He was really good at coming in and being like, ‘Ok, it’s this one. Now let’s move forward and not turn back.’ Even the band too—the guys are all my friends, and also people I just reached out to to be like, ‘Hey what do you think man?’ That then turned it into this collaborative thing really quickly.
What inspired your writing?
The truth is, I just stumbled upon things. I’ve been writing music for a long time, but this is really my first time writing complete song lyrics, top to bottom, by myself. I have a very strong belief that anyone can get better at doing anything if they just work at it a lot, so I treated it like learning a new instrument. Eventually there were lines and ideas and words that started to pop up again and again, and then those were the ones that felt the most authentic and honest for me to sing about.
How’s this tour been with CRX?
We started this thing not exactly from the bottom because at every show there’s all these awesome Strokes fans. The Strokes have the coolest fans in the world, so the fact that I get to bring a couple of them over to this means we get an awesome response every night. We’re very lucky.
CRX plays Monday, December 5 at The Observatory. For full details, click here.
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