Daniel Robert Epstein: Hey Nick, where are you today?

Nick Valensi: I’m in Brooklyn, New York. Where are you?

Daniel: Astoria, New York. We’re rivals.

Nick: Yes, we’re rivals but we’re also closely affiliated.

Daniel: So you’re doing Saturday Night Live tomorrow night.

Nick: Yep, we’re doing SNL. We’ve had an extremely hectic schedule for the past two or three months now.

Daniel: Are you guys going to be in any SNL sketches?

Nick: I don’t think we’re going to do a sketch. They didn’t ask us to [laughs]. But at the rehearsal yesterday, we filmed a couple of TV commercial spots.

Daniel: I saw those, they were really funny. That Carol character of Horatio Sanz’s is really disturbing.

Nick: Yeah dude, it’s even worse in person. But it’s been really busy and I feel like I don’t have enough time in the day. You know that feeling?

Daniel: I had it today.

Nick: It seems to me that I’ve spoken to a couple people today who have had hectic days. Maybe it is the astrological cycle even though I don’t even really believe in that stuff.

Daniel: I think it’s global warming.

Nick: Okay, blame it on that. So SuicideGirls.com, that’s a porn website, isn’t it?

Daniel: A little more Playboy than porn. Have you seen the site?

Nick: I have. One time I was looking over my girlfriend’s shoulder as she was on her computer and on the screen she had these tattooed and pierced topless chicks. I was thinking what the hell are you doing? What are you looking at? She was looking at SuicideGirls. She’s a photographer so I think maybe she was looking for people to shoot.

Daniel: Sure she was.

Nick: [laughs] But yeah, I’ve seen it before. I’m not a subscribing member so I’m not allowed to see all of it.

Daniel: We’ll have to get you a subscription. The Strokes last album, Room on Fire, wasn’t as well received as your first album so you must be psyched about First Impressions of Earth.

Nick: I am but it’s tough for me to gauge that, because I’m in the eye of the storm. It’s difficult to tell how much or how little people appreciate the album. But it seems to be doing good. This album’s given us our first number one in England, which was pretty cool. Our first two albums peaked at number two in the UK and this one debuted at number one so that was a really big deal for us. The feeling in the band is a little bit different today than it was a couple of years ago. Things are a little more comfortable. I think we’ve all settled into our individual roles in the band and also the band as a collective has settled into its place in modern music. When we first started out, things always felt really nervous and frenetic. There was always this really rushed attitude towards things, like we’ve got to do things really fast and we can’t waste any time. That was there along with all this nervous energy surrounding us all of the time. That’s gone and it’s been replaced by a really laid back vibe.

Daniel: Using the term more mature when referring to a band is usually such a cliché but it sounds appropriate.

Nick: People say that this is a mature third album. To me, the music doesn’t sound any more mature or immature than Room on Fire did musically. But as you said, it is a terrible cliché to say mature but there’s no avoiding the fact that as individuals we’ve all grown up a bit. We’re not 19 anymore. We’re going about life in a different way so I think that has to translate to what we do and people pick up on that. But when I listen to the record, I don’t hear thirty-something music. It’s still our music, it hasn’t changed that much.

Daniel: Does mature also mean that when you guys are about to throw a couch out a hotel window you stop and think about it more?

Nick: [laughs] We’ve never actually thrown a couch out of a window. We’ve done some pretty clichéd rock and roll things, but it’s never gone that far

Daniel:If I got famous first thing I would do is throw things out hotel windows.

Nick: Yeah, I never did that. One time I had some damage bills from one hotel in Las Vegas, put it that way. Nothing ever went out the window.

Daniel:What was your feeling about Room on Fire compared to First Impressions?

Nick: The main difference to me is the production value of the new record. People are making a really big deal, like we’ve changed our sound and we’ve matured a bit, but to me the song writing is in the same vein. It’s not like we’ve gone from writing post punk songs to writing fucking jazz or reggae, it’s still in that same genre. The production on this one is a lot more professional sounding than on our previous efforts.

To me Room on Fire really stands up and is really good. I think if we just had more time to work on it, it probably would’ve been a lot better. But that’s not to say that I don’t like it, I really do like it. I think in 15 or 25 years when people look back on it, I think Room on Fire will be one of their favorites. I think it’s going to age well like fine wine.

Daniel: What did producer David Kahne bring to the table?

Nick: A certain amount of professionalism. He knows his way around the studio the way I know my way around my own bathroom. I would come into the studio every day feeling like there was going to be something demanded of me so I had to be playing my best all the time. That was because there was this professional guy with us who was expecting that. There was no room for going in and getting really stoned and playing your part sloppy because there were expectations of you. That was really good because we never had a disciplinarian with us before. Can I put you on hold for a second?

Daniel: Sure.

Nick: Sorry Daniel. I actually just got a new place in Brooklyn so I just moved in about a week ago. There’s still some work going on in my house and I was just talking to my contractor, who is a very nice Korean man. I’m actually in my bedroom talking to you on the phone and he just walked right into my bedroom with some paint samples for me [laughs]. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing but it seems that since he is working on the house he feels like it is his house. He showed me some color samples and said “Oh my daughter wants to know what the name of your band is.” [laughs]

Daniel: Did you tell him?

Nick:I tried to tell him but he’s from Korea so it’s difficult to communicate with him sometimes, he wants me to write it down for him.

Daniel:Be careful, she’s going to show up at your place with all her friends.

Nick: Yeah, she just might.

Daniel: Back in 2001, it seemed like you guys were the second coming of Jesus. It was impossible to avoid The Strokes. How did you all keep your heads on straight?

Nick: We had a difficult time when we first started out. Things happened so fast for us and everything was so new and so exciting. It was a once in a lifetime experience but we had a tough time dealing with each other. It seemed like the faster things were happening; the less communication was going on between the band members. A lot of resentments were being harbored, about things like something one guy had said here or one person said this about the other guy in one interview and so and so didn’t want to work on my song because of this. There were a lot of difficulties like that.

There were times when we were on the road for fucking eight months, we hadn’t been home in forever and we were just physically and mentally exhausted. Everybody just sort of wanted to go home and there were those times when we were just going through the motions. I think that had a lot to do with us not really being open with each other about what we really wanted as a band and what we felt like we were capable of doing without losing our minds. Everybody was gung ho at first and that was to our detriment because we made obligations that we couldn’t hold. Then everyone was pissed off at each other.

We had to take a lot of time off to recuperate, get back together and talk it out. Just to get everybody on the same page because it was really bad while we were touring for Room on Fire and even while we were recording Room on Fire. It seemed like five people in the band were on five different pages and everybody was going in a different direction. It took that extended period of time to record the third album.

Daniel: Did you have official band meetings to get everyone talking again?

Nick: No, that happened gradually throughout the recording of the album. We don’t have band meetings per se, it’s more like when we’re sitting around and working on songs. We’ll go to the studio for 12 hours but really we only play music for six or seven of those hours. The rest of the time is spent talking things out.

Daniel: Since you only got writing credit on one song, how does the album become personal for you?

Nick: Every song is a little bit different in that sense. For the most part, what happens is that Julian will come in with a chord progression and the melody to go on top of it or maybe just a weird riff. Then we all work on it from there. The writing is a tricky thing because, for the most part, we all write our own parts. Nobody’s telling me what guitar parts to play, Fab [Moretti] is writing his own drum parts. Then we all arrange the songs together but in terms of getting the lyrics down and coming up with a melody, I’d say 85 to 90 percent of the time it’s Julian doing that. Especially on this record he was bringing stuff in that was really bare bones. He would be on the piano singing something or occasionally it’d be on the guitar and he’d be singing something and he would show that to the band. Then there’s any number of different directions you can take that in. Someone shows you a melody and a chord progression, you can make it sound heavy metal, you can make it sound country, you can make it sound whatever. This time around we were lucky because we really had the time to take the songs in different directions before settling on one.

Daniel: Besides obviously playing your instrument, what is your role in the band?

Nick: That’s a tricky question. You might have to ask the other guys about that. I think that I’m musically technically proficient. I excel at figuring out things that are a little bit tricky and navigating my way through complicated musical territory.

Daniel:I read Heart in a Cage will be in the next single.

Nick: That’s right

Daniel: When are you shooting the video?

Nick: My call time is tomorrow morning at 8 am for the video shoot.

Daniel: Don’t you have to do SNL at midnight tomorrow too?

Nick: Yep, you got it. Like I said we’re really busy. I’m not joking man, it’s fucking crazy.

Daniel: Who is directing the video?

Nick: Sam Bayer. He’s done all the Green Day videos off of American Idiot.

Daniel: I mostly speak to much smaller bands than The Strokes. As a hugely popular band, what new powers do you get?

Nick: You really want to do things your way. I’ve found, especially in this industry, one compromise leads to another compromise leads to another compromise. Then you find yourself in a situation that you never wanted to be in the first place. The recording contract that we have grants us complete freedom to record whatever we want. We never have any A & R people in the studio, there’s never record company people coming in and saying “oh, you know, turn the vocals up there, or make the snare drum louder at the chorus”, we never have that.

Daniel: What does First Impressions of Earth mean to you?

Nick: [laughs] I didn’t come up with it. Julian [Casablancas] came up with that title and I really do like it but I have no idea what it means to him. I’ve heard some things like how it’s something about aliens and coming to Earth for the first time. For me, I liked it when he first brought it up to me because it feels like this is a new beginning for us. Another first chance in a way. The concept of a first impression feels to me like we’re being given a second chance.