The Strokes‘ Julian Casablancas and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ Karen O were both key players in the early-2000 New York alt-rock scene and as frontpeople of their respective bands, they share similar experiences. Time Out New York recently commissioned the singers to interview each other, and the resulting exchange sees the two artists muse on their early experiences, their songwriting process, Radiohead, Lou Reed and their knowledge of Dirty Dancing.
“I loved that film when it came out — I really did. Patrick Swayze,” began Karen O. “Johnny Castle, you mean? That used to be my fake hotel name, if I ever needed one,” added Casablancas. “I’m, like, an expert on this movie. I don’t even know how I know this,” he added.
Despite cutting their teeth in the same scene, and the fact that Casablancas released Karen O’s new album Crush Songs through his own Cult Records, the two say they only met each other recently. Julian did recall an early show in The Strokes’ career which Yeah Yeah Yeahs opened, but said he was too “nervous” before the show to make a connection.
Karen O then admitted that at the time she considered The Strokes to be her band’s rivals. “It was kind of like a boys’ club around that time, so I always felt a little bit like a black sheep, but in a good way. I used that to rev me up,” she said.
“I feel like—and I talked to Josh Homme about this too—sometimes frontpeople don’t connect,” she added. “It’s like when two magnets that are positively charged [repel each other]. Only in my thirties have I made a concerted effort to connect with other frontpeople, and it’s awesome, because I relate! I kind of wish I would’ve done that when I was younger and more insecure.”
This month Casablancas and his new band The Voidz, dropped their album, Tyranny, which fans will be able to experience live when the band head to Australia for Falls Festival 2014/2015 and Southbound 2015. When asked by Karen O why he doesn’t perform with an instrument, Casablancas says playing and singing at the same time is a like “walking a tightrope” and he doesn’t want to fall off.
“Early on, I always wanted to write things. That was my fantasy. I liked composers and more complex songs. Bands like the Doors. But I actually wanted to write all the parts. So I got into music and I would play, but I knew early on that I never wanted to perform an instrument in front of people,” he explained.
“I’m not particularly skilled with that, and it’s just a whole pressure. I basically learn to play a thing to write it, and then once I write it, I forget and almost never play it.” Casablancas also asked Karen O if she likes Radiohead, because he “saw a guy walk by who looked like Thom Yorke”, and recounted the time he met Lou Reed.
“When I was probably 19, he was doing a book signing at Barnes & Noble, and we went. He was walking away; we almost missed it. So I just grabbed one of the books — I didn’t even know if I had the money to pay for it — just to stop him, you know what I mean? And he was totally weird and awesomely insane.”
Read the entire interview over at Time Out New York. Crush Songs and Tyranny are both out now.