The Strokes’ Nikolai Fraiture has teamed up with Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction, Camila Gray of Uh Huh Her and Noah Harmon of The Airborne Toxic Event for his latest side-project, Summer Moon.
What does a member of The Strokes do when The Strokes aren't doing much? Well, whatever he wants. Bassist Nikolai Fraiture is no stranger to a good side-project having released an album back in 2009 under the moniker Nickel Eye (clever, eh?); this year sees him back with his new band, Summer Moon.
Just like the name suggests, Summer Moon sees Nikolai breezy and carefree as he explores a little-known genre called Italo Disco. "It's kind of like this weird 70s Italian disco stuff that just sounds really cool," he says. "It takes you on these sonic journeys, which was really what was in my head during the recording." Debut album 'With You Tonight' has some funk, a bit of indie and a whole lot of fun. "I wanted to make it just for myself, and this was the album I wanted to make thinking of what I would want to listen to."
For this outing he's shunned label involvement and had a go at crowdfunding, raising money through PledgeMusic. "I don't love the idea of major labels dictating what things should sound like," Nikolai explains. "I entertained the idea of it, then it became 'Yeah, sure, but you've got to bring in this guy or that guy', and it was just people I wasn't into." This lack of constraint has helped the record's creativity. "It's a lot freer and it's a lot more experimental, and a lot more fun. I wasn't into the idea of compromising."
What if crowdfunding had been more common when The Strokes first started out? "Well, it's funny," he ponders. "I think for us we were always quite independent, but we just happened to be able to have major backing. We were lucky when we started; it happened fairly quickly after we did all the work and we found a deal that was pretty much an indie deal but on a major. People were like, ‘You'll never get played on the radio,' so we never really expected much out of it in terms of what the label could bring to our thing.
"I think back then, there was so much money in the industry that doing something like PledgeMusic or Kickstarter, it'd seem as if you didn't ‘make it', but I think now it's very different. In so many other fields as well, there's so much more participation with the audience that there wasn't before. There was a gatekeeper in the past, and now that gatekeeper doesn't hold as much power as it used too."
A lot has changed during Nikolai's time as a musician; it's never been easier to find obscure genres like Italo Disco, but at the same time there's a lack of funding and an overwhelming sea of bands competing for attention. "Now views are like currency," he says with a chuckle, "and they actually do translate into currency because artists get paid per view. There are pros and cons, but I think what's great is that artists can be a lot more creative now. Whether that translates into a solid career or longevity, I guess that's a different story."
The Strokes are known for their various solo projects, some of which are downright crazy (see: Megapuss). "We're lucky that we've been able to continue to be creative together and I guess every once in a while we need to refresh the tank, and then we come back, and it's fresh and exciting," he explains. "That's why I think a lot of our other things are very different because it's all about change and as an artist, as a musician, whatever you want to call someone, you constantly push yourself and want to try different things; otherwise you just become a weird parody of yourself."
As for Summer Moon, Nikolai doesn't see a reason why the band won't continue. "So far it's felt really good, I'm looking forward to staying on track with Summer Moon for the moment. I go to LA every once in a while, the musicians I play with are out there; they're super excited and it's a really great vibe. I don't see [me] changing it anytime soon for just a reason to be different. I think it's allowed a certain ability to experiment in this context which is really fun, and I'd be excited to continue doing it."
Summer Moon's debut album 'With You Tonight' is out now.