Songs In My Room:
Nikolai Fraiture of The Strokes Shines On New Project, Summer Moon

Words by Audra Tracy

When rock stars are ‘off-duty’, they are typically wont to relax, get lazy and fat before the next tour rolls around. But for Nikolai Fraiture, bassist for The Strokes, a break from his regular gig meant one thing: opportunity. Fraiture capitalized on his downtime by forming a new creative outlet in Summer Moon, an arts collective with a revolving cast of characters.

Summer Moon’s latest line-up features Fraiture along with Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction, Camila Grey of Uh Huh Her, and Noah Harmon of Airborne Toxic Event, and together they’ll release a new album, With You Tonight, this Friday. We got a few minutes with Fraiture to discuss recording, surrealist poetry, and…Beyoncé.

Congratulations on the new album. Can you tell me about the recording process?

The recording kind of started out mainly as songs in my room. I have like a small little room in my apartment with some music equipment. It was kind of just working out songs and, over time, I had more and more time to add more. I had some friends in New York, and a little before the album was finished we were just playing around town. We played a David Lynch Foundation event, and some parties, and some fashion stuff, and eventually over time we finished the album, and that was a more fun vibe. Then I met some musicians in LA, and that is kind of the current lineup of the band.

Did you record in LA?

We mastered in LA but we recorded in Austin, Texas at Jim Eno’s studio – he is the drummer of Spoon – he has a studio out there. And with Brad Bell who also helped produce it, he worked with Arcade Fire down there and War on Drugs. And Brooklyn as well with Matt Boynton, he has a studio in Brooklyn and he did a lot of MGMT stuff.

Sounds like you are in good company there!

That is the main reason that I reached out to them, because they are bands that I like, and the sounds and overall vibe is cool.

Summer Moon has been described as an ‘arts collective’. Do you dabble with any other forms of art besides music?

For this album we are kind of putting out a ‘zine to accompany it, it’s almost done and it will be ready for the release. I feel like it’s a very indicative project in general, there is some poetry, some art, there’s photography, and a friend of mine did an interview with Patti Smith some time ago that he submitted for it.

Mick Rock, you know, the photographer, wrote a poem for it. I started speaking to him about French surrealist poetry, and I didn’t know he was into it. In his movie, called Shot!, it’s a movie about his life and how he worked with David Bowie and Lou Reed, and in it he talks about his time in college where he was writing, and that’s sort of what he wanted to do…so he submitted something as well.

That’s sort of the feeling of this project, people like that who have other interests and are doing a bunch of different things, and putting it all together with the ‘zine and the album and the live show. It’s a cool place to just have it all together.

You always seemed like the quiet guy in The Strokes. Do you feel any pressure as you take on this role as a frontman in Summer Moon?

I don’t feel any pressure to be different. There is obviously the pressure of going onstage and playing, which I feel in The Strokes anyway. I don’t feel like I have to change my personality to be something that I’m not. The whole project Summer Moon, just even the idea of the moon, is something I can relate to, and I feel like it’s part of my personality. It’s who I am and what I do, and I’m happy to be able to continue doing it with this.

Do you mean the cycles and phases of the moon?

The cycles, the phases, but also the subtle power it has to be able to affect the tides… there is a subtlety to its power that I can relate to. And the phases and changes that you go through, it’s a celestial kind of idea that is cosmic to me. And also the title of the book, there was book that I came across on tour, called The Empire of the Summer Moon, which kind of deals with early Native American clashes with the settlers and the rangers in the U.S., which I found very inspiring and interesting as well.

That’s pretty deep. You are a busy man, so I won’t take up much more of your time. If you had an unlimited touring budget, how would you expand on your live shows?

The great thing about an unlimited budget is the lights, and just everything you could do with the stage setup. I would definitely want to expand on that, and I look forward to it if I can. Adding visuals to accompany the music, I think that really helps create a powerful performance. And having those visuals to feed off of as a performer, it can make it even bigger than it is. Elevate it to a higher place…like Beyoncé’s epic Grammy performance.

Ha, exactly! You have a show coming up in LA…will you be playing New York any time soon?

We are looking right now to play April in New York, that’s the idea. I think we are just kind of feeling around for venues and stuff, but we are looking to play in April.

With You Tonight is out tomorrow…pick it up here! | Happenin’