The Beginnings of The Strokes and The Gear That Got Them There

From Left: Hammond Jr, Casablancas, Fraiture, Moretti and Valensi

As any normal music fan, we sometimes aren’t satisfied with simply the songs when it comes to our favorite bands. Some of us want to know their back story, some of us want to know who they’re dating, and some of us even want to know their favorite food! While some fans are simply casual and other are downright fanatical, musicians are a different breed of fans, more like brothers in arms actually. Rather than wanting to know things that have little to do with music and more to do with the trivial personal matters in the artist’s life, musicians want the gear info! And why not? It’s a chance to look at the tools in their repertoire, compare it with themselves, or even just gain a deeper sense of what makes the band work. This week, we will be covering one of the most exciting and influential bands to come out of New York City this century. Consisting of Julian Casablancas on vocals, Nick Valensi on lead, Albert Hammond Jr on rhythm, Nikolai Fraiture on  bass and Fabrizio Moretti on drums, they are the originators of the garage rock revival of the 2000s; they’re the one, the only, The Strokes! Read on and check out the band’s rise to fame along with the gear that got them there!



The Start of The Strokes

It might be hard to gauge the sheer amount of hype that surrounded the band before they were even signed to a proper label, especially here in the states where their appeal was dwarfed in comparison to the rampant mania expressed in the UK. Officially formed in 1998, the group had its beginnings a few years earlier when future singer Julian Casablancas, guitarist Nick Valensi and drummer Fabrizio Moretti began playing music together after becoming friends while attending Dwight School, a private prep school in Manhattan. Soon after, Casablancas enlisted the help of a former schoolmate, bassist Nikolai Fraiture, who he had met while attending another illustrious private school, Lycée Français de New York. The final piece of the band came from yet another former schoolmate of Casablancas from yet another illustrious private school; Julian and future Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr met while they were both attending the Le Rosey, a private prep school in Switzerland. Although the two met at a young age (Julian was 13, Albert was 12), they maintained a friendship and when Hammond moved to New York to attend New York University's Tisch School of the Arts he began sharing an apartment with Casablancas and joined his band soon after.

Casablancas officially named the band The Strokes in 1999 and spent most of the rest of that year rehearsing a 14 song set list which already included several soon to be hits that would later appear on their first album including “Last Nite,” “The Modern Age,” “Someday,” “New York City Cops” and “Soma.” The group played their first shows at the Luna Lounge on the Lower East Side of New York as well as Manhattan’s popular Mercury Lounge – whose booker Ryan Gentles quit to become the group’s manager. By the end of 2000, The Strokes had amassed a sizeable following in New York due to the rampant word of mouth about their outstanding live performances. They released their first EP through Rough Trade Records, entitled The Modern Age EP, which led to so much interest in the band that the website of famous UK music magazine NME decided to release one of the tracks for free via MP3 download. The free track, “Last Nite,” was released a week prior to physical EP, which only furthered the excitement surrounding The Strokes. The release of the EP sparked a bidding war between record labels trying to sign the band, bigger than had been seen at any time in recent history.


The Release of Their First Album and Worldwide Success

Original cover for Is This It

In October of 2001, The Strokes released their first album, Is This It, via RCA records, two months after the UK edition due to the original cover’s racy picture which featured a black and white photo of a gloved hand on a naked woman’s backside, shown in semi profile, instead replacing it with an image of particle collisions. Also, the track “New York City Cops” was completely removed from the US edition due to the recent September 11 terrorist attack on New York  as well as certain lyrics in-song, such as “New York City cops, they ain’t that smart,” for fear that it would not be met in good taste. The track was replaced with the song “When it Started” for the US release.

Is This It was met with outstanding commercial and critical success, with Rolling Stone magazine giving the album a perfect score of five stars, a 9.1/10 from Pitchfork Media as well as being named best album of the year by publications such as Time and Entertainment Weekly. In 2009, NME listed the album as the greatest album of the decade for the 2000s.  A Similar lists by Rolling Stone placed the album as No. 2 as well as featuring the songs “Hard To Explain” and “Last Nite” as numbers 69 and 15, respectively, on that same issues list of the top 100 songs of the ’00. As of 2010, Is This It has sold over 3.5 million records worldwide.




Julian Casablancas

Julian Casablancas - singer

Son of Spanish American Elite Model Management owner John Casablancas, Julian’s early musical taste was strongly shaped by the influence of his stepmother Sam Adoquei who introduced him to music such as The Doors – a strong contrast to the usual Phil Collins-influenced music he had been listening to beforehand. He is the lead singer and principle songwriter for The Strokes as well as a solo artist, releasing his first solo effort, Phrazes for the Young, on November 3, 2009. Although much of his vocal style does come from his own natural talents, he has been known to employ filters and guitar fuzz pedals to add a bit of an overdriven sound to his voice.





Nick Valensi – Lead Guitarist

Known guitars used by Nick:

Duesenberg semi-hollow

Epiphone Casino Electric

Epiphone Dot w/ P-94 pickups

Epiphone Nick Valensi Riviera  w/ P-94 pickups

Epiphone Riviera guitar w/ Gibson P-94 pickups

Fender Telecaster Custom Shop

Gibson Faded Special Double Cutaway w/ P-90s

Gibson Les Paul Custom

Gibson Les Paul Jr '54 reissue VOS

Gibson Les Paul Tobacco Burst


Nick Valensi


Carr Rambler amplifier

Carr Slant 6V combo amplifier

Fender 4x12 extension cabinets

Fender Hot Rod DeVille 2x12

Fender Super-Sonic amplifiers




Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner

Death by Audio Micro Harmonic Transformer

Demeter TRM-1 Tremulator

Durham Electronics Sex Drive guitar pedal

Electro-Harmonix Memory Man

Maxon Analog delay

MXR M-133 Micro-Amp

Visual Sound Double Trouble

Visual Sound Jekyll & Hyde Ultimate Overdrive and Distortion pedal

Visual Sound Visual Volume pedal

Vox Cooltron Bulldog Distortion



Albert Hammond Jr

Albert Hammond Jr – Rhythm Guitarist (sometimes lead)

Known guitars used by Albert:

Fender '85 Strat - Olympic white (Japan reissue of the '72 model and his main guitar)

Gibson Les Paul Junior

Gretsch Hollowbody

Guild Acoustic 

Martin acoustic

Rickenbacker 3 pickup guitar 



Fender Hot Rod Deville 2x12amplifier

Fender Twin Reverb

Hiwatt 4x12 cabinets

Hiwatt Custom 50 head

Peavey amplifier



Boss DD-3 Digital Delay pedal

Boss TU-2 Tuner

Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay 

MXR Micro Amp pedal

Visual Sound V2 Jekyll & Hyde Ultimate Overdrive and Distortion pedal


Nikolai Fraiture


Dunlop Tortex .88mm guitar picks

Thomastik-Infeld George Benson strings, gauge 12



Nikolai Fraiture - Bass

Known bass guitars used by Nikolai:

Fender Jazz Bass

Fender Precision Bass

Music Man Sterling Bass

Rickenbacker Bass guitars



Ampeg SVT-CL



Fabrizio Moretti - Drums

Ludwig Red Vistalite LE Drum Kit

22"x14" Kick

13"x9" Rack tom

16"x16" Floor tom

14x5" Ludwig LM400 Supra-Phonic Snare Drum


Fabrizio Moretti

Zildjian Cymbals

14" New Beat Hi-Hats

22" Custom Ride

20" Custom Crash


Ahead Drum Sticks







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