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A Thank You Letter To The Strokes

This morning, I was sitting by the window at the coffee shop on my college campus. ‘Ode To The Mets’ by The Strokes came on. I realized that although The Strokes were a huge part of the reason I started The Music Box, I really haven’t talked about them much on here. This might be the cheesiest thing you read all week, but I promise it has a purpose. 

I first listened to The Strokes in May of 2020, or at least that was the first time I added one of their songs to my playlist. The song was ‘At The Door’. I have no clue where I found it, but I remember not thinking much of it. It was a good song, but it hadn’t deeply impacted me yet. Eventually I listened to the rest of The New Abnormal, and whenever that was, it was the turning point. I fell in love with that album. It became the soundtrack of my junior year of high school. It meant everything to me. ‘Ode To The Mets’ got me through a whole lot of breakdowns and tears. 

April 2021 was the first time I added songs to my playlist that weren’t from The New Abnormal. I think this was when my love for the band, not just their music, began. I learned everything about the five of them. I became immersed in their world, reading Meet Me In The Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman, I dove deeper into the bands that came up alongside them, I bought old Rolling Stone magazines and read every interview I could. I learned about their families and their girlfriends, I analyzed all of the lyrics Julian had written. I applied them to my life, I held onto the ones I connected with. I am not myself unless I'm deep in an obsession, and I will say, this one will always be my favorite. It was to the point that I could tell what year a picture was taken by Julian's haircut. While senior year of high school was horrible, being able to go home and read about my favorite band brought me comfort. I remember one day on my free period I drove to Barnes & Noble. They had a copy of The New Abnormal on vinyl, and I also found a copy of Is This It on CD. I obsessively listened to that album. Every time I was in my car it was on. 'Hard To Explain' became my song. I always talk about how strongly I believe that certain artists and songs come to you when you need them most, and I wholeheartedly know that this was the case with The Strokes. That band found me exactly when I needed them most. 

The first time I’d left Oregon in probably five years was to go see The Strokes in Seattle. My family is not one that takes many vacations, we are not reckless or unnecessary spenders when it comes to that sort of thing. But I begged and begged for my parents to take me to Seattle in August of 2022 to see them. They were opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I even made a whole powerpoint presentation as to why we should go, and it ended up being my graduation gift. My friend came with me and we were at the very top of the nosebleeds, but I couldn’t have cared less. It was one of the most meaningful trips of my life. They opened with 'Hard To Explain'. I just remember thinking how surreal it all was, I’m in Seattle seeing my favorite band. They’re right there. I’m breathing the same air.

I often reminisce on those days. Honestly, my last year of high school was traumatizing. I was having a lot of issues with friends, I’d moved out of my childhood home a few weeks before I graduated, and of course I was so sick of my hometown just like every other teenager. I needed to get out. The Strokes became my way to escape. I knew that if I disassociated into that world, New York in 2001-2003, I wouldn’t have to think about what was going on in the real world. Instead of doing homework, I watched the '12:51' music video. Instead of figuring out what I wanted for my future, I regressed into the past where The Strokes lived. I learned everything. Through them, I found Interpol, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Moldy Peaches, Kings of Leon, The Rapture, The Libertines, The Vines, LCD Soundsystem, Vampire Weekend, Franz Ferdinand, The White Stripes, and The Mooney Suzuki. I fell in love with all of these bands and their history. I pictured myself on the snowy streets of New York, I look to my left and there’s Ryan Adams smoking a cigarette, on the right is Gordon Raphael’s studio and I can see Fab recording drums. Maybe I’d be going to see Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the Mercury Lounge that night. Maybe Ryan Gentles would be there. These people became so familiar to me, they became my friends. The idea of their lives was something I craved. I had breakdowns knowing I would never get to experience that. I guess I’m just lucky that these bands are all still together in 2023. 

I credit all of this for the start of The Music Box. Because of my discovery of The Strokes, I learned about Gordon Raphael, producer of Is This It and Room On Fire. I believe at some point I followed him on Instagram. The official start of The Music Box was September of 2022, and I’d begun it with no intention of promoting it, or of people really even knowing about it. I just needed an outlet to talk about the music I loved because no one in my life really cared, which I understand. I’m very annoying when I’m obsessed with something, I’ll admit. So Gordon had posted about his new memoir, “The World Is Going To Love This: Up From The Basement With The Strokes”, and I bought a copy of it. I told you I wanted to learn everything about this band, and what better way to hear it directly from their first producer? I believe my second post ever was a review of it. I messaged Gordon on instagram, a shot in the dark, to see if I could ask him a few questions about his book. He responded so kindly, and I couldn't believe it. I was in shock that he’d gotten back to me at all. He agreed to jump on Zoom with me for a bit, and that’s when it all began. I had no clue that I enjoyed interviewing until that day. I was so nervous I could barely get my words out. Is this stupid? Will my friends make fun of me? But oh my gosh, I’m talking with someone who personally knows my favorite band! He was a part of my favorite albums! It started then. 

My family didn’t understand it at first. My mother said “I sure hope he’s not a pervert”. I played it for them and they still didn’t fully get it. It was so out of the blue, I’d never expressed any interest in journalism. But that interview was the start. It’s the reason I found something I love so deeply now. It’s allowed me to create connections with some awesome people, and I believe those interviews played a big role in me getting my dream job at a concert venue last summer. 

So there’s the days when I sit and stare out the window and just absorb songs like ‘Ode To The Mets’ or ‘Hard To Explain’. I think of the memories, the impact, the tears, all of it. It sounds stupid, but they really did change my life. I’m so grateful that I can say they were my favorite band when I was in my teens, and I'll be twenty in a few months. No longer a teenager. I see the faces of Julian, Fab, Nick, Albert, and Nikolai and all of those memories come back to me. All of the nights I found comfort in them and their music when I couldn’t deal with the reality of my own life. All the times they made me laugh and the times they made me cry. The tears rolling down my face when I heard ‘Someday’ live. The emptiness after they left the stage. The first time I saw the film adaptation of Meet Me In The Bathroom, the way my heart swelled everytime they came on the screen. The way “In Transit” made me feel the first time I watched it, and how I watched every few days for months and months. 

I’m at the point where I can look back at it with fondness and nostalgia. I no longer rely on them for happiness, I’ve discovered other bands and found new obsessions. But their faces bring me back everytime. They still bring me comfort in times when I want to reconnect with myself. I used to think it was stupid when people said a band changed their life until it happened to me, and now I’ll preach it until the day I die. Music comes to you with a purpose. It helps you when you need it most, and that’s what The Strokes did for me. And for that I can’t thank them enough. I’ll never forget it.


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