Rarely can a producer or musician revisit a project and share such rich, heartfelt anecdotes. Typically, either there is little to discuss, or there were numerous conflicts throughout the process, rendering the entire endeavor tumultuous. Yet, for Gordon Raphael, being intimately involved in The Strokes’ triumphant beginnings is an experience he holds precious.
In the early 2000s, The Strokes’ album Is This It marked an undeniable turning point for independent music. Early successes such as “Last Night” and “Someday” cemented their status as one of the most revered pillars of the new wave indie music genre. Despite It This It’s success, the ensemble had very humble beginnings in Raphael’s New York City studio.
Raphael, who first caught wind of The Strokes after a promoter explained that they were searching for a producer, invited members of the band to his studio with the prospect of recording some demos. The two parties quickly formed a collaborative endeavor, and It This It was well under way. Raphael recalled, “From what they’d told me, they wanted a real, honest, rock-band-playing-in-a-room sound, so it made sense to do that.”
In subsequent years, The Strokes would continue to improve. In the meantime, when he was not working on his own work, Raphael observed with pride. Raphael tells Far Out in an exclusive interview, “I have lived for over 20 years with the music of The Strokes rattling around in my brain in the most delightful way.” Witnessing excellence from the very beginning appears to be more of a blessing than a burden.
Raphael’s favorites “change periodically,” he acknowledges, but he is more than willing to share each one, along with the reasons they have left an enduring impression on him.
Gordon Raphael’s ten favorite The Strokes compositions are as follows: ‘The Modern Age’ – The Modern Age EP
Prior to the official publication of Is This It in July 2001, the band’s debut EP, The Modern Age, was released in January. This EP included the title composition, as well as “Last Nite” and “Barely Legal.” The version of the title track that appears on the EP holds a special place in Raphael’s heart, not only because of the song’s exceptional sound but also because the entire experience elicited a difficult-to-recreate sense of nostalgia.
“When these young musicians arrived at my studio for the first time, they began recording this song,” recalls Raphael. “I instantly adored the ambiance of the music, the assault of the guitars, and the cool-as-a-cucumber rhythm. The addition of Julian Casablancas’s vocals cemented the deal for me!”
He sounded like an old-timer recounting misadventures in New York City in 1965! The words of Julian appeared to be filled with problematic relationships and intense philosophy. Nick Valensi initiates his guitar solo at the song’s midpoint. When I first heard it, I thought it was out of this world and instantaneously developed a great deal of admiration for his musical talent!”