‘We know Malaysians were very disappointed’: The Strokes singer on replacing KL gig with second SG show

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The Strokes singer Julian Casablancas is keen on understanding the local culture wherever the American band travel to for concerts.

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“People can go into another country and say, ‘Oh, this is good, this is bad’, but I’m always interested in learning from a neutral perspective, not judging at all,” he says in Zoom interview when asked about his experiences touring Asia.

The alternative rock group will perform in Singapore for the first time at the Sands Expo & Convention Centre on Wednesday and Thursday.

The 44-year-old frontman adds: “The more you see another culture differently, it makes you understand humanity better than the arbitrary things you know about your own culture, and understand the universal things better.”

Casablancas’ comments come in the wake of what would have been The Strokes’ first gig in Malaysia on July 23, as part of Good Vibes Festival in Kuala Lumpur. The band was originally scheduled to be the headliners of the third night of the music festival.

However, the authorities canned the entire event after Matty Healy, singer of British pop-rock band The 1975, slammed the government for its anti-LGBTQ laws onstage and kissed a male bandmate during the group’s July 21 set.

The Strokes, who are on their Asian tour, initially tried to schedule a last-minute replacement gig in Kuala Lumpur.

When that did not work out, they added a second performance in Singapore on Thursday, hoping that those who missed the Malaysian show will be able to catch them here. Their Wednesday show is sold out.

“We tried to do something because we know that people were very disappointed,” Casablancas says, adding that he thinks it was too soon for the Malaysian authorities to allow another concert by an international act after the Healy controversy.

He was speaking from Japan, where The Strokes played at the Fuji Rock Festival last Friday.

Casablancas formed The Strokes with guitarist Nick Valensi, drummer Fabrizio Moretti, bassist Nikolai Fraiture and guitarist Albert Hammond Jr in 1998.

Over the last two decades, it became known for alternative rock staples such as Last Nite (2001), Reptilia (2003) and The Adults Are Talking (2020).

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The band has won several awards, including a Grammy for Best Rock Album for its sixth record The New Abnormal (2020). In 2002, it won Best International Newcomer at the Brit Awards.

Casablancas has also released a solo album – Phrazes For The Young (2009) – as well as two with American experimental rock band The Voidz – Tyranny (2014) and Virtue (2018).

He adds that The Strokes is still keen to perform in Malaysia in the future. The anthropology buff is looking forward to exploring the caves there as he is interested in the theory that early humans spread from Malaysia to the rest of the world.

It is the reason the music video for Hard To Explain – a song from its acclaimed debut album Is This It (2001) – features a map visualising this theory, he says.

The map is also in the graphic announcing the second Singapore show, in a post uploaded on Casablancas’ and The Strokes’ Instagram pages.

“We were going to go look at some of the old caves, archaeological sites and stuff because I’m obsessed with it,” he says, adding that he discussed the theory with “an Indiana Jones-type of guy” a decade ago.

“He said, ‘OK, that sounds great. If you want to prove your theory, you need to find 80,000-year-old human bones in Malaysia’.”

The singer is well aware of Singapore’s reputation for rules and regulations – and the type of penalties that sometimes come with flouting them.

“Yeah, I won’t be jaywalking even though jaywalking is second nature to a New Yorker. I’m going to really be careful,” the New York-born musician jokes.

“I hope everyone has fun at our concert and I hope I don’t get caned for anything.” – The Straits Times/Asia News Network


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