We Talked to The Strokes' Nikolai Fraiture About His New Band Summer Moon
What happens when Erika Spring from Au Revoir Simone, The Like's Tennessee Thomas, Nikolai, and Lewis Lazar get together.
Summer Moon shot by Alex John Beck.
When one band dies, another is born. When multiple bands die, sometimes the band members get together and form a new band, a supergroup. And sometimes a band doesn’t even have to fully die, sometimes it just has to go on hiatus, and a handful of musicians will come together because the moment is right. That’s how NYC-based band Summer Moon came together. Comprising of Nikolai Fraiture from The Strokes, Erika Spring from Au Revoir Simone, Tennessee Thomas of The Like, and solo artist Lewis Lazar, Summer Moon already had an inbuilt following before they’d even recorded a note.In late 2014, Fraiture was initially planning on recording a second album under his solo project Nickel Eye, but was feeling a little lonely and recruited the others to join him. So far they have two tracks out, “With You Tonight” and “Happenin,” both of which are upbeat, danceable tracks with strong basslines and a slightly futuristic-meets-post punk vibe. We called up Nikolai find out how they came together, the evolution of the NYC music scene has evolved, and his ever-evolving role as an artist.
Noisey: How did you all meet?
Nikolai Fraiture: It goes back a little ways ago. The reason I met Tennessee [Thomas] is because she moved to New York and crashed at my house for a while. She had just ended The Like, her other band, and I think she was kind of going through that break up, so we adopted her for a little bit, and that’s how we became friends. Erika [Spring] I know from having worked on a cover of a Mazzy Star song for her band Au Revoir Simone. I produced that song and we just kind of became friends. Lewis [Lazar] I’ve known from around the neighborhood in New York. He was at some parties, he’s a cool guy and a great guitarist. I had some songs that were going to be the second solo album for Nickel Eye, but then I kind of got lonely and decided to play with some other people.
You've been in several projects—The Strokes for which you play bass, Nickel Eye for which you play guitar and sing, and now Summer Moon where you combine lead vocals and play bass. What's the transition between these different roles been like?
When I was playing guitar, it felt OK, but it didn’t feel totally right. I was sort of searching for something else while we had a hiatus with The Strokes. I think I have come back full circle to realizing that I love the bass and I play the bass and I do that well, rather than doing other things. Instead of playing another instrument OK, I decided to dive very deeply into playing the bass. For Summer Moon I sing as well, which I have experience with from other things I’ve done.
How long have you been playing bass for? What was your introduction to the instrument?
Officially I started when I was 18 or 19. My grandfather bought a bass for me as a high school graduation present. I really have to go back to a long time ago to think about this. [Laughs.]
I think you’re in a unique position because you’re the bassist but also the frontman.
When I envisioned taking these songs to the band, the most important thing to do for me was to do something different and not the typical band setting. Even having two girls and two guys, it’s an interesting dynamic. I think as a bass player-singer, I don’t see that really often, so I wanted to explore that and see how far it could go.
As a supergroup with members who are all working on other projects as well—Tennessee has her store The Deep End Club, Erika as part of Au Revoir Simone, Lewis has his own band—what is it like to work with people coming from different backgrounds?
It’s been really interesting. What’s been fun is that everyone is coming from a different place, even in terms of personalities. But what’s good is that we have good chemistry, which I believe is super important, you know, almost 70 percent of the band’s identity falls on that. It’s eclectic, diverse, and really fun.
You've been in the music scene in NY for at least 15 years now right? How has it changed?
Mercury Lounge for us was always a happening place in the early days, especially for rock ‘n’ roll in New York. I feel like the scene kind of went to Brooklyn for a little bit. What’s kind of replaced that feeling is Baby’s All Right, playing there is kind of the same feelings I remember playing at Mercury Lounge. People are really excited about the music, it’s a good vibe.
Do you prefer performing at smaller venues as opposed to bigger ones?
I don’t have any preference, I think it’s such a different experience and they’re both really amazing. A place like Hyde Park is completely exhilarating in different way than playing Baby’s All Right. But a place like that, a smaller one, can be just as exciting, but in a different way.
Do you have any rituals when it comes to performing? Something you always do before you play a show?
I think it’s always nice to have a moment with whoever I’m playing with before we go on stage. It’s a pretty crazy experience you’re taking on with these other people. It’s nice to have a reflection of what you’re about to do and realizing it in the moment because it goes by so fast. You play and then you’re done, you have all this build up and it all goes so fast. It’s good to take a little moment to realize what you’re about to do and who you’re doing it with.
Are the songs that you’re playing stuff you’ve written over a period of time or is it more current?
A little bit of both. I was writing whenever we had time off with The Strokes, that’s where I would focus my energy. And then there are other tracks that are more recent that we’ve been performing. We’re sort of in a funny, tricky situation, because I had these songs, but then I decided to play with these other members, and we’re kind of developing a sound, which I like a lot. It sounds really cohesive and it all blends well together. But we’re still in that place where we’re deciding on a lot of things.
Does it ever feel weird to work on a song that you wrote a really long time ago? Like you’re a different person now than who you were when you wrote the song initially?
Yeah, absolutely. Especially now that it’s been now over a year since we started the band, maybe more since some of the songs were conceived. But it’s been interesting to see how we’ve been translating things that might have been written a long time ago into a more recent concoction.
What are your plans for the future? Are you working on a full length?
We’re working towards releasing a full length album and eventually touring it and continuing the momentum that’s been built up until now. The chemistry within the band is something we all enjoy, we’re looking forward to whatever comes beyond.
Summer Moon play Baby’s All Right tonight on 8.11.
Shriya Samavai can’t stop boogying to Summer Moon’s beats. Follow her on Twitter