Strokes Test Drive Tracks On The Road, Don't Think About 'Sum' Things

Band planning for new album to drop in the spring.

When the Strokes' current string of tour dates draws to a close with a pair of shows in New York at the end of November, they'll be out of sight for a while. The handful of new songs they've played during the trek, however, should prevent them from staying out of mind.

The band has tried out five new songs since hitting the road October 1, according to their publicist. Tentatively titled tunes "Ze Newie," "Meet Me in the Bathroom," "You Talk Way Too Much," "I Can't Win" and "The Way It Is" are entwined in the set list only after careful consideration, however. The band has been known to scratch a new song from the set if the vibe's not right or when they want to sustain the energy level derived from favorites like "Last Nite," "Hard to Explain" and "Take It Or Leave It," off their debut Is This It, released last year. But when the new stuff is administered at the right time, it's usually met with the fans' approval (see "Strokes Dazzle Seattle With New Songs, Rock Elegance").

"We try to place them in the set at a good time where people would

be ready for a new song," bassist Nikolai Fraiture said. "The feedback has been much better than expected. We probably have a few touch-ups that we'll probably work on in the studio. But so far, in terms of the live show, the response has been good."

Conceived while home in New York between tours, the new songs restructure the elements of Is This It — plowing guitar melodies, impassioned lyrics, solid drumming, rolling bass lines — with a density obtained through experience. Hipster hype and all its accoutrements aside, for the Strokes to be worth their salt, they need to satisfy their goal to improve, and Fraiture said the new material is evidence that they're on the right path.

"The writing is much more sophisticated and our performance and our musical ability is much better than the first recording," he said. "Our main focus is to just get better. We see our faults and we see our good qualities, and we know when we are doing well, and when we're not it's pretty obvious."

Following the last scheduled tour date on November 29, the Strokes will suss out specifics such as which producer they'll employ and what studio they'll settle on. They hope to hit the studio early next year using the same process that worked for Is This It. Much of the writing and refining is expected to be squared away before recording, so once they set foot in the studio, they'll be out in as little time as possible.

Fraiture predicts the Strokes' new album will drop in the spring.

Checking Sir Isaac Newton's Third Law of Motion — for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction — the wave of fanaticism surrounding this sloppily dressed quintet has been met with an equally forceful backlash. From T-shirts that ironically read "The White Strokes," combining the Strokes slag with a dig on fellow hipsters the White Stripes, to the latest jab, Sum 41's new video for "Still Waiting," a parody of the "Last Nite" clip (see "Sum 41 Spoof Strokes, Stripes, Vines In 'Still Waiting' Video"), there's no shortage of sarcasm.

While it would seem the riffing would have worn a little thin by now, Fraiture doesn't mind the attention, whether flattering or insulting.

"We don't take any offense to it at all," he said. "We put something out there, and it's not our say how people are going to react. We know what we do and we're confident in it. It's actually a pretty good sign when there is backlash."