Photography: Tiffany Nicholson
It’s almost impossible not to like The Strokes—I’m pretty sure everyone under the age of 40 knows every word to Is This It. Once hailed “The Saviors of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” the Downtown five piece has been turning out cool kid anthems for almost two decades. When you’re in a band like that, is it possible to get out from under its shadow? I’d say Nikolai Fraiture proves it is.
With Summer Moon, Nikolai delivers his own brand of breezy alt-rock, with all the attitude of The Strokes, but none of the buzz. On their debut album, the band solidifies their place in the New York canon, not as members of some of the city’s best acts—drummer, Stephen Perkins, is from Jane’s Addiction—but as their own catchy mix of lo-fi pop with existential lyrics.
With dreamy guitars and Nikolai’s distorted vocals, it’s easy to spot The Strokes connection. But that’s a shallow reading—With You Tonight is way more New Order than it is 2001. And the comparison neglects the record’s nuance. Album opener, “Happenin’” fuses gritty riffs with Nikolai’s methodical hooks, while “Cleopatra” channels Talking Heads meets Tom Verlaine. “Girls On Bikes” feels like an ‘80s pop classic, as “Car vs Bldg” goes post-punk. Part new wave with an electro-pop twist, With You Tonight makes a bold statement. As the bassist behind New York City’s longtime favorite band, Nikolai remains shy and soft-spoken. As the lead singer of Summer Moon, he’s finally found his voice.
BULLETT caught up with the frontman to talk heading out on his own.
On Summer Moon:
It’s really about taking risks—and it’s a lot easier to take risks when you don’t have a quote-unquote legacy career behind you. So it’s a lot more relaxed and a lot more experimental—I mean, it’s serious, and I work really hard on it, but I get to play around a lot more.
On The Strokes:
When we make music, we also try to explore, but we also have to keep in mind that we do have a fanbase we’ve nurtured for almost 20 years now—that definitely plays a part in how we work.
On making the record:
The hardest part was just finding a flow. I’ve found it now, but just trying to get things to move along, was really challenging.
On being a frontman:
When you’re just playing bass, you get so comfortable in the pocket—especially with Fab, because we’ve been playing together since we were 18. It’s definitely a comfort zone and for this, it’s been really fun to get completely out of that comfort zone and push myself further than just being the guy who’s playing bass and singing, actually trying to elevate it to a higher plateau.
On playing the bass:
It’s just so much more me—it’s my personality, and an extension of my personality, and it just feels right. I can play the guitar okay, but it just doesn’t feel the same way. It’s fun and it’s fun to write, but being onstage and performing, the bass is just part of who I am.
On the Summer Moon sound:
It’s genre fluid.
On playing live:
Going to a live show puts so much more excitement into any music. If the band is any good, they’re going to breathe life into what they play—into something that’s already pretty static because it’s on a record and it never changes. It’s hard, because records are records and live shows are live shows—they’re two very different beasts.