Artists have had no problem stating that they’re not fans of the current political landscape, though very few are singing about it. You read all the time about how everyone has disdain for the current state of affairs, but there’s almost no one blatantly speaking to it. You know Julian Casablancas from his band The Strokes, but you may not know his latest band, The Voidz. In the middle of touring to support their latest, this year’s Virtue, we chatted with Casablancas and political comedian Lee Camp about politics in lyrics, the corporate takeover of America, and how he sees the world in general.
One view of Casablancas’ Twitter feed and you should get where his head’s at. With songs about corporate greed and songs about oppression, we were curious if he knew who got the message and who it was being lost on. “Are you asking man on the street or someone who bought a ticket to come to the show? I figure if they came tonight then they were at least interested in the thematic spirit. I think the fact that people don’t get it is the issue at hand, and that’s why you’re doing it. You’re telling them, ‘guys, we’re kind of quasi-in the Matrix of no democracy.’ Right or left, let’s talk about all of those issues later and get democracy first. Let’s just be friends, I think most people are against special interests. It may come off more emotional or extreme in music, but it’s art to be interpreted in different ways.”
Bands begin, bands end, the goal for any and every band is different. In a recent piece with Lee Camp on the RT show Redacted Tonight, Casablancas stated how such lyrics exist in hardcore punk, but not in mainstream music, a sentiment we found to be true and rather shocking. “The way music works is the problem with all capitalist systems towards the end. Having success and a goal to make money is great, but where we’re at now, everything is scientifically designed to make money. So it’s all of these factors that determine popularity, so there’s no interest in artistic value. There’s no Oscars for music that says, ‘these are the great albums’ it’s just like, what’s popular wins. It’s the same with the news. It’s more about what the corporations decide to put to Superman music with laser lights and have the handsomest model convince us what’s the best. It’s about selling stuff, I love Democracy Now! and I wish it were that way, but it’s not.”
The Voidz, in the midst of a large scale run of shows, is definitely far and away from what you may think about what artists with the success Casablancas has seen, would normally be doing. Though he is quick to defend why he’s touring this band rather than sitting around waiting for the next move by The Strokes. “But, what you’re saying here, is cultural brainwashing. Because you’re assuming that my goal is just to make as much money as possible. I mean, not you, but people in general. I’ve heard that a lot, and no one wonders, ‘well what would make you happy?’ It’s just ingrained in us, a knee jerk reaction, if you have a successful business enterprise-you’re making money so you must be happy. Whether you’re happy or not, didn’t cross my mind. And, I would do the same if I saw someone in the same instance. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just the way humans work. You have to grow up with a certain amount of bullshit to navigate reality.”
As far as the touring goes, the amount of time put into the band, it’s definitely a labor of love. “Yeah, I agree with all of that. Can you just put my name in quotes and say, ‘what he said?’ I think the truth is, when it comes to performing, the tragedy of doing music, that’s why I’m willing to jam. The most fun I have is when we’re making things up. Creating stuff, writing stuff, recording and making it sound good; all the first times you’re making it it sounds good and you feel good. Boredom is a made up human thing to keep you going, to keep you from getting too comfortable, or too happy or complacent. Sadly with music, it’s the case. You can have the best song in the world, and if you listen to it enough times, it kills it. The amount of time I have to put in to make a song sound good, if that even happens-the times I walk past a bar and there’s a guy inside playing a Cat Stevens song, I think, ‘I’m pretty sure that guy’s enjoying himself more than I do.”
That sentiment, is echoed by Camp who has been in the room the whole time, but hasn’t really chimed in much. “When I’m down in New Orleans, and I go to a cafe and there’s a band playing, I don’t get the idea that they’re in it to make it. I think they say, ‘I’m making $75 tonight, and I’m having fun.’ And there’s a beauty to that, just seeing people enjoying playing music.”
Which brings to mind what this is all for. Is this enjoyable for Casablancas and is he having fun playing with The Voidz. “Yeah, I mean, life is more complicated than yes or no. I just feel like for me, it’s all long term goals. When you’re working on the little corner of the house you’re building, is it fun? Fun is not the right word. But, the truth is, if you really believe in something and you’re passionate about something, then you have to have the passion and the love for it so much; that even the minutiae of that is fun. Because you know what the end result will be, so that’s why I’d say yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s a party side thing, it feels like building cause’ you’re a human being and that’s what you do.”
You can stream Virtue or Tyranny on all streaming sites, you can purchase them in all digital storefronts, or directly from Cult Records. You can catch Lee Camp on RT with his show Redacted Tonight. You can catch The Voidz on tour in Mexico City on October 18 at Pabellon Cuervo until November 7 in Iceland at Iceland Airwaves. A complete list of their tour dates can be accessed here.
Image Credits: Photos by Derek Rathbun.