Three things about Julian Casablancas: The man never writes shitty songs, he never rocks bad fits, and he never gives bad interviews. These are incontrovertible truths. I’m personally not sure why the guy ever talks to anybody in the media anymore, because he usually doesn’t seem super-thrilled with the results, but I’m eternally thankful for his resilience in this regard, because I’m a fan and I honestly love to hear him weighing in on whatever subject happens to be on that day’s docket.
So what’s on today’s docket? Well, Billboard just published an extensive Q&A with JFC, pegged to the 10-year-anniversary of his first (and technically only) solo album, Phrazes For The Young. They’re all about seven months early to that party — Phrazes came out in November 2009 — but I’m stoked to talk about this stuff any day of any year, so as far as I’m concerned, the timing is perfect. THAT SAID, by about the halfway point of the interview, both parties have moved on from the subject at hand, largely because Jules doesn’t really care for the record in question. His words:
CASABLANCAS: Certain [Phrazes] songs still work for me. Like “Glass.” But a song like “Out Of The Blue,” or a song like “11th Dimension,” they have issues for me.
I mean … “Out Of The Blue” and “11th Dimension” are probably the two best songs on that LP? Whatever, it’s fine, the man is entitled to his take, irrespective of its objective validity. Who cares? It’s all great! Honestly, the whole interview is great, but the hottest stuff comes up when Jules talks about streaming services (he’s not a fan). Here’s the upshot:
BILLBOARD: Music has shifted so much in the last 10 years, both culturally and mechanically. What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered?
CASABLANCAS: As an artist, it doesn’t change. No big changes, really. In terms of what a label should be… no one knows what’s going on or what to do. Even a major label, they have their relationships, but it’s all about Spotify. I don’t use Spotify. I think all those streaming services are… I don’t like them. They’re the new MTV, the new gatekeepers, so labels make deals with them to basically… they’re all just ripping everyone off. I don’t know. I don’t think labels have a clear identity right now. I’m not there on the forefront trying to figure out how to exploit and make money. I’m more interested in doing something like The Grateful Dead did: go town to town, be friends with the cool radio stations, play the cool venues, make relationships with cool promoters. You can have your online existence, but trying to suck on Spotify’s sweet sweetness is just a waste of time for me.
BILLBOARD: Since you don’t use Apple Music or Spotify, how do you like to listen to music?
CASABLANCAS: I listen to the radio and generally stay below 92. That’s the best place to hear music. There’s still DJs playing cool things. Everyone I know who’s listening to Spotify or Apple Music doesn’t discover anything interesting. When I ask them to pull up a cool song, they don’t even have one. If you have to choose a streaming service, I would say YouTube is the only one, even though that’s kind of not what it is.
BILLBOARD: Does that feel most conducive to discovery for you?
CASABLANCAS: Well you can find anything. Most of these streaming services you can’t really… I mean I get it. If you want to hear music in a simple way, it’s $10 a month, I get it. You’re not gonna buy songs on iTunes, I understand that, but.… Yeah I basically rip things and put them on a non-Apple device, because they don’t even let you have MP3s anymore, it’s so stupid. It’s gone so backwards. The whole process of music is so stupidly complicated right now, for all the technology.
WHERE IS THE LIE THO?
“I generally stay below 92″ is the single coolest thing you could say about music discovery in 2019. It doesn’t get better than that! But like I said, it’s all killer, and since we’re here, I’m gonna cherrypick a few other great lines, totally disembodied and decontextualized (by yours truly) for max impact in this milieu:
CASABLANCAS: If theoretically, in society, we valued not having slave children make your cups, and an aesthetically-pleasing cup would have more of an advantage, then what would society look like?
If theoretically, in society, we valued not having slave children make your cups … Remember, this is an interview about the 10th anniversary of Phrazes For The Young.
Here’s another choice nug:
CASABLANCAS: I don’t really see it, but what a cool trend would be — and “trend” is a hard word to use for it — is a cultural shift towards quality and community … That might be in 400 years. I have no idea. It might be tomorrow. Might be happening already. Eventually when [capitalism] wrecks enough of the world and society, then there might be the shift.
The above statement was in response to this question: “So what’s cool? Any trends in the last 10 years you’ve been pleasantly surprised by?”
OK one more:
BILLBOARD: If you could go back to those sessions and talk to 2009 Julian, what would you say?
CASABLANCAS: Tough to say, because I don’t want to mess with [the continuum].
Come on. I just love the guy so much. Read the interview because it’s awesome. Come back to this space in November 2019 and we’ll go deep on Phrazes. In the meantime, let’s send off with “Out Of The Blue”: a perfect song.