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On the Road With Little Joy

The second side project from The Strokes sees Fabrizio Moretti and friends take their bittersweet melodies on the road.

One of the unexpected aural delights of last year was the debut album from Little Joy. They were formed after a chance meeting at a festival between Rodrigo Amarante from Los Hermanos and Fabrizio Moretti, drummer with on-hiatus The Strokes. When Moretti’s new lady, Binki Shapiro joined in, adding her sweet and low-down croon, the group coalesced, eventually taking their name from a local dive in Echo Park, LA. The intoxicating mix of Brazilian bossa nova, calypso,  ballads that float on a breeze and lovelorn lyrics (which switches between English and Portugese) on display is miles away from the taut garage rock of The Strokes and is all the better for it. It’s the perfect record for these cold winter nights, instantly transporting you to warmer, sunnier climes as you take that last end-of-night waltz in some late-night bar.

Truth be told, this interview was meant to take place in December while they were touring LA but crossed signals made it otherwise. But it’s impossible to hold it against them when the music is this gorgeously laidback and when Dazed Digital finally manages to speak to Fab (on the auspicious date of January 20) he makes for an engaging, enthusiastic subject, as excited as we are to check out the swearing in of a certain President…

Dazed Digital: Hey Fab! How’s the tour been going?
Fabrizio Moretti: Hey man, the tour’s been going really well. We’ve been playing shows since November now which is exhausting but we’re keeping the faith, know what I mean?

DD: How did you feel about stepping up to the microphone for the first time?
FM: I didn’t really step up to the microphone. I did some writing and told somebody (Rodrigo) to step up to the microphone.  But I did harmonies and stuff like that.

DD: How did you achieve such a warm sound on the record?
FM: When we first started making the record, we were hearing these great recordings from the 50’s, 60’s and shit. They never worried about putting a mike here and another mike there at the same time. It was one big good piece of equipment often in the middle of the room as the whole band played together, giving it the sense of community, that sense of love. And what we did was write all the songs in my house. Seeing as we didn’t have any equipment or sufficient space, we did it with one mike. Then we kinda developed this style of sound. When we got into the studio, we aimed to be honest as possible to the original demos.

As for stuff we were listening to when we made the record, my iPod is stuck full of Motown and Sam Cooke, Bee Gees and Kinks, Bob Marley and Nina Simone. All kinds of good stuff. When you get to drive around in a motherfucking tour bus, you have to keep yourself sane somehow, otherwise you’d go out into the street and smash a car or something!

DD: The music is perfect road-movie music. Who’d be your ultimate road-movie partner?
FM: Dustin Hoffman I’d have to say! I could listen to him talk for ages

DD: Making the record must have been such a different process to recording with The Strokes. Different pressures and budgets…
FM: The pressure isn’t so much external as they are internal. You want to do as best as you can. Obviously the budgets were different. It was a humbling and honest experience. We made do with what we had and tried to do the best we could, it seems very grass roots almost.

DD:The songs sound pretty broken-hearted but hopeful at the same time. Is that true of the mood you were in when you wrote it?
FM: Absolutely. Heartbreak, in my experience can be beneficial to you when you’re writing songs, then you can start to see your relationships objectively. We tried writing about love from every kind of perspective. We weren’t trying to revolutionize anything, just trying to sing about what we were feeling... Some of the songs were born of real heartbreak and some from a new kind of hope, a new discovery of love. But I’m in a different place now. Writing the songs was a very cathartic experience for me. I got more in touch with myself and how to co-exist with others.

DD: The album was released on the day of elections. How have you found America has changed since then?
FM: The change is coming. There was a shift in the sands on November 4 and everybody is super excited about it but the change is still to come. Hell yeah am I gonna check out the inauguration!!!

DD: Last question that we’ve gotta ask, any news with The Strokes?
FM: We’re back in the studio from February and we’re gonna start working on new songs.  I love those guys, and I’m really proud of the music we’ve made and excited for the future of The Strokes. So that’s what I’ve got on for 2009!

Polaroids by Pooneh Ghana and Chris Cantalini