A couple weeks ago, a coworker pointed out an iron-on Strokes patch on an old denim vest I was wearing that, truthfully, I had stolen from my boyfriend solely for that perfect patch. “You like The Strokes, huh?” he remarked. Before this interaction, we never really talked much, just a passing “hi” and “what’s up,” but that day I had learned that this man was also a renowned record archivist of sorts, collecting vinyl and magazines of beloved musicians for over two decades. A few days later he brought me a MOJO magazine from September 2003 with The Strokes on the cover, that included a six page interview on the guys following the release and tour of Is This It while they were working on 2003’s Room on Fire. It’s a funny thing, to be reading an interview over ten years old and thinking about how times have changed even in that small decade that doesn’t feel much like a decade at all. Our reliance on technology devices, the way we receive our news, watch movies and listen to music–all has gradually evolved into something we barely give a second thought. It made me want to hold on to that magazine, my vinyl and all other forms of music that could potentially get lost and forgotten in time.
A fellow lover of such similar nostalgic documentation is Jeramy “Beardo” Gritter, a self-described “old soul,” guitarist and old school video mastermind for the intriguing new project Julian Casablancas + the Voidz. During a phone call en route to Chattanooga, I was able to chat with Beardo about cats–he has three: Cane, Bacon and Pumps–(“you know, like women’s shoes?”), ghost encounters and perhaps, most importantly, the Voidz debut album, Tyranny, under Casablancas’ Cult label.
If you’re like me, you’ve been following the Voidz through VHS teasers like this one from last March, and have gotten the impression that these guys are very DIY inspired. “It’s weird, because I think [Julian] is a master of non-conventional like me,” Beardo tells me observing their recording method, “What everyone else is doing–I don’t want to do that.” Julian rented out an idyllic space for them to record, above Strand Bookstore in East Village, where all six of them remained for the next four to five months.
Working in a “sterile” studio didn’t suit the sound that the Voidz were going for, nor did working with an outsider producer to tell them what to do when they already knew. “The less people involved the better,” explained Beardo, “I don’t know if that ever existed for real artists–that atmosphere [in a studio] is for people who genuinely don’t know what they’re doing. Julian and I both have been doing this for the last 20 years, so we’ve been through all that and now we know what we want.” This punk rock aesthetic is not for the faint of heart, nor those who favor a good night’s sleep. “It’s crazy to record that way and you get stressed because you’re recording ’til 7AM for months, and yeah, you’re fucking tired and annoyed with each other, you don’t know if it’s going the wrong way or the right way, but it’s all part of the grind.” But would you really want to endure that whole “blood, sweat and tears” all over again? “It was painful, yes. But now that we’ve done it before we can do it faster and more efficiently next time.”
When Beardo is not wielding a Gibson Flying V for the Voidz all night, he’s collecting different mediums of film and, in this case, using them to film teasers and videos for the band. Julian suggested Beardo make the first video, who gladly took on the project, picking and choosing his formats. “I have the new technology, but I don’t really like to use it. It all comes from one circuit. Cameras from the 80s and 90s, even different VHS cameras matter because they all look completely different.”
The as-epic-as-it-sounds single, “Where No Eagles Fly,” has a Joy Division-like bass line and sinking synths that build into Julian’s distorted chorus vocals chanting, “Meat–Predators eat meat!” To capture the chaos and translate it to film, Beardo used TV, VHS, 8mm film and HD cameras for different clips of the guys on a rooftop blended with erratic closeups, but ended up scrapping all of the HD film because it “looked too perfect.” The opening shot of the song title drips blood over the screen like the credits of an awesomely bad 80s horror flick, which should entice anyone enough to watch the video.
“I think I like that look because it reminds me of being a kid,” Beardo says of the VHS film. It seems that the phrase, “out with the old, in with the new” might be losing some steam in the Age of the Internet–with the help of the Voidz. Maybe this is just wishful thinking, or perhaps we stand a chance at holding onto something tangible for a little longer.