Originally created 03/16/04

Drummer has rhythm and reason to the Strokes

In a Rolling Stone cover story last fall, drummer Fabrizio Moretti was touted as the "deep thinker" of the Strokes, the band most responsible for sending modern rock back into the garage.

No one ever said that about Ringo.

"I wish I had a deep thinker answer for that," Mr. Moretti says when pressed for a nugget of intellectual wisdom. "I guess it's an honor, but it's just one person's opinion and we'll have to wait to find out. I could have been called the skinny, frizzy-haired drummer."

After falling over their thesauri to praise the band's Is This It debut, rock writers reacted less unanimously to the band's sophomore Room on Fire. The follow-up unfolds with a more deliberate pace, and several songs strongly echo the formula on the first album.

The Strokes profess not to care about the hype.

"If you pay attention, it can sway you in both a negative and a positive way," Mr. Moretti says. "You can get a big head, and it also can knock you down. So the intelligent thing to do in a case when you are being spoken about is not to pay attention."

But you're in the biggest band in the world, right?

"That's ridiculous," Mr. Moretti says of that kind of hype. "At the same time, I'm not sitting in a corner because some guy spoke badly about the drum parts. We do the press because we know logically it influences how we are perceived, but we don't pay attention to it after the fact."

Mr. Moretti confesses he is mystified that someone would love the first album and dislike the second, because they're similar.

"We are growing as a band, but not necessarily in leaps and bounds," he explains. "The songs on the second record are a lot more three-dimensional. I'm very proud of the songs, not at all uncomfortable about the fact that we chose to produce it in a similar fashion."

There's an undeniable sameness to Room on Fire's Reptilia, with the churning guitars of Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. forming the foundation for singer Julian Casablancas' nicotine-stained howling.

Yet there's also a bluesy tint to the guitar solo on Between Love & Hate that takes the band where it hasn't been before. Bassist Nik Fraiture brushes against a caffeinated reggae beat in the same song.

"We're in a different place rhythmically, melodically, lyrically," Mr. Moretti says. "We worked really hard on developing that. It's not that straight-ahead rock that the first album was.

"If people spent half as much time actually listening to the record instead of thinking about what they are going to say about it, they would come up with something better to say."

Though Mr. Moretti defends the band's music enthusiastically and articulately - maybe he is the smart one - he is still adjusting to the insatiable glare of the media spotlight.

Gossip columnists have reported on his relationship with Drew Barrymore, who talked about Mr. Moretti in the February edition of People magazine.

"It's the most positive relationship I've ever been in," Ms. Barrymore said in a story that describes the couple as "deeply in love."


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