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Casablancas aims to fill musical Voidz with new crew

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Julian Casablancas and the Voidz' debut album, "Tyranny," is a wild journey through time-shifting rhythms, digital fuzz, punk noise and found sounds. It's a jarring listen; it doesn't sound anything like the Strokes, the New York City modern rock outfit Casablancas founded in the '00s that forever cemented his cool, nor does it have the neon glow of his 2009 solo album, "Phrazes for the Young."

Rather, "Tyranny" is Casablancas' strange trip through a retro-future, post-apocalyptic wasteland, transmissions from the last video store on Earth. He and the Voidz bring their first headlining tour to Saint Andrew's Hall in Detroit on Wednesday.

"We're exploring the uncharted territory in between the different genres of music we enjoy," says Casablancas on the phone Monday from just outside of Minneapolis, where he and the Voidz would play a show later that night. "Some of it is aggressive stuff, and some of it is underground world stuff, and we wanted to play all these styles and wrap it up in a package that was catchy and accessible to people."

Casablancas says "Tyranny" is more representative of the sound in his head than "Phrazes for the Young," which he now looks at as a stepping stone to the Voidz.

"I was kind of at a low point and I had to start over in a way," he says of "Phrazes." "I wasn't really thinking, I was just trying to do stuff myself with a computer. I had some stuff that sounded a little bit more mainstream, and then stuff that was more close to my heart, and I was little worried that if I came out and did that first, people would dismiss it. But this time I realized I actually wanted to do what I think is cool and trust myself, and if I followed that, people will actually like that more than if I'm trying to please people. And I decided I'd rather fail doing what I want to do than be something I'm not. This is closer to what I wanted to be doing."

His experience with "Phrazes," which he recorded alone, also taught him the importance of working with a band. He formed the Voidz with keyboardist Jeff Kite and drummer Alex Carapetis, two of the musicians in his solo touring band, along with bassist Jacob Bercovici and guitarists Jeramy "Beardo" Gritter and Amir Yaghmai.

Casablancas and the Voidz recorded "Tyranny" using nontraditional approaches, running back sounds on VCRs and recording drum tracks in stairwells and bathrooms.

"There were all kinds of crazy recording things we did," says Casablancas, 36. "We want it to be warm and sound organic in a way, but there are some weird sounds on there."

The Voidz started playing shows earlier this year and eventually found their groove together.

"We've finally got our stuff together. I think we've gelled completely, finally," says Casablancas, who is married and has a son who turns 5 in January. "We've always had chemistry, but to bring to people to share it is a different level. You've gotta play like 30 shows first. Even our worst show now would have been a wild celebration a couple of months ago."

In addition to the Voidz, Casablancas played several shows with the Strokes this year and plans to work with them again soon; the band is scheduled to play the Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona next May. Meanwhile, the Voidz' current tour wraps with a pre-Thanksgiving show next week in New York, and there's more to come in 2015.

"We have so many things that we didn't finish, songs that we didn't do, so I think we want to put that out at some point," he says. "Voidz will keep going."

Julian Casablancas + the Voidz with Shabazz Palaces

7 p.m. Wednesday

Saint Andrew's Hall, 431 E. Congress, Detroit

Tickets $20 or (313) 961-8961