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Different Stroke

Casablancas’s tall frame is hidden under layers of shirts and sweatshirts, and he is so pale that one fears for his skin in the sun. (“Sometimes I’ve sat outside, not to tan, but as a result of that I ended up tanning slightly,” he offers.) Over ten years and three Strokes albums, the press has portrayed him as the boozing, disaffected epitome of rock and roll, as well as everything that’s still cool about New York—aided in no small part by his seventies shag haircut, a wardrobe of leather and velvet, and, until recently, a lot of public intoxication. In fact, he’s more Edward Scissorhands than Iggy Pop, equally vulnerable and optimistic, and laboring under a persona he’s clearly outgrown. “It almost would’ve been more fun if I hadn’t been drunk,” he says. “I remember the hangovers better than the time I was drinking.” Those days are over. “Some people can drink casually. I envy them. If I have one drink in me or two drinks in me, I just don’t have the willpower to stop anymore.”

At 31, Casablancas is now a family man. Five years ago, he married the band’s then–assistant manager, Juliet Joslin. When he’s not making music, they hang out with their two dogs, Balki and Voltron, named for the Perfect Strangers character and the eighties cartoon, respectively. Marriage, he says, feels “pretty natural,” even though he hadn’t planned to get hitched so early. “I guess I never thought I’d meet ‘the person,’ but I don’t find it weird. I find it great.” Casablancas is equally enthused—and somewhat freaked out—by becoming a father (his wife is due next month). How does that mesh with rock stardom? “The idea of being a rock star is never something I’ve thought of anyway,” he says. “In most cultures, you can have a kid at 18 and it’s not a big thing. It’s not like, ‘Oh, you’ve got to get a different haircut and move to the suburbs and act, like, 35.’ I don’t get that mentality. I’m trying to enjoy the time before it because I know that everything is going to change. You’re just trying to make this little life survive.”

Given his own tempestuous youth, he’s aware of the challenges. Casablancas was a bit of a terror growing up, sneaking out late and drinking forties in the park. He was raised by his mother, former model Jeanette Christiansen, who divorced his father, John Casablancas, founder of Elite Model Management. But he can’t imagine bringing up a kid anywhere else. While recording out West, he briefly flirted with the idea of moving to L.A., wooed by blue skies and his love of driving the ’92 Cutlass he bought for $1,000. “L.A. is a vortex. The weather there tricks you into thinking you’re on vacation, even when you’re working fourteen hours a day,” he says. “But when I came back, I was like, ‘Whoa! What the hell was I … I’m glad I got out of there.’ ”