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Group Therapy

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Then, within less than a year of each other, they all settled down with girlfriends and pretty much left the party behind. As if they didn’t realize that sex and drugs were the whole point of rock stardom, let alone of that period known as one’s twenties, they’ve shacked up and sobered up by their mid-twenties. Albert hooked up with Catherine Pierce of the alt-country duo the Pierces, whom he pursued for more than a year after seeing her onstage at the Mercury Lounge with her sister. Nick fell in love with Amanda de Cadenet, an English actress and photographer who was formerly married to John Taylor of Duran Duran. Nikolai recently married his longtime girlfriend, Illy, with whom he had a daughter last year. And, as all readers of Us Weekly know, Fab has been going out with Drew Barrymore for the past three and a half years. Tristan never raved about Isolde the way these guys talk about their women. “She’s so beautiful,” Fab says of Barrymore, “she must have the gardens of Babylon inside of her.” And he gets so excited when she calls one night that he insists on putting me on the phone just to share the love.

Finally, in the summer of 2004, Internet chat rooms started buzzing with the rumor that Julian was engaged to Juliet, who had worked for the band for several years; they were married in February 2005.

When I joined the band at the Metropolitan hotel in London last month, I found one wife and two girlfriends in residence, along with two kids. Juliet had just returned to New York, and Drew was doing reshoots in L.A. Drinking absinthe with Fab until six in the morning was my only glimpse of the Dionysian touring life. “Dude,” he said the next afternoon when we ran into each other. “I passed out with my cheek on my bed, kneeling on the floor—my knees are, like, fucking aching.” And the famed bar at the Metropolitan, known for late-night post-concert binges, seemed similarly played out.

Domestic tranquillity is anathema to rock-and-roll mythology, if not necessarily to rock-and-roll reality; hearing the Rolling Stones play in the late seventies, you might have questioned the value of a full-on program of drugs and debauchery, in terms of the musical product, and the Strokes seem to have understood the pitfalls of this far earlier and less painfully than the average gang of guitar slingers. “If I were 13, I would not want to hear this,” Nick says about how they’ve all settled down. “But I’m tired of bars, I’m tired of these drunks and cokeheads. I’m trying to live responsibly. Do I want to live out this rock-and-roll cliché, or do I want to be a healthy, morally responsible person? Being healthy is not easy when you’re in a band, but that’s who I am. I’m not going to act like Sid Vicious.”

In Julian’s case, that realization appears to have had an especially dramatic effect on his life. After Room on Fire, he quit drinking, which radically altered the internal dynamic of the band, though it’s hard for any of them to talk about. When you discuss what the last few years have been like, the question of his drinking is the elephant in the room. By Julian’s own account, he first got drunk when he was 10 and later had run-ins at school. By the time he was in the Strokes, the drinking was out of control.

“Julian’s become a lot more communicative since he quit drinking,” Fab tells me one night over Heinekens in the Wiz Kid offices. The subject keeps coming up with the others, albeit timidly. “Julian quitting drinking had a big effect on the dynamic of the band,” Nick says at one point. “Instead of the four of us excluding Julian and getting together and venting and airing our concerns, he’s a part of it now. He’s a lot more approachable and communicative. He’s letting us know what’s on his mind.” Albert, who was the last to join the band and admits to still feeling insecure about his role in it, doesn’t want to go near the subject. “He’s my best friend, and it’s great to see him happy and being aware of everything,” he says.

I hate them all
I hate them all.
I hate myself for hating them
So I’ll drink some more.
I love them all.
I’ll drink even more.
I’ll hate them even more than I did before.

—“On the Other Side”

My last night in London, I’m supposed to have dinner with Julian at nine. So I skip the Franz Ferdinand concert to which Hammond and Moretti have invited me. “Dude, did you see that sunset?” Fab asks when he spots me in the lobby of the Metropolitan on his way to the concert. “It set like it was the last time on Earth. Like, ‘Good-bye, humans.’ ”


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