The evolution of a band’s music is rooted in their collective experience. Endless hours spent in the close quarters of a sprinter van. Countless nights in rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms and hotel rooms. The days and nights slip into months, then years, eventually forming an almost inexplicable bond, if it weren’t for the music that came as a result. In turn, an album paints a picture, it tells a story of the experiences, influences, and commonality of those who created it.
After 4 years of this collective journey, Los Angeles-based musical mavericks CRX are ready to independently release their 2019 sophomore album, Peek.
On this record the band, Nick Valensi [lead vocals, guitar], Darian Zahedi [guitar, backing vocals], Jon Safley [bass, backing vocals], and Ralph Alexander [drums] have fully realized their neon-hued hybrid of new wave, post-punk, and cataclysmic metallic funk.
In addition, the band has added acclaimed keyboardist Brad Oberhofer to the live line-up, a prolific indie-rock songwriter and performer in his own right.
“Our friendship is crucial,” explains Nick. “There’s a strong songwriting partnership between myself, Darian, and Jon that developed on the road. For Peek, we co-wrote everything together—from the music to the lyrics. We spent so much time hanging out and working on these songs, that together we were able to capture something special and reach a new level musically.”
“We pushed everything else aside for a minute and put all we could into this,” adds Darian. “It became our collective focus. A cathartic thing happened where we devoted our entire creative and emotional energy to CRX. If you’re a visual artist, you have a gallery show every now and then as the culmination of what you’ve been working on. You’re building up to the show. For us, the album defines what’s been happening in our lives, our perspective, and who we are.”
It all began with 2016’s debut, New Skin. As the story goes, Nick wrote the bulk of the material by himself, as his future band mates joined the fold one-by-one. They tracked alongside producer and Queens of the Stone Age mainman Josh Homme at the infamous Pink Duck Studios in Burbank, CA. Everything gelled on the road. Following the release, they canvased Europe alongside Queens and supported Death From Above in the United States between selling out headline dates.
Along the way, CRX received widespread critical acclaim. In a 3.5-star review, Rolling Stone praised how, “CRX hits a nice balance of buddies rocking out and ace studio energy.” NME bestowed a 4-star rating on the album as they graced features from Pitchfork, Guitar World, V Magazine, and more. Medium summed it up by claiming, “It’s certainly one of the very best albums of this autumn, and may well go down as one of the best of the year as well.” Not to mention, the songs clocked upwards of 10 million cumulative streams and counting.
As early as 2017, the band compiled ideas for what would become Peek. Alternating between Nick’s Pasadena house and a downtown Los Angeles rehearsal space, Nick, Darian, and Jon feverishly composed tunes as a unit. At the beginning of 2018, they entered NRG studios with producer Shane Stoneback [Vampire Weekend, Sleigh Bells] at the helm and locked into an unbreakable rhythm. Throughout the ensuing year, they laid down tracks at Chromeo’s studio in the Valley and Red Bull Studios in Santa Monica amidst a busy tour schedule. Drawing on a mutual obsession with everything from Remaining Light by Talking Heads and Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) by David Bowie, the boys unlocked a new level of chemistry in the studio.
“The recording was very different, because we made a big deal of tracking it as live as possible,” Darian continues. “We also let go and embraced some of these really cool influences that took us into the stratosphere. It was a combination of writing for over a year, getting out of our heads, and knowing what we wanted to sound like.”
“The influence of Darian and Jon was prevalent in the recording and arrangement,” adds Nick. “I was more controlling on the first record. This is everybody in a room.”
They teased the forthcoming new music with a summer 2018 release of the one-off “Love Me Again.” CRX properly introduce Peek by way of the near six-minute “We’re All Alone” which blossoms into a full-scale distorted jam after twisting and turning through a disco-strut and handclap-punctuated bounce. “We wanted to do something hypnotic as fuck. “says Darian. Lyrically, it addresses a pervasive theme of isolation with lines like, “Put down the phone and face it…we’re all alone.” “We could be right in front of each other and not communicating,” Darian elaborates on the lyrics.
In “New Obsession.” Dusky feedback drenches a danceable bass line and keyboard warbles as Nick’s anxious delivery echoes on the hypnotic hook, “Now, I’ve found my: new obsession.”
“It’s about a fixation that could be on anything,” says Jon. “It could be a person or a thing. It doesn’t matter. It sounds like anxiety with all of the repetition in terms of the beat and the bass line.”
Elsewhere, “Falling” amplifies the power of this intense groove, while “Crash” thrives on the inimitable interplay of the band.
In many ways, all roads led to this. Their respective bona fides speak for themselves. Nick is a co-founder of The Strokes, while Darian and Jon have collaborated for years in The Reflections and People on People.
“It’s much easier for all of us to sit in a room and make music for hours on end than anything else,” Nick leaves off. “It’s our happy place. That’s the common connection we all share. It’s the reason why it works so well.”