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Julian Casablancas on Mets, uniform design and sports breaking your heart

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Julian Casablancas on Mets, uniform design and sports breaking your heart

It’s the best baseball movie of the year and it’s under five minutes long. No, it’s nothing that skipped the multiplex and went straight to streaming: It’s The Strokes’ music video for “The Adults are Talking,” the most recent single off their Grammy-nominated album, “The New Abnormal” which was released this April.

The video starts — as all good sports films do — with a montage of the band suiting up in the clubhouse. There’s lead singer Julian Casablancas stretching in his No. 77 jersey, drummer Fabrizio Moretti slowly putting on his cap, and guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. buttoning up his shirt. Then, as the lyrics kick in, it’s time to take the field against terrifying, green-eyed baseball automatons.

That’s right: The video is a blend of Super Baseball 2020 and the Twitter cries of, “Robot umps, now!”

“The original idea for a baseball video started years and years ago, before we even were signed, or maybe it was right after we were signed,” singer Julian Casablancas told MLB.com in a recent phone call. “It was for the song, ‘Alone, Together.’ When we’d listen to the song we almost imagined it would be the perfect song for some kind of baseball game. It didn’t end up being that video, but that’s when it started.”

The video is then a dream collection of some of Casablancas’ favorite baseball touches: Fellow musician Beck coaches third base. The team — depending on the instrument they play — rocks either treble or bass clef (get it — bass ball) caps. Casablancas even looked pretty good on the mound — despite not playing much baseball as a kid. Instead, it was playing video games in his 20s and full 18-person pickup games that got him back into the sport and into the artform of pitching.

There is even a shot-for-shot homage to “Major League,” a favorite movie of the band’s. Of course, that also meant Casablancas had to explain it to fans who didn’t get the reference.

“I had to go over the top explaining it. People were like, ‘Why did you punch Fab?” Casablancas said with a laugh. “’Punch that beautiful face?! Never!’ I think it was his idea.”

Then, there are the black Astros-inspired Strokes jerseys the team wears on the field – a uniform style baseball fans have been clamoring for ever since seeing them. That design choice was easy for Casablancas, who noted that’s what you do “when you get the chance to design a baseball uniform from scratch.” (He also said the group would put them into production if demand is high enough.)

“I was just going with some of my faves and that ‘80s Astros uniform is a pretty iconic baseball look,” Casablancas said. “We did it in black, and I hope that the Astros copy it and want to use it because I think it’s cool.”

Perhaps it was even subconsciously inspired by the first Mets game he ever saw as a kid.

“I realized though, ironically — or fittingly, I never know which ones to use — the first game I ever saw was when [bassist Nikolai Fraiture’s] dad took me and Nikolai to see the Mets in the nosebleeds and we saw them playing the Astros. I was thinking they’re probably wearing those uniforms. That’s not why we chose it, but I thought that was a funny connection.”

Casablancas has long been a style icon — essentially establishing the look and sound of NYC rock n’ roll in the early aughts — and his wardrobe now includes vintage sports gear. The band sold ‘90s Starter-style jackets when the “Future Present Past” EP came out in 2016. His other group, the Voidz, sold a colorful soccer kit in the style of Mexican goalkeeper Jorge Campos’ from the early ‘90s. And when the Voidz played “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” in mid-December, Casablancas was rocking an actual game-used throwback Suns jacket.

“I think style is, in and of itself, an unimportant thing,” Casablancas said. “But in becoming an artist — I mean in the early days, getting into music, going to see shows, whatever you want to call that — you realize when you see a band on stage, you’re looking at the shoes they’re wearing, the belt they’re wearing and, and all these little things. They play into all this, how you’re enjoying the music, and there’s a kind of magic show element to entertainment and art.”

That extends to sports and uniform design, where larger than life figures race out onto the field in their matching togs.

“I think people who have been mavericks in that realm — who are cutting edge and really display a kind of striking, unique, intriguing and enticing thing — I think they’ve always had more of a magnetic magical mystery to them. And yeah, I think that’s worth celebrating and emulating.”

Though The Strokes are far from being a baseball band, the last song on the record — “Ode to the Mets” — was inspired by the team. Casablancas wrote the song while waiting for the subway following the Mets’ 3-0 loss to the Giants in the 2016 NL Wild Card Game.

“Well, I gotta be honest, I was not that upset,” Casablancas said. “Because I’ve had my heart broken many times, obviously, as a Mets fan. I mean, really, the World Series loss, the NLCS vs. the Cardinals [in 2006] — those are real hard. Otherwise I quit sports. It’s this tribal thing that drives us to sports, like tribal warfare, but it’s not real. So it’s fun, it’s exciting. It gives you this kind of thing that humans need to feel, but [it’s not fun] when you’re depressed for a month because you feel like your village was burned down, but it really is because some strangers lost a game, right?”

So, while at the game with Paul Vassallo, who co-wrote “At the Door,” Casablancas kept making sure he didn’t get his hopes up.

“If I assume they’re going to lose, and then they win at the end, I will get excited,” Casablancas explained. “But if I get excited, and then they lose, it’ll be too painful. The whole time, I was like, ‘Next year, man. We’ll get them next year.’ Not that year, because the team was kind of a surprise. So, I wasn’t hurt emotionally.”

But when Casablancas had a melody pop into his head while waiting for the 7 train amongst a throng of disappointed Mets fans, he went with it.

“I was waiting and I started humming a thing. And I’m saying it and I recorded it that night and then called it ‘Ode to the Mets’ as a joke. Then it stuck and Fab talked me into it because it was a cool symbol of things from your youth that let you down, but you can’t let go.”

Though he’s no longer living and dying on every pitch with the team — Casablancas cites Darryl Strawberry as his favorite player growing up and the Mike Piazza-led Mets as high points in his fandom — he is intrigued by new owner Steve Cohen coming in to take over the team.

“I have very few Mets fan friends, but they’re very excited — the people who stuck around,” Casablancas said. “I am just gonna wait and see. If they did some things that I thought were smart, I might jump back in. I guess it is fair weather, but it’s just the ownership and the leadership and the coach and all that. You gotta be behind it, or you have no chance and it just [stinks] to be so invested.”

Still, there’s one wish Casablancas has: For SNY, the network that airs Mets games, to let him write the music they use before games.

“The SNY song was driving me nuts,” Casablancas said. “I used to watch a lot of games. I knew someone who worked for the Mets, who hooked me up with tickets sometimes. I had a whole song. I was like, ‘Let me do like the song for SNY for the game.’ It was kind of epic, rising — like an exciting game is gonna happen. But they just didn’t have their [stuff] together. And they were like, ‘We don’t have a budget.’ I was like, ‘You don’t need a budget. I’ll just give you the song. I’ll do it for free.’”

The SNY gig may not have worked out, but if the new ownership team is into it, Casablancas has one more idea:

“I was thinking ‘Ode to the Mets’ should be the song they play when they lose,” Casablancas joked. “Like a consolation.”

Michael Clair writes for MLB.com. He spends a lot of time thinking about walk-up music and believes stirrup socks are an integral part of every formal outfit.



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