Nikolai Fraiture: The Strokes bassist takes a turn as Summer Moon’s frontman

The Strokes bassist Nikolai Fraiture is embracing the role of frontman with his new project Summer Moon. A supergroup of sorts consisting of Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction, Camila Grey of Uh Huh Her, and Noah Harmon of Airborne Toxic Event, Summer Moon’s debut release With You Tonight is in stores now.

We chatted with Nikolai in advance of the record’s arrival in the racks.

Was Summer Moon always band you were thinking about starting? How did it come about?

Summer Moon was actually more of an album title that I had a couple of years ago. Then over time the project changed and involved other people, so I thought it sounded better as a band name rather than putting it out as another solo album.

It started in my music space. I have a recording space in my home in New York. I had some songs that I was working on and then I asked some friends in New York to play and jam and kind of try to breathe life into the songs. We recorded over a lot of what I had already done and I did some recording in Austin, Texas, as well. And then finally, I hunkered down and finished the album. Then I met some musicians in Los Angeles and that’s our current lineup—Stephen Perkins, Camila Grey, and Noah Harmon.

Was it a different experience from making a Strokes album? Did you draw from different influences?

Yeah, I feel like with Summer Moon I can take a lot more risks than I would otherwise. I was listening to this genre that I stumbled upon called Italo Disco, kind of weird Italian disco from the ’70s and ’80s. The tones and the experimental nature of the synthesizers and the overall music is what influenced part of the album.

Is that a deliberate sound you were aiming for with Summer Moon?

It was kind of a blend of things. Tonally, I really liked that influence, but overall the songs are a lot longer experimental things—the structure isn’t super tight. So, blending that idea of the tones into more structured songs, like influences that I’ve had from New York all my life, mainly makes the composition of the album, rather than just that influence. It wasn’t like I heard that and then wanted to do it. It’s more like one aspect of the album.

You’ve already done a lot of shows in LA. Once the record is released are there plans for a tour?

Yeah, the idea is to tour. After LA, were looking to play in New York in April. So, that’s the next phase and then figuring out everyone’s various schedules to make a tour work.

Why did you decide to release this album through PledgeMusic?

The idea at the beginning, when we were deciding a strategy for putting out the album, was to be much more DIY. I was able to do a lot more of what I wanted through PledgeMusic. We considered other options, but if you go more major they want to couple you with another producer or a “big name,” which we weren’t really interested in doing at the time.

PledgeMusic came about because bands like The Flaming Lips, The Pixies, and other bands have been doing it and it feels more intimate with the artist. The relationship between the artist and the fans is valued more. The idea of this album was to put it out with distribution and they allowed me to have an imprint. The imprint is DTF Records, which in my head at the time was “Direct to Fans,” which was sort of what I was hoping for with this kind of release.

You have a lot of cool personal items up for sale with the album on PledgeMusic. There’s handwritten lyric sheets, costumes from your music videos, even a guitar. Which item are you most excited about?

We have a zine that’s coming out through Pledge. I’m very excited about it, because it’s going to have a lot of different aspects—from myself, people who are involved in the project, and other random people. There’s a poem written by Mick Rock, the photographer. We had a conversation one day about French surrealist poetry and I wasn’t aware that he went to Cambridge in the UK and studied literature. He told me he had a lot of poems hidden in a box somewhere. I asked him if he wanted to contribute one and he did. We have an interview with Patti Smith that a friend of mine did a few years back that he was kind enough to contribute as well. And there’s some photography, poetry, art—a lot of eclectic stuff that I’m excited about.

Do you remember your first experience with vinyl?

Yes, my mom had a very large vinyl collection from her younger days that she kept. So I remember vinyl playing in the house very often. She had a lot of ’60s and ’70s music, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones… She had a very cool collection. I was lucky that she handed it over to me a few years ago.

Do you have a favorite record store in New York?

Sadly in New York they’re becoming fewer and farther between. Unfortunately it’s closed now, but Rebel Rebel Records on Bleecker Street. Of the ones that are open, there’s Generation Records on Thompson Street. And there’s another one that just closed, Bleecker Street Records, which moved to West 4th. And Other Music is closed, so yeah, I don’t know, at the moment there aren’t that many in New York that are left. But Rebel Rebel was the one I would go to a lot.

What are you always looking to add to your collection?

Anything that is new and cool where you can see that the artist took time and care with what they’re releasing. You know, in terms of the actual music and the album and the packaging—the whole product. I would say The Flaming Lips are a good example of that.

Did you think a lot about the album art for Summer Moon?

For sure. The single artwork for “With You Tonight” was a friend of mine and a cool photo that was kind of inspired by old Pixies stuff. I wanted to have a photo, not something I found on the internet, or something that somebody did. It was an idea and we got a photographer to take it. The album artwork is the thunder moon of our logo. Everything that goes into it stems from what I was doing. Very little outsourced designing took place.

What’s one record everyone must own?

Probably, for me, a record that I always go back to is David Bowie’s The Singles Collection. I think it’s great. There’s just about everything you could want in a record and in music on that album.

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PHOTO: JOSH GIROUX

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