Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The way that most people have known Nickolai Fraiture is as the silent bassist for The Strokes, with the awning of floppy brown hair, a good gaze atop those slumped shoulders and contributor of what is arguably one of the most essential pieces (see everything about Is This It, the song and the rest of it) to that most famous of New York City bands. He didn't come within 10 yards of a microphone with his "day job" group, just like the rest of the boys not named Casablancas and with the flood of Strokes projects now numbering three, his as Nickel Eye (a play on his own first name) might be the most intriguing of the batch, if only for the quiet power that he brought to the Strokes' now-legendary fuzzy, nighttime swarm of youthful indiscretion.
As it stands, Fraiture has a rusty soul, one that could be pumped full with buffalo nickels to make it operate, and it comes out in his songs that focus on an odd disillusionment and a general attitude of being slighted one too many times in a lifetime. They are songs for the working class citizens of all of the industrial districts of the world, but even more so, those poor blue-collared music-types, whose creativity and actions are constantly judged by the snot-nosed and the less ambitious but louder citizens with the whipping sticks. Fraiture takes on a tone - not necessarily a monotone, but one that portrays an audio weariness - that makes you feel as if a long day was now finally in the books and there was still no telling who won - the day or the man. He brings a sort of tropical, vacation-y reggae tapestry into the threads of the record, but the songs are decidedly about a beat down that's coming in waves and keeps coming in waves and there's nothing that can be done about it except for doing an acceptable job of putting out the little fires as they decide to crop up. There's always a tuft of orange popping into a flare somewhere within sight though so sitting down comes with peril. The Times of the Assassins is a deluge of the stories told by the broken, but not heartless or dead, men who have not really been allowed to see too many better days yet. His way or presenting these stories and his even-keel pacing and sound make the characters feel as if they've got their eyes half-closed from tiredness and the only thing keeping them awake at the moment is the cold beer in their hand and the throbbing of muscles, to go along with all of the other tribulations of controlling very little in their lives and getting pushed around way too much. What Fraiture has to write and sing about apparently are folks a little bit down on their luck, getting stepped on with dirty shoes by dirty souls and it's an interesting take - a major departure from the subject matter of a Strokes song. We now know what he was doing with all of his quiet hours and me time while he traveled the world, pulling that four-string over his should every night. He was devouring the scenes from the window as the van or the bus chewed up interstates in areas that weren't thriving, where there were no clubs or after hours enticements to be had. It was early to bed and early to rise - that working mentality - that could have had some resonance within. He was using that time breezing through novels of hard-timing America and mythology essentials and bringing the ideas together whenever it managed to work. He brings poverty a strange brew of poetry and now we know.
Nickel Eye MySpace