The Strokes On Picking Their Band’s Name And Other Options

by Eric Van Dril · 18 comments

There’s nothing going on with The Strokes right now from a news perspective, but I’m fine with that. The YouTube videos from Lollapalooza (especially this one) have made me fall in love with the band again for about the 851st time.

To tide things over until more news surfaces, I think it would be interesting to post something about how The Strokes settled on the name The Strokes. I never really thought about multiple meanings of the band’s name until I read the excerpt following this introduction three or four years ago. I always thought the name The Strokes was referring to the medical condition, but then I read this and I thought, “Shit, it can also mean masturbation. Or Stroke of genius. Or a hundred other things.”

Now, in 2010, the name is another way I justify calling The Strokes my favorite band because it’s so fucking cool, interesting and superior to 98% of other bands

Why are you called the Strokes?

Julian: Because it means a lot of things that are artistic and strong. We all do interesting things in different ways and the words means interesting things in different ways. It just made so much sense that you can’t deny it.

Fab: We’d rejected a bunch of names. Nikolai said that made us laugh for days: ‘de Niros’ as in ‘the Niros’. I used to think of what the word actually meant: a stroke [holds his heart in an inaccurate medical mime], a stroke… blow to the face… a stroke in a painting. The one I think of the most is the brushstroke. But now I just of five dudes standing around.

Nikolai: There were so many different meanings to it, it could never pin us down. So many people have said ‘stroke of luck’, ‘stroke this’… there’s never one thing they can focus on. There’s when you have a stroke, cerebral congestion; there’s a stroke when you play guitar; then there’s the obvious sexual undertones.

Nick: When it first came up, it was like, ‘Oh, The Strokes, like a wank.’ Then a person said ‘No, it’s The Strokes like a heart attack’. Then another person said,’…like a caress’. It rolled off the tongue really well – sort of violent and sort of sexual and it just sounded cool to everybody.

Albert: We’d come in with all these bad names – the de Niros, the Rubber Bands, the Motels, Flattop Freddie and the Purple Canoes – and no one would agree. One day we’re in the studio after practice and Julian said ‘The Strokes’. And everyone was like ‘that sounds great!’. It was that easy; five guys agreeing. it doesn’t really mean anything. We thought it was a cool rock and roll name. When I first heard it, it sounded so old, like someone would have already taken it but no one did. Then I looked it up in the dictionary and ‘a powerful blow to the face, chest or body’ was the first thing. Perfect. That’s exactly what our music is. It’s like a powerful blow to the face.


Although The Strokes is a great band name, Flattop Freddie and the Purple Canoes would have been so vastly superior. Can you imagine Letterman introducing the band with “And from their breakout 2001 album Is This It, here is Flattop Freddie and the Purple Canoes with “Last Nite”? How boss would that be?

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Siobhan September 18, 2010 at 10:47 am

Hahahaha… Flattop Freddie and the Purple Canoes, that’s just deadly!! I wonder how the hell they came up with that one?! Albert’s description is my favourite. It looks like Nikolai’s got a real penchant for cheesy puns though nobody could stop him with Nickel Eye.

2 Mary Shea September 18, 2010 at 11:39 am

^hahahaha I’m such a sucker for cheesy puns. Nikolai’s great.

I like The Strokes.

…I think mostly because I can’t think of them any other way. Also, when I first heard of them, I didn’t really associate the word “stroke” with any of its typical meanings. I just accepted it as a band name right off the bat. That’s cool though, this is the first I’ve seen mention of alternative band names. I remember that one Zane Lowe interview with Albert and Nick…they wouldn’t mention the rejected ones (“there’s a reason they didn’t make the cut”). Thanks for posting, Eric.

3 Becky September 18, 2010 at 1:31 pm

No!!! I always assumed (for real) that they were named after “The Stroke,” by Billy Squier. Which is the best song in history.

4 Bmarts September 18, 2010 at 5:01 pm

hey, i dont know how to suggest things to this site, but i found this song that was in verizon commercials and it completely rips off “last nite”, which, ironically mimics tom petty’s american girl…. and there are some concert videos where julian finishes last nite by breaking into american girl…

this song is the rip off…

and this has julian singing the intro to American Girl at 2:52 ish…

5 Eric Van Dril September 18, 2010 at 5:13 pm

@Bmarts — Thanks for suggesting it. I’m not going to make it a post because I’m trying to be more positive, but it’s definitely a blatant rip off of the two songs. I posted it on Twitter, so hopefully it catches a few eyes.

6 Speedy September 18, 2010 at 8:09 pm

i felt so blue today so i put the strokes on (my daily habit)& then i came here & i read this & it made me laugh, thanks eric…& interviewee.

7 Speedy September 18, 2010 at 8:16 pm

@Becky, it could mean that too if you wanted, you are the strokes too, so name it after whatever.

8 Becky September 18, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Thanks, Speedy; that’s a lovely sentiment. I like to think that I, too, could have a little bit of The Strokes inside me. I think about that all the time, in fact.

9 Siobhan September 19, 2010 at 1:24 am

I think Nick mentions the Billy Squier song somewhere in the Nardwuar interview…

10 Speedy September 19, 2010 at 12:22 pm

what about Venison, where did the strokes get that name, it also means alot of things like deer meat.

11 Mike September 20, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Oh, Albert. You and your love of Mr. Show. Flattop Freddie and the Purple Canoes — clearly he meant to say “Flattop Tony and the Purple Canoes”.

12 Niloufar September 28, 2010 at 7:37 pm

This is the lamest comment you’ll ever get, but does the other two percent include Radiohead?

13 Eric Van Dril September 30, 2010 at 8:50 pm

@Niloufar — That two percent is indeed Radiohead. I wrote that with them in mind.

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18 john shittrain January 28, 2016 at 1:20 pm

With their sound and musical presence, I believe they could’ve pulled off Freddie Flattop and the Purple Canoes , but it would have severely altered the course of history. Perhaps Psy would’ve replaced Julian, and Nick a sex-change.

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