Gear DNA: Reptilia by The Strokes

I Know You’re Not Boring

In this edition of Gear DNA we’re taking a look at a stone cold classic from 2004; Reptilia by The Strokes.

2004 was the year of dancefloor Indie, with debut albums from Arcade Fire, Franz Ferdinand and The Killers. All bands who can thank The Strokes for making it acceptable to create fun, guitar driven (whisper it) pop music. In this respect, Reptilia really captured the zeitgeist and sounds, well, very 2004.

Known for it’s octave-tastic break and solo, this is indie disco at its finest. It could be argued that Reptilia was the track that propelled the New Yorkers to respectability within muso circles, the video itself giving the viewer a look into the serious musical chops required to play the song. It was also featured on Guitar Hero III, so make of that what you will…

The Approach

In an interview with Guitar World, Albert Hammond Jr. was quoted as saying “We’ve always approached music with the mindset of: ‘We have two guitars, let’s use them wisely’”. This tune is the perfect example of that. You have the muddy downstrokes of Valensi, intertwined with Hammond Jr’s crispy, trebly Strat and it works sublimely.

Gear and Techniques

If you want to achieve this one-two punch of musicality then we recommend using two different styles of guitar.

Hammond Jr. plays a Fender Stratocaster on the bridge pick up whereas Nick Valensi plays his signature model Riviera, a guitar that has subsequently ended its production run. Don’t fret though, you can still get the fantastic Epiphone Riviera with P-90 pickups.

The Strokes don’t go big on the effects on Reptilia, instead they’re more about the amplification. For that rich tone Valensi and Hammond Jr. both use the fabulous Fender Hot Rod DeVille. In this interview with Reverb, Hammond Jr. discusses his no-nonsense, long term approach to gear, favouring more affordable gear than you’d expect for a world renowned guitarist.

The bass on the song is classic Strokes, and is achieved with a Fender Jazz Bass played right at the bridge through an Ampeg SVT-810E. Whilst we don’t currently sell the SVT-810E, Nikolai Fraiture plays almost exclusively through Ampeg amps. We recommend The BA 115 amp; a powerful piece of kit that is still relatively lightweight and portable. To create that round, vintage tone on Reptilia, you can use the built-in mute.

The Casablancas Effect

The vocal style of Julian Casablancas is The Strokes secret weapon and what really set them apart from other early 00s New York bands. We’re not going to recommend smoking 100 cigarettes a day  but we would say to try adding some distortion with a gadget like the Boss VE-8. That, and try get up really close to the mic so as to slightly overload it. The VE-8 is an incredibly versatile pedal that can also be used with an acoustic guitar, it even includes a looper.

We hope that you and your band can reproduce something as cool as this track. The gear used is for the most part affordable, attainable and can be adapted to suit your preferences.

If you have any suggestions for other songs to feature in our Gear DNA series, get in touch. We’re open to different genres and styles, so get involved!