Here’s an excerpt from the Albert Hammond, Jr. feature that appears in Sentimentalist Magazine issue 24. For the full text, check out the back issue. Enjoy!

Albert Hammond, Jr. has always been Mr. Cool.

The fro-rocking, snazzily-dressed, eternally head-bobbing guitarist of The Strokes has long been the epitome of “downtown cool” since his band stole our hearts (and plenty of girlfriends) in 2001 with the release of Is This It. Now, with the debut of his surprisingly adroit solo album, Yours to Keep, be prepared to call him something you might not think to attribute to a Stroke: Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky.

The album came together in a friendly, haphazard way. “Cartoon Music for Superheroes” was the first song Hammond wanted to record, “and have some ear candy around it.” To fuel creativity, he set up shop in drummer Matt Romano and producer Greg Lattimer’s kitchen to record the song. “The response from all my friends was so good, and I liked it so much, it was like, ‘okay, let’s try another one.’ It was a battle, don’t get me wrong, but those came out well, and before I knew it, I had a record.”

Although considered an accident, Yours to Keep was on Hammond’s back burner. “It always seemed like something I wanted to do, and when I met with Matt, and started talking about music, we—me, Matt and Josh (Lattanzi, bass)—recorded everything live, and by the time we were doing ‘Holiday’ and ‘Hard to Live in the City,’ we felt like a band. It was really strange, and…beautiful.”

Partly inspired by Woody Allen, Humphrey Bogart, “dumb movies that relax your brain,” and boasting a stunning guest roster—Julian Casablancas, Ben Kweller, Sean Lennon, Sammy James Jr. of Mooney Suzuki and Jody Porter from Fountains of Wayne—Yours to Keep is truly a community affair. “Everyone was really committed, and so it didn’t feel like work. There was this feeling of wanting to get to know [the songs]…I made sure there was no TV anywhere. We’d have puzzles, or there was a pool table and we’d play. We were always talking and ideas were constantly flying around because of that.”

Listeners will undoubtedly compare the album to The Strokes. “I feel me, Matt and Josh make something that’s very special, and it’s nice when they can be different, but there’ll always be comparisons to things because that’s the easiest way to explain to people what it might be like. I think The Strokes are a great band, so if I’ve been compared to a band like that, I can say that honestly that’s very nice.”

Pleased with his triumphant CMJ show last fall at Mercury Lounge, and large venue tours with bands like Incubus, Hammond is, surprisingly unaffected by the attention his project is receiving, grateful even. “I’m very lucky to do something like I like to do, and have some people be curious enough to want to hear it…It’s amazing that you even wanted to write about it!”

Check out Sentimentalist’s coverage of Albert’s show at Bowery Ballroom in April 2007 here.

–Carrie Alison, Photo by Lane Coder