Few bands are as synonymous with New York City than The Strokes, who helped launch the rebirth of the city’s rock scene nearly 20 years ago. So it’s fitting that their new album, The New Abnormal, concludes with “Ode To The Mets,” a mercurial and layered finale of nearly six minutes. But you won’t hear frontman Julian Casablancas crooning about the team’s bullpen woes or Wilpon mismanagement—in fact, he doesn’t mention baseball at all.
Like much to do with the team in Queens, it started as a joke. Casablancas, a Manhattan-raised Mets fan—one of his first memories is the team winning the 1986 World Series—attended the 2016 Wild Card game against the Giants at Citi Field with Paul Vassallo, a Strokes guitar technician. After New York lost 3–0 when Jeurys Familia gave up a three-run home run in the ninth inning, Casablancas wrote “Ode To The Mets” while waiting for the 7 train on the platform outside the stadium.
But the brutal loss—which, Casablancas claims, didn’t hurt much because he was “expecting them to lose the whole time,” though he also proudly recalls waging “psychological warfare” against Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner by heckling him—didn’t directly inspire the song. “I did write it on the subway platform of the 7 sadly waiting for the train, but I wasn’t really thinking of the game,” he says.
Casablancas jokingly started calling the song “Ode To The Mets,” always planning to change it, but the name stuck after drummer Fabrizio Moretti—who has said both the Mets and the song evoke “something that you set your heart to and that you love unconditionally but that continues to disappoint you”—convinced him to keep it.
“That wasn’t my intention with the song, but I can’t argue with that,” Casablancas says of Moretti’s interpretation. “I always want people to take whatever they take out of art.” (Once he actually did write a song about the Mets: Annoyed with the theme music on SNY’s local broadcasts, he says he composed a new tune and offered it to the network for free.)
Between the 2016 Wild Card Game and the April release of the band’s sixth studio album, Casablancas “quit sports." Even before that game, he had started souring on the entire concept of fandom.
"If a team you’re rooting for loses, you have this weird deflated thing that doesn’t make any sense—the team has nothing to do with you," Casablancas says. "You have this genetic code that kind of makes you feel like your village was burned down, but really just some random people you don’t know lost a made-up game." (Curiously, after decades of sports-induced misery, his final straw was the Jets drafting Sam Darnold instead of Josh Allen in 2018.)
But if the Mets, who blast Ace Frehley’s “New York Groove” after victories, started playing The Strokes’ unintentional ode after defeats, Casablancas wouldn’t complain. “I think it would be soothing, perhaps,” he says. “If it gave crying children a little hope and inspiration for a better tomorrow, who am I to argue against such an idea?” Once again, he's joking.