The Strokes - Reptilia

"Reptilia" is a song from the Strokes second studio album "Room on Fire," released on October 28, 2003. Album itself took its name from Reptilia lyrics, "The room is on fire as she's fixing her hair."


Story behind the song

The title "Reptilia" may refer to the "reptilian brain," the central part of the human brain, which controls basic emotions such as love and hate. Though, possibly, the title can be a comparison of the girl in the song, who doesn't care about the guy, and Reptiles, who are cold-blooded creatures. [1]

When the song came out as a single in 2004, the Strokes took the image for the cover from the Atari 1980 video game "Centipede."

The lead singer Julian Casablancas noticed this image at Drew Barrymore's house, "Drew has [the game] at her place. It's such a cool image. I saw it on the side of the machine and said, 'Hey, look — it's Reptilia. Done!' There are always so many different parts in a song that it's like some indistinct monster. The image sort of matched. It just all made sense. So why fight it?" [2]

"Reptilia" single cover

Music videos

Official music video

The Strokes chose Jake Scott to shoot the video, which resembles full-band song covers and features close shots of the band members' faces, hands, and instruments while performing the song.

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Live version

In August 2003, the band toured Japan, playing a couple of the upcoming songs. "Reptilia" was among them.

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Live at Summer Sonic in Tokyo on August 3, 2003.

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Live performance at BST Hyde Park in 2015.

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Live at Lollapalooza Argentina in 2017.

Notable covers

Howie Beck made an acoustic cover of the song in 2006.

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FourPlay String Quartet covered the song in 2006 for the album "Now to the Future."

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Bluegrass band Punch Brothers covered this song at WNRN in Charlottesville, Virginia on February 16, 2010, before their show at Jefferson Theater.

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Gear and settings


Albert Hammond, Jr.

Albert Hammond, Jr. used Fender Stratocaster 1985 Re-Issue, which is his primary guitar.

Nick Valensi

Nick Valensi's used his Epiphone Riviera with P-94 pickups, which later became the basis for his signature model Epiphone Nick Valensi Riviera P94. At one point, the original guitar went missing in transit between New York and Los Angeles, so the Strokes revealed its details in hopes to find it. [3]

This 1995 guitar is made in Natural (Orange-ish hue) color, its serial number is R95E5702. The pickguard has been removed. The headstock plate has an "E" Epiphone logo on it. This guitar has trapezoidal "mother-of-pearl" inlays on the neck. It's been modified with twin P-94 pickups and trapeze tailpiece. [3]

In the official video, he appears playing his signature model.

Nikolai Fraiture

Nikolai Fraiture plays Fender American Standard Jazz Basses in different colors in the official video and in live performances.

Nikolai Fraiture and his Fender American Standard Jazz Basses

Amps and effects

Albert Hammond, Jr. and Nick Valensi

Albert Hammond, Jr. and Nick Valensi had almost identical setup: Fender Hot Rod DeVille 2×12's for their "raunchiness," an MXR Microamp as a tone/volume boost for solos, and a Jekyll and Hyde for distortion. Albert Hammond revealed:

"I had the Jekyll and Nick had the MXR, and we thought that we could both get some great sounds out of both of them, so we went shopping together." [4]

Fender Hot Rod DeVille 2x12

Fender Hot Rod DeVille 2x12

Nikolai Fraiture

Nikolai Fraiture is sponsored by Ampeg, so he uses the SVT-CL Classic Bass Head and Ampeg SVT-810E Bass Enclosure.

Ampeg SVT-CL bass head

Amp settings

  • Gain - 4
  • Treble - 8
  • Mids - 4-6
  • Bass - 6

Using the bridge pickup.

Jekyll and Hyde overdrive settings:

  • Drive full
  • Tone full


Guitars: standard tuning (E A D G B E).

Bass: standard tuning (E A D G).

Song key

The song is written in the key of B minor.


The song is based on double stops, chord strumming, and single-note riffs. Note, that some double stops aren't played on adjacent strings, so you should mute the strings between them.

Song breakdown

The song has the following structure:

Intro - Verse 1 - Pre-chorus 1 - Interlude 1 - Chorus 1 - Solo - Verse 2 - Pre-chorus 2 - Interlude 2 - Chorus 2 - Outro

The intro of the song starts with a bass line supported by guitar volume swells. Then both guitars come in, Albert plays a double stops variation of the main riff, Nick strums chords.

The first verse starts with a single-note variation of the main riff, solely performed by Albert Hammond, while Nick and Nikolai stay silent, then bass line starts again.

In pre-choruses, Albert and Nick play patterns used in the intro.

A notable feature of this song is interludes between the pre-choruses and choruses, which is played by Nick Valenti, using double stops with slides.

In the chorus, Albert Hammond plays a single-note riff, which requires good hand-stretching. Nick continues his riff from the interlude.

The solo is performed by Nick Valenti. Opening and closing parts of this solo are rather simple comparing to the middle part, which is played in fast tempo, involves bends, releases, pull-offs and ends on vibrato. Albert strums chords during the whole solo.

The second verse differs from the first one, as it's played with Nick Valenti's palm-muted power chords.

The outro of the song resembles the intro, but after the volume swell, the song abruptly ends with a single strum.

Guitar cover

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Guitar lesson

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Bass cover with tabs

Several parts of this cover deviate from the original version, as the bass line is based on a personal preference of the player.

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  1. "'Reptilia' by The Strokes"
  2. Entertainment Weekly "Arcade game inspires the Strokes"
  3. 1 2 "Epiphone Riviera Nick Valensi Signature Electric Guitar"
  4. Guitar Magazine. October, 2001. "'All the Young Dudes' by John Callaghan"