In this heavily hyped day and age, most heavily hyped bands go only as far as the initial hoopla, their coveted buzz fickly trickling to buzz-kill. Not so with Interpol, the onetime buzz band whose hum has now become a bona fide roar.
Back in 2002, the New York band's debut, Turn on the Bright Lights, got them noticed, big time, by everyone, everywhere, despite their being lumped into some kinda scene that never really existed. They had the look (clean and lean), and they had the sound (post-postmodern postpunk).
But the 2004 follow-up, Antics, outshone even those Bright Lights. It outsold it, too, and forever put an end to any naysaying notion of a sophomore slump. Propelled by singles "Slow Hands," "Evil" and "C'mere," the LP also made many best-of lists, and after 18 months of nearly nonstop touring (including slots opening for the Cure and U2), many, many new fans.
Then those Big Bad Apple glory boys disappeared. Two — singer Paul Banks and drummer Sam Fogarino — decamped to Jersey City. Guitarist Daniel Kessler dropped off the radar completely. And bassist Carlos D, who up to that point had never met a party he didn't hit, spin and close, holed up in his East Village abode, exploring film scores.
A few months later, word leaked that the band was leaving über-indie Matador (home of New Pornographers, Mogwai and Cat Power) and jumping to Capitol. But the deal — a result of a two-year courtship — was less about money and muscle and more about cohesion. At last the band would have a single company handling its world. Further, this particular major label rostered the likes of Radiohead, which meant it knew how to handle major talent. And Interpol had grown to be just that.
Utterly major. With Our Love to Admire, released this past July, Interpol has delivered the kind of LP people used to stand in line for — something soarful, something sweeping, something for our souls.
The first single, "The Heinrich Maneuver," is not just an unadulterated blast of high sass; it's a hell of a heartfelt kiss-off. Torn between moods, livid and longing, disdain and desire, Banks swoops in with lipstick on his collar and leaves stinging with bitch-slap. Thing is, he's the cat doing the slapping. Wham, bam, I loved you, ma'am.
It's a clench that gets more than a little release throughout Our Love — "Mammoth" ("Spare me the suspense"); "All Fired Up" ("I can bind you without ties"); "Who Do You Think?" ("I only call them when I know I don't see them"). Each song is a more successive — and successful — call to an end to a certain arm-in-arms.
Banks may croon, but he doesn't preen. In fact, the cat comes off like some poet who not only knows how to fistfight, but also revels in the flurry of the fray. Emboldened by his own boldness, he takes off his well-slung jacket and scraps. But beneath that you encounter something altogether different. Oh, not empathy (Heaven forbid), and not compassion (may it rot in hell), but — dare we say it? — feeling. A heart not on his sleeve, but in his hand, and he's holding dear every beat.
Above and beyond all, though, Admire marks an enlargement in Interpol's scope, a welcome byproduct of (a) recording in the fabled Electric Lady studio, and (b) Carlos D's newfound affinity for the way we hear movies. Epic without being smarmy or sentimental, gritty without having to be raw about it, this is the sound of a band coming into its sonic own.
The Press caught up with the newly 'stached and bolo-tied Mr. D on a brief break between a summer of festivals (Lollapalooza, Reading, Leeds, Coachella) and a fall onslaught that'll take Interpol into '08, including a date next Tuesday at the Verizon. Here's what he had to say.
[Laughs.] Good question. And the world really wants to know. We're going to have a band meeting soon about whether we're going to reveal this information. Right now that information is classified.
I see, so you won't tell me why he maneuvered west?
What about Rosemary [name-checked on "Evil," from Antics]?
Ah, that's a good question too. I never really thought about it. I'm sure Paul would tell you who it was.
I thought he wouldn't, but you might.
I certainly wouldn't. I wouldn't defy his preference. Lyrics are his baby.
Then you won't tell me who Stella is either [from "Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down," on Turn on the Bright Lights]?
I don't know Stella.
Sounds like these people are culled from a certain scene; that's why I thought they might be someone you knew.
Well, there is a Heinrich, but I'm not sure that Heinrich has anything to do with the Heinrich in "The Heinrich Maneuver," or what the song is about. "Leif Erickson," for instance, was called "Leif Erickson" not because Vikings were germane to the topic, but rather a circumstance that emerged during the creation of the song that we just decided would be a good idea to attach it to the title.
I read you're over being the so-called party boy. What happened?
After a while, these pointless, meaningless conversations with people you're not going to see or care about ever again, like, after a week, becomes kind of old. And the inability to really connect with people because you're too busy getting wasted all the time kind of gets old and lame too. It just gets really boring, you know. I've shifted all of my priorities.
Are you still spinning at all?
No. You know, DJing to me was really an expression of, um, valiant debauchery, if you will. Once the debaucherous part got taken out of the equation, the DJing stopped having a real oomph for me.
Is Interpol's new, uh, look a reflection of that?
Yeah. I got bored. I mean, you just can't be in the same place forever; otherwise you lose credibility as a person.
I see you're slated to play Madison Square Garden. How's that feel?
I'm trying not to think about it too much. I've got a lot on my plate. I don't like to think about any particular show as being more important than another, because it just kind of throws way too many factors into it for me, you know? I just want to keep it 'a show is a show is a show.' I don't care if it's in front of 20,000 people or it's in front of five — it's a show. I try to treat each one exactly the same way. And that works out really well.
If you could live anywhere other than New York, where would you live?
Um, probably somewhere up north in Canada, like Nova Scotia or something.
Like in Halifax?
No. Like off in a rural area. I'd probably look for the exact opposite, a place where there are good people.
You told the BBC Our Love "had the feel of late-19th-century German symphonic music." Are you a Wagner fan?
I'm not so much of a Wagner fan as I am really a late-19th-century romantic. I'm really into my Sibelius and Tchaikovsky, Liszt and Dvorák. But I'm much more into the sort of modern aesthetic — that's a real big thing for me right now.
Do you have time to keep up with new bands and, if so, who do you dig lately?
I do have the time to keep up with new bands. I've chosen not to because I'm focused a lot on classical music and film scores. The aesthetic of a symphony orchestra — that sound — is what my ears will only tolerate listening to right now. For some reason it just sort of happened, so I'm always very embarrassed when people ask me about new bands and stuff, because I'm completely out of the loop when it comes to that.
When you say film scores, do you mean just listening or composing as well?
I'm dabbling with some scoring; nothing has really come out of it just yet, but primarily listening.
Like who? Morricone and those cats?
No, nothing that classic. Like, for instance the score to Batman Begins, which is Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard — big Hollywood scores. What's really interesting to me is that art form is not really a very popular art form.
Any others you care to cite?
There's a wonderful composer named Alexandre Desplat, who's been very big in the French film circuit but recently has gained some notoriety internationally with The Queen, The Painted Veil, Syriana. I think he's working with Ang Lee right now on his latest film.
You see yourself doing likewise someday?