Interview with Interpol: The Rigors of Self-Examination

This year, New York City’s Interpol found themselves in the midst of a stride, producing what would become their, self-titled, fourth album. Such a stride it was, that it rewarded the band with their most ambitious album yet—one that would serve as a symbol of Interpol’s staggering ingenuity, and at the same time come to be the swan song for one the group’s most visible members.

“On paper,” says drummer Sam Fogarino, “it seems much crazier than it is, but it’s actually been a really great summer.” The craziness that he refers to was first the cancellation of U2’s tour dates in America earlier this summer, on which Interpol were set to perform. Then came the news that long-time bassist Carlos Dengler was leaving the band just as news regarding the release of Interpol (Matador Records) began to pick up steam. Dengler, in addition to being an essential creative force in Interpol, was popular among fans but, with that said, his departure was not surprising to his former mates. “He loved making records. That was his most enjoyable part of being in a rock band—the writing and recording process,” says Fogarino. “But we talked about [him leaving] for over the course of a year, so when he finally made his decision, it wasn’t like a bomb was dropped.”

To leave Interpol was not an easy decision for Dengler to make, and while his bandmates understood and respected his decision, they didn’t necessarily relate to his longing for a life away from Interpol. So, like with any relationship that ends, Interpol proceeded through the awkward stages of separation, then emerged ready to move on as a trio.

They brought bassist Dave Pajo and keyboardist Brandon Curtis (Secret Machines) on board to tour with them in support for the album—so far, audiences have taken the makeover well. “The audiences that we’ve been playing for are really present,” says Fogarino. Two of the more staggering performances on YouTube right now are performances of “Lights” and “Summer Well,” both songs from the new album that were filmed during a performance in Pittsburgh in June. Both clips reveal a new swagger in Interpol, as the band now boasts a relaxed confidence to compliment their new look and new songs.

For close to 6 years, Interpol toured and recorded practically non-stop. Their first two records, Turn on the Bright Lights (2002) and Antics (2004), were recorded and released in a whirl-wind, and the tours that followed each record stretched 18 months each time. But over that time, the experience of playing together gave Interpol what Fogarino describes as the feeling of “having more of a pallet to choose from.” With their third record, Our Love to Admire, released in 2007, Interpol became more deliberate about what they were trying to achieve, and the album gave audiences a first look at Interpol’s creative outlook, now quickly expanding. The approach and mindset put towards a broody album like Our Love to Admire should theoretically make for exciting music, as the songs were stark and expressive. But as Fogarino explains, “it kinda didn’t pan out. It became a sink-or-swim, keep your head above water kind of thing.” They would soon learn the pitfalls of caution, however. Too much consideration and second-guessing on Our Love to Admire can be sensed throughout, and while the group certainly doesn’t dismiss the album, Fogarino is quick to point out that the recording of the album was a learning experience.

That said, he also speaks clearly about Interpol’s current state of mind, which suggests that the band has taken the lessons of the past to heart. When talking about this latest release, he speaks passionately about “really getting into the minutia of a song” and “finding the missing pieces” of a song when composing. The passion is obvious on Interpol—a bold and extraordinary album, revealing in its nature.

“Summer Well” is one of Fogarino favorite tracks. Vocalist Paul Banks gives one of his best performances on the track, and lyrically he ascends to new levels, while the rhythmic, island flare of the song is something that stands out most prominently to Fogarino. The opening track to the album, “Success,” might very well be Interpol’s crowning achievement, with its resonant wall of guitars—compliments of guitarist Daniel Kessler, meshed together with Fogarino’s break-beat, and again leaving Banks to craft vocals that both haunt and inspire all at once. As an album, Interpol is hypnotic and packed with crescendos—even more so than would be expected from a band like Interpol.

While Interpol may have lost one of its founding members this summer, they found comfort in returning home to another old friend—Matador Records. A short stint at Capital Records during Our Love to Admire proved less than fruitful, as turnover at the label gave way to a lack of focus and further inconsistencies. But now with Interpol being released on Matador, Fogarino expresses a feeling of comfort in being back in the hands of their old label. “They get the band… aside from them being adept business people, they release bands they like, whether they’re going to sell ten-thousand, or fifty-thousand, or a hundred-thousand records—it just doesn’t matter,” he says. “They’re just very passionate, and they go with their gut.” Once Interpol started putting out feelers, there was no hesitation on Matador’s part to become involved once again with the band. “We played them the record, and automatically, they came up with their perception of how this record should be released and marketed,” says Fogarino, “and it was like, “Wow, it feels like we never left.”

The road will call Interpol back once again upon release of the album, as the always indelible group looks to perform the new material that they are so very proud of. “We’ve come out on the other side of things, taking really deep breaths,” says Fogarino, “and we’ve really been able to hone in on exactly what we want. There’s not a lot of guessing involved.” Armed now with an album that is the touchstone of their greatness, it would be hard to imagine Interpol ever second-guessing themselves again.

Interpol’s new self-titled album is available in stores now and they will be performing at the United Palace Theatre in New York City on November 5, 2010. More information can be found at