IN THE STUDIO: INTERPOL
New York trio ready the “rock’n’roll bangers”.
Scarves at the ready, as the New York trio lay down tracks for their stunning sixth album in an upstate winter wonderland.
If they hadn’t been deep into writing new material at the time, Interpol would have had reservations about embarking on last year’s triumphant tour to celebrate the 15th anniversary of their era-defining debut. Looking back and revelling in nostalgia isn’t a natural fit for the New York trio but revisiting the past fed into the present. Playing Turn On The Bright Lights to frenzied crowds around the world meant they returned home with a spring in their step. “This was the first time we put a bookmark in the writing process,” says guitarist Daniel Kessler, down the phone from Tarbox Road Studios near Buffalo, upstate New York, where the band are nearing completion on their new LP, titled Marauder. “It felt like a celebration and it was a real opportunity to check in with our fans, get our motors revving,” adds frontman Paul Banks. “That sort of visceral energy you get from an audience, touring old favourites – that’s a good energy. It was a great thing to put in our pocket and bring back to the writing process.” Kessler, Banks and drummer Sam Fogarino run a tight ship, co-producing two of their first three records and doing the last two themselves. As they began throwing ideas around in late 2016, basing themselves in Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ rehearsal space in New York while Karen O’s gang were out of town, they agreed it would be good to put producer and Flaming Lips collaborator Dave Fridmann at the controls for their sixth record. “It felt like, when you did the math in your brain, it could make for a really interesting result,” says Kessler. They have had to adapt to Fridmann’s schedule, recording in two-week bursts at his studio, and Fogarino thinks that giving Fridmann the role of “team captain” has liberated them. “It gives you the freedom to push it to the limits and let somebody rein you in,” says the drummer. At one point, the producer informed Banks, who has filled in on bass duties since the departure of Carlos Dengler, that his part on a certain song wasn’t up to scratch. “I got a bad grade on my bassline,” says Banks, who didn’t take it to heart. “I’m a bit more open to feedback. It’s part of my new Zen approach.” Kessler says Interpol never have a “what are we going to do on this one, then?” meeting at the start of making a record. “It’s more intuitive, like we’re all touching a ouija board and it just moves,” he says. “We don’t have a plan.” To that end, Marauder is a continuation of the trio’s everso-subtle shape-shifting, each new LP adding a fresh dynamic coat to their atmospheric indierock. Fridmann has brought out a more loose-limbed feel, the rhythmic grooves not as tightly wound as on previous records.
That approach adds an element of menace to tracks such as Flight Of Fancy, which threatens to collapse in on itself during an exhilarating outro. “There’s some tight-fisted rock’n’roll bangers on there,” says Banks, “and there’s a couple of songs going a little deeper into psychedelic, Pink Floyd moments.” Banks explains that galloping opener If You Really Love Nothing and claustrophobic rocker Now You’ve Seen Me At Work contain themes on “the unwieldiness of love.” “It ain’t easy, man, on these streets,” he laughs. Banks’s chief aim was to work out how to do his best work without tearing his hair out. “I’ve got my Jedi mojo going as far as tapping into an automatic writing mode while maintaining a conscious eye on what I’m trying to say,” he says. “I’ve got a good balance where it feels less effort to get better work.” Banks’s Jedi mojo and Zen vibes mask the fact that Marauder is the sound of Interpol at their most wonderfully intense. Still brooding, never breezy, revisiting the past has helped them to map out a thrilling new way forward.
“It’s like we’re all touching a oui ja board and it just moves.” Daniel Kessler
Now and Zen: Interpol (left, from left) Sam Fogarino, Paul Banks and Daniel Kessler, Tarbox Road Studios, New York; (right) Banks and Kessler get in touch with the spirit realm.
Baby, it’s cold outside: Fogarino and Kessler, Tarbox Road Studios, New York.