Interpol keeps the bright lights on

New York rockers reap benefits of working hard for a decade with world tour supporting U2, headlining slots at summer festivals.

Interpol 311 (photo credit: Jelle Wagenaar)
Interpol 311
(photo credit: Jelle Wagenaar)
With their dapper pin-striped suits, dark glasses and stylish dos, it would be easy to peg the members of Interpol for an ironic British new wave band from the 1980s. And a listen to their dark, atmospheric music, with its nods to Joy Division, New Order and Echo & the Bunnymen surfacing in their clipped songs featuring staccato bass, heavy snare and intricate guitar harmonies, only strengthens that assessment.
However, Interpol is as New York as they come, wearing their Manhattan rock & roll attitude on their carefully tailored sleeves. And according to drummer Sam Fogarino, labelling the popular post-punk rockers in any way misses the point.
“We’ve never really spoken about one singular source of inspiration, due to the fact that there simply isn’t,” said Fogarino in an email interview with The Jerusalem Post ahead of the band’s debut in Israel on August 30 at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds.
“As a collective, we don’t site/reference other bands as an ‘influence’... Points of reference within our extremely insular fold are always way more abstract than just pointing to someone else’s chord progression, or style of arrangement. Jointly, we’re moved far more by film and literature, rather than just another band/artist – or, better yet, a small numbers of bands that came out of the blight of England in the early ’80s.”
“And as far as appearance goes, the suit, as a mode of fashion, can in no way be claimed by any one band. Men have been wearing suits far longer than the advent of post-modern music. If we’re ripping off anyone, it’s Chet Baker!”
No matter who their sources are, Interpol has developed a winning formula since rising to international attention at the beginning of the decade as part of New York City’s gritty rock revival along with bands like the Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeah. Their 2002 debut Turn On The Bright Lights set the bar high for Fogarino and his band mates, guitarist/singer Paul Banks, guitarist Daniel Kessler and recently departed bassist Carlos Dengler. And its worldwide success quickly catapulted them out of the category of ‘New York band’ forever.
“It did reach a point when it seemed we were no longer a part of the ‘scene’ in NYC?. We had moved on from just playing locally to globally, and with a certain measure of accomplishment comes the backlash,” said the 43-year-old Fogarino, who joined Interpol in 2000 following the departure of original drummer Greg Drudy.
“As for our contemporaries of that period, early 2000s – we’ve always shown a great deal of support, respect, and admiration towards those bands – such as The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Radio 4, et al.”
Through three more albums, the most recent being last year’s self-titled offering which many observers considered a return to the heights of Turn on the Bright Lights, Interpol has established itself as a leading indie rock attraction – so much so that they were asked by U2 to join them as the opening act on their recently concluded international summer stadium tour. Although they were performing to audiences considerably larger than their regular level, and the great majority of the crowd was there to see the headliners, Fogarino said that the band didn’t attempt to change their show to compensate for the circumstances.
“We’ve been at this thing for over a decade, and up until recently, we’ve never really supported any other bands for more than a one-off, or two night stand – let alone a full on stadium tour,” he said.
“We just thought ‘why not?’ It was a lot of fun to do. We’d just hit their massive stage and bang out 45 minutes of our music, and that was that. Many of U2’s audiences all over the US and the EU were very kind, if not downright, amazing to play for.”
One adjustment the band did have to make was to adapt to the absence of bassist Dengler’s departure. A founding member, he left the band after the recording of the fourth album was completed. However, according to Fogarino, even though they didn’t name a permanent replacement, Interpol took the move in stride.
“To be honest, the adjustment period after his departure was very brief. We’ve managed to move on without missing a step,” he said, adding that they’ve been too busy to contemplate adding a member.
“We went out and did some press in Europe, prior to rehearsing for a world tour lasting 15 months (at present we have one month to go before we end the cycle.) At this point in time, we just need to take a break from the whole enterprise. When the time is right, we’ll discuss doing a new record, and possibly adding a new permanent member.”
Interpol will be joined in Tel Aviv by touring musicians Brad Lee Truax on bass and Brandon Michael Curtis on keyboards, giving them a fuller, multileveled sound. Since the U2 tour ended, they’ve been making the rounds of the summer European rock festivals, an endeavor Fogarino finds invigorating.
“Playing festivals are a lot of fun, indeed – a great deviation from the norm, with all of the other interesting bands playing on the bill, and just socializing together in the common areas,” he said.
“You never know who you’ll see – or what you’ll see!” Well into their second decade together, the members of Interpol have seen a lot, and despite the tendency to rest on their laurels or become jaded, the key to their success, according to Fogarino, is to not take their success for granted.
“It can surely be a challenge at times to keep the enthusiasm, but we’ve all managed to keep our heads on straight by realizing this is a once in a lifetime thing, that is in no person’s control,” he said.
“How many kids in high school dream about making music and touring the world for a living? How many of those kids actually succeed in doing so? That’s all one needs to keep things in perspective.”

Tags interpol