Written by Ida V. Eskamani
"Rock & roll bitch/I'm into it," Interpol vocalist Paul Banks' doomy baritone permeates our eardrums, anchored by guitarist Daniel Kessler's indefectible riffs and drummer Sam Fogarino's rolling precision. This is the Interpol of today, on full sonic display on their newest album, Marauder. After six albums in 17 years, and a mini-album set to release later this month, the dapper post-punks have struck a balance few bands in their position can: They are an institutional touchstone that continues to draw new fans in.
Interpol circa 2019 meets the standards for legends. They are one of the few remaining standard-bearers of a scene that once included the Strokes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Walkmen. Their seminal 2002 record, Turn On the Bright Lights, defined the modern New York rock scene, tapping into the despair and malaise of a budding generation of young people on the cusp of the new millennium, trying to cope in a post-9/11 world. In our conversation, Fogarino makes his doubts of the band's enduring legacy clear: "I thought, man, after Bright Lights, who gives a fuck? ... When I was younger, bands that made it through a couple decades felt larger than life."
Seventeen years later, Interpol has achieved that larger-than-life status, staying loyal to their quintessential sound, which arguably kickstarted an ongoing post-punk revival. Interpol's alchemy lies in that magnetic baritone, immersive basslines and cinematic guitar riffs. It's a combination that remains present through all the band's iterations, including the aftermath of the departure of their original bassist, Carlos Dengler. Yet still, fans of all demographic cohorts across the globe are pulled in by the band's haunting and alluring siren song. All these years later, listening to Interpol still feels simultaneously like the ache of desire for a lost lover and a high school make-out sesh; their songs are consistently devastating and exhilarating.
The band writes collaboratively, a process described by Fogarino as rooted in mutual assurances, "beyond respect, there's this level of trust that just makes it easy." The band's upcoming EP, A Fine Mess, is born out of the songwriting momentum of Marauder, recorded straight to analog tape in upstate New York with Flaming Lips and MGMT producer Dave Fridmann. "We've managed to retain that same enthusiasm that we had 19 years ago," says Fogarino. "I think it's the hand that feeds itself, this positive cyclical thing that remains intact."
Interpol's enthusiasm translates on stage, as well. Their live performances are captivating and don't disappoint. The band has a busy year ahead, playing major festivals and touring with stars new and old like Morrissey, Car Seat Headrest and Snail Mail. Speaking to their live performances, Fogarino attests to Interpol's work ethic. Despite their success and indelible cultural fingerprint, Interpol takes nothing for granted. Reflecting on his career, Fogarino owns up to his Florida roots, saying, "It's where I learned how to be in a band. That's where it started for me."
On a roll, Fogarino waxes poetic on Florida's mix of the weird and wondrous: "Anything that happens in Florida, it has the landscape of Florida behind it. It makes it instantly a David Lynchian moment." We assured him our readers would agree.
As to the future of Interpol, Fogarino all but promised another album, yet ultimately, he yields to an elusive higher power. "It's up to Interpol, it's up to the force that we created." Nearly two decades on, there's no indication of lost momentum.
Ida is an Iranian-American from Florida who grew up with the Beatles, and came of age in the pit. She will talk to you about music for as long as you will pretend to listen. She is founder of Bandifesto, a little blog with a big heart.