September 28, 2004
“Achingly beautiful…explores emotional blues but
never, ever plays the blues.” --
Interpol. A name generally associated with international espionage,
covert operations, and distant ports of call. Yet since Interpol,
the band, swept up listeners with their 2002 Matador debut 'Turn
On The Bright Lights,' the moniker has gained new associations
as well. It still carries global recognition. For the past two
years, one could hardly open a magazine, turn on a radio or
television, or step into a nightclub, without hearing Interpol's
dark, gripping songs or seeing their countenances. Despite this
high level of media exposure, the quartet never lost the tension
and complexity that won them acclaim worldwide.
So it remains on 'Antics.' But what has changed, markedly, is
the breadth of sounds, emotion, and characters at play in their
music. Contrast the disc's stately opener, "Next Exit,"
with its swells of percussion and piano, and abrupt brush strokes
of whammy bar, to the final track, "A Time To Be So Small,"
which pulls the listener in like a camera honing in on a great
actor in the climactic scene of a classic film, the music building
into a swirling vortex that suddenly dissolves into a quiet
eddy… and good night.
After two years of seemingly endless tours, the quartet returned
in early 2004 to Peter Katis’s Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport,
Conn., to record their second album. They had already debuted
a handful of songs earmarked for 'Antics' on the road: "Length
of Love," "Narc," "C'mere." Meanwhile,
having revisited – and reinvented – the material
from 'Bright Lights' night after night, they discovered new
strengths. There was more room for experimentation in these
songs, for toying with arrangements and intricacies of individual
parts, than on their debut.
"On the road, Sam and I would constantly try to outdo each
other," says bassist Carlos D. of his interaction, night
after night, with drummer Sam Fogarino. "But we still had
to 'obey' the old songs. We knew, with the new songs, we could
push everything up a notch." Singer Paul Banks concurs:
"We learned how far our songs could go, and shot for a
higher degree in our songwriting."
They succeeded. "Public Pervert" pushes Interpol's
use of dynamics to new extremes, starting with a low, isolated
guitar riff, adding a sheen of keyboards in the background,
eventually bursting into an explosive chorus, then suddenly
dropping back to nearly nothing save a tambourine before ascending
the next crest. Hear how, on "Length of Love," one
simple syncopation of the bass line adds a seductive additional
dimension. On the propulsive single "Slow Hands,"
lyrics rife with images of abandonment ("Can't you see
what you've done to my heart and soul?") skitter across
a floor-filling dance groove that swirls with a new fever.
Often, say the band members, it was guitarist Daniel Kessler
who would come up with an initial chord progression, or a mood
he wanted to capture musically, for a new song. "And then
Sam and Carlos would turn it into something else completely,"
admits Paul. Case in point: The mesmerizing "Not Even Jail,"
which bristles with a peculiar frisson that suggests the souls
of two songs trapped in a single one. "Daniel was trying
to push a particular chord progression, and I didn't like it,"
admits Carlos. "I caused a stalemate. Then one day, Dan
came up with a whole new bass line, and that broke the stalemate
– because we had to change the original chords and write
a totally different melody."
The wider playing field of 'Antics' is especially evident in
the diverse ways Paul deploys his voice. "My vocals are
higher, more melodic, less monotonous," he observes. His
lyrics, though still elliptical, are more upbeat, too. "With
'Bright Lights,' I wanted to sound alienated, to imply tension
and desperation, by sinking my vocals into the mix and shouting
them. This time, the songs are more expressive and less hopeless.
I want the compelling aspect to be the melody, not the drama
of the delivery."
With 'Antics,' Interpol has delivered a disc even more engaging
than its celebrated predecessor, without sacrificing any of
the depth that has made them such an important band for so many.
The songs are at once catchier and more variegated, revealing
themselves over time to a degree heard on few current releases,
and nothing is ever obvious. "A lot of time, there are
specific topics or events that that inspire the songs, but it’s
not explicit in my lyrics. " Indeed, with Interpol, things
are rarely what they seem. And that's how they – and the
fans – like it. "What I like about us is that we
don't explore ideas in a way where the viewpoint is clear,"
concludes Carlos. "There's always an element of mystery."
+ + +
On The Bright Lights
August 20, 2002
With their expansive sound, dark wit, and a flair for the dramatic,
Interpol have gone from being one of the New York City's most
talked about new bands to becoming one of America's most exciting
and acclaimed. Fulfilling the promise shown on their three previous
EPs, Interpol's full length debut, Turn On The Bright Lights,
establishes the quartet as a major force despite their brief
tenure. It is a filler-free, fully realized statement of intent;
few debut albums have sounded this confident or displayed as
much emotional range.
Singer/guitarist Paul Banks' angelic exterior belies his twisted
lyrics and macabre vocals. Bassist Carlos D. carries much of
the mood; while his forceful approach reflects early influences
John Paul Jones (Zep) and Clifford Lee Burton (Metallica), other
faves like John Taylor (Duran) and Simon Gallup (Cure) are more
evident in his rubbery, melodic playing. Daniel Kessler's guitar
cuts it straight down the middle with an incredibly atmospheric
sound, owing as much to current electronic music as the pop
bands of his youth. And though Interpol technically formed in
1998, it wasn't until Sam Fogarino replaced their original drummer
in 2000 that they developed the focus and authority that characterizes
their current sound.
Turn on the Bright Lights was created at Connecticut's Tarquin
Studios in November 2001, recorded by Pete Katis and mixed by
Gareth Jones (Clinic, Depeche Mode). Tarquin Studios occupies
the top floor of a 150 year-old house which once served as a
hospital for mentally impaired children, and where the Interpol
boys felt strangely at home. Of the intense recording schedule,
Dan remembers, "The 'Outside,' as we called it, took on
mystic proportions by the end. We hadn't had any contact with
anyone but ourselves for a few weeks, so when someone went out
to the store or for a walk, it was like they were venturing
out into the wild. It was authentic cabin fever."
Interpol's first single, "PDA," is accompanied by
a groundbreaking video by director Christopher Mills which portrays
the band as characters in an animated science fiction/spy film.
The band has toured North America and Europe twice this year,
with additional North American dates in late 2002 and early
June 4, 2002
Interpol was created in New York City in 1998. The original
line-up of the band was Greg on drums, Daniel on guitar, Paul
on vox and guitar, and Carlos on bass. Between 98 and
2000, the four lads forged a unique sound in a variety of
the citys decrepit and shady rental rehearsal rooms.
Paying by the hour, they cultivated a unique aesthetic and
developed their notoriously delicate and complicated creative
process. In 2000, Greg and the band split leaving Daniel,
Paul, and Carlos with a significant and reflective hiatus.
It soon came about that Interpol would try out Sam, whom Daniel
knew through the record store where Sam worked. Sam was perfect
for the band as he gave Interpol a healthy shot of punk aggression
and rhythmic backbone. Now with the line-up revitalized, Interpol
resumed gigging at venues like Brownies, Mercury Lounge, and
The Bowery Ballroom. Throughout 2000 and 2001 they opened
for bands like ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead,
Arab Strap, and The Delgados. Then came Interpols first
release, at the end of 2000, in the form of the third installment
of the FukdID EP series on Scottish label Chemikal Underground.
Around the same time, the band also contributed an unreleased
track, "Song Seven," to the Fierce Panda Records compilation
Clooney Tunes. Popularity abroad increased as a result of
regular rotation on Londons XFM. In April 2001 Interpol
played in Glasgow, Manchester, and London, capping off their
visit with a session for the famed John Peel. Later on in
August and November, the group visited France with appearances
at festivals La Route du Rock (St. Malo) and Festival Off
(Paris) respectively. In November of 2001, the band tucked
themselves away in Connecticut at Tarquin Studios to record
their debut full-length. The album was recorded and mixed
by Peter Katis (Mercury Rev, Clem Snide) and Gareth Jones
(Depeche Mode, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Clinic.)