The New Cue #166 May 30: Interpol, part one
30 May, 2022
Hope your weekend was tip-top, but if it wasn’t, it’s gone now, who cares? Keep moving forward! Today we’ve got part one of an Interpol special, as Paul Banks, Daniel Kessler and Sam Fogarino tell Niall all about the New Yorkers’ excellent new record The Other Side Of Make-Believe.
It’s a free edition but part two, running on Wednesday, is for subscribers only, The New Cue faithful. If you want to be in that clan, click the Subscribe Now button below… Go on!
Enjoy the edition, see you then.
Ted, Niall and Chris
Start The Week With… Interpol
In July, Interpol release their seventh record The Other Side Of Make-Believe. It’s one of their best, a slow-burning rock record that dives into the emotional depths and emerges with some of their most uplifting music yet. It was written with the group’s three members, singer, guitarist and bassist Paul Banks, guitarist Daniel Kessler and drummer Sam Fogarino, scattered across the globe, sending audio files to each other before convening in upstate New York. Produced by Depeche Mode, Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails collaborator Flood at his studio in north-west London, it makes for a pairing of two alternative-rock pillars. Ahead of the band’s UK tour in a few weeks, Niall recently spoke to Paul, Sam and Daniel during rehearsal downtime in New York.
Hello Interpol! How are rehearsals going?
Paul Banks: Very good. My recollection going back to the band is often looking at a guitar going, ‘what are the songs? I don’t know what we’re doing!’. But I actually did homework for the first time and went through old music and charted it out and wrote out the sections. On my flight over from Berlin, I mapped out all the songs in the notebook so that really helped and we hit the ground running and I was able to know, ‘oh, no, there’s two rounds of Daniel and then the bass comes in and then I sing’.
I interviewed The Cure’s Reeves Gabrels recently and he said that Robert Smith has always had a big file of all The Cure’s songs.
PB: It’s smart. I’ve seen other musicians do it with other projects where they show up and have notes so rather than have Sam simmering in frustration behind me as I say ‘Wait, wait, wait, what’s my part? Wait, let me just check the recording’, I went ahead and did it ahead of time.
Congratulations on the record. I feel like the combination of Interpol and Flood is some sort of personal reward to me for the tribulations of the past few years, one of my favourite bands with one of my favourite producers.
PB: Yeah, you came up when we were deciding, ‘what would Niall like best?!’.
Sam Fogarino: I like the way you think! It felt similar to the first time I heard My Bloody Valentine, that sense of excitement and possibility, that same kind of thing was projected onto like, I’m gonna go not just meet Flood, I’m gonna go work with him with this band that I’ve been in for 20 years. It was so cool. He leans slightly to the left, just like the bands he works with, and extracts the most accessible parts. The integrity remains intact and his sensibilities are just so fucking unique.
Daniel Kessler: Flood is an incredible human being. We haven’t really worked with that many producers and, with Flood and [Marauder producer] Dave Fridmann, you really felt their investment. It’s like they became a part of the band because they were really invested in these songs and bringing them to fruition.
How do you look back on the experience of making the new record?
DK: Even with the challenging times where we couldn’t do what we normally do, which is get together and flesh out the songs for ten days per month over six months or something, I still felt like we were a band. Because of the pandemic and so forth and being in different countries, we had to trade songs around and then we finally got together in upstate New York on two different occasions. By the end of that second time, the songs had arrived at the point where they had an identity and were more or less aligned to how they normally are, where we could almost play them live. Then there was three months until we went to London to start recording, so it was all pretty bizarre. We’d shared rehearsal recordings with Flood, which sort of served as demos, and we did one or two Zoom calls, which really helped.
PB: When I was writing my bits to the songs, I was in Edinburgh, sitting through the first nine months of the pandemic with my girlfriend, sitting by a sun-drenched window with a blossoming tree outside in a comfy chair, whittling away on my bass and doing vocal ideas. I really do hear this record and it’s sung in a different way, like the bedroom record in terms of how I dressed a lot of the songs, not all of them. I think Toni, for instance, I actually did write in the rehearsal room with the band but songs like Greenwich and Fables were written bedroom-style.
DK: With Toni, we rented a place upstate and there was an old rickety piano in the living room and I started playing Toni on it and then Paul started playing bass and Sam started playing drums, it was nowhere near what it’s ended up being by any means, but the sensibility was born right away. It’s a very different kind of song for us and it was cool that it was less about people doing their own things in different countries and us being in a room doing what we do and having that chemistry.
Were there any upsides to writing remotely?
SF: Yeah, when you’re in a room together, even if you’re really close, and the band has never come to fisticuffs over the years, we’ve had heated arguments, but nothing more, but still, you get with everybody’s daily mood, stuff that’s unrelated to the task at hand. There’s ego and desire and we’re all emotionally bound in this sexless three-way relationship, you know what I mean? It’s worse than a marriage, because it’s all the emotional shit but no sex at all! There’s no outlet in that way. Being separate, you were able to fully express yourself before sharing it with anybody. Then when we finally went to upstate New York to get together to play the material, it was extra special. We’d bypassed this whole usual laborious process.
DK: We were all very accepting, like, ‘this is just what we have to do’. It’s probably good to have something different to do, but at the same time, you never know having a new process of doing things how it’s gonna work, you don’t know if it’s gonna be like, ‘Oh, no, this doesn’t work for us’ and so forth. But it didn’t feel that different than how we normally do things when we’re all together in a room.
Where do you think the new album sits amongst your back catalogue?
SF: I think it’s important when a band release their new record that they think it’s the best thing they’ve ever done. I think it has to feel that way. I think to do the record justice, even after every note has been recorded, you have to think it’s the best shit you’ve done, or else you’re kind of lying. Even during the shit times for Interpol, when the third record came out and we weren’t indie darlings anymore and it was time to receive a backlash, I still felt like Our Love To Admire was a fucking noble effort, and I was still gonna stand by it. I hated every single thing that was going on around us but it wasn’t the record’s fault.
That period seems like an odd diversion when you look back on it now, where Interpol were momentarily a major label band. What are your memories of it?
SF: It’s just like, ‘wow, we were stupid enough to do that’. It’s the age-old thing, growing up through the prime of alt-music post-Nirvana, every band that had no business going to a major label did so, and we were one of them! And we thought, ‘well, our cocks are too big, we can handle this’. You know what, cocks don’t matter, man! They’re gonna fuck you hard cos they don’t give a shit. We got to a point where it was like, ‘nobody cares, man. They don’t care about you in here. They care about Coldplay. Coldplay makes money.’ Thankfully, the cool thing was that they gave us the record. They didn’t shelve it, they severed our contract and we were able to walk away with the record and eventually Matador released what became the self-titled album, which would have been the second record on Capitol had we stuck there.
PB: Looking back, that for me was tied in with my becoming sober, so it was a very trying part of my life. And I think everything was just a bit of a shitshow within the band and within my personal life, and our interpersonal relations within Interpol were fucked. It was just a tough time, I think. But when we were deciding what songs to rehearse for this campaign, Sam in particular was like, ‘Yo, I’ve been listening to OLTA [Our Love To Admire], that record has aged well, I would like to play a few tracks from that record’. I went back in my research and listened to some tracks from OLTA and, yeah, there’s some great shit there. There’s some really good music on that record. I think we have some good doozies from every record. OLTA has Pioneer To The Falls, which I think is an all-time standout for us. The fourth record has Lights, there’s some good tracks throughout. When we were making OLTA, from the creative standpoint we didn’t lose any sleep. The band has always been this comfortably isolated, insulated creative unit where it’s like not like A&R comes through and says “work on the single!”. We just make records and have been fortunate enough that people then put them out without too much to-do about it. We also were able to pretty much just do what we wanted to do with OLTA, it’s just another Interpol record that happened to come out on a major label and happened to have been made at a very tumultuous moment in our lives.
What did you learn out of that period?
SF: That you’ve gotta keep your feet on the ground at all times, don’t start believing your press, don’t start thinking that you can walk on water now because you sold some records. Fucking be humble about it and stick to it.