There's a lot of tension in this article, so let's clear the air about a few things before we get to the interview:
1. First, and most importantly, Interpol IS one of the SEXIEST bands to put out a record this year. Good looking, well dressed, classy demeanor. And I'm pretty sure they bathe more than I do, which makes them automatic tens.
2. I volunteered a promise to their label, Matador, that I wouldn't mention J y D_v____n. Everyone's saying they sound like them, but just for the record, they don't. Well, there's a little "Love Will Tear Us Apart," but that song was a fluke for the old JD, and Interpol is more on the Kitchens of Distinction tip with some hot Josef K bass/dance action. But whatever, it's just good, dark pop music.
3. I also promised I wouldn't mention the "New York SCENE," either, but Interpol comes from NYC, and guess who they share a practice space with? No, not Larry Tee or W.I.T. Not Humpy Casablancas or Lou freakin Reed. If you guessed "Black Dice" and "Avey Tare & Panda Bear," you win a prize! How cool.
Okay, if you haven't heard of Interpol, here's the short story: shadowy, sophisticated, love-bent rock quartet--defined by a great rhythm section, intelligent, velvety vocals, and an overall atmosphere of intensity--toils in NYC for four years. People overseas freak their shit, but America doesn't figure it out until Matador signs them. A whirlpool of music-press insanity ensues (along with the subsequent comparisons to Joy Division, and pukey dissertations on "the New York scene.") But with good reason, 'cause their new record, Turn On the Bright Lights, is a solid and satisfying example of introspective beauty, with super basslines, ghostly melodies, and dope hooks.
Singer Paul Banks says politely, "I'm getting some emails from people who I haven't heard from in ages, so that's pretty funny. I'm kinda feelin' the love, but this whole thing is by no means a mindfuck, but it is kind of an odd thing. You do something because you love it for so long, and all of a sudden people start talking about it, and I think it's something you have to learn how to deal with. But it feels really cool to be on such an amazing label with such a great history; it feels very right."
Turn on the Bright Lights, with its twinkling and tasteful melodies, feels pretty right, too. One thing you notice is that rather than a progression of songs, the record is more about a series of magic moments. Notes Banks, "It's funny; sometimes we're all jamming and it'll be amazing and I think, 'Oh my god, I can't believe we just did that.' That's one way I truly do have an incredible feeling of that I love this band Yeah, absolutely there are some magic moments."
In particular, Interpol very acutely captures moods--often dreamy or urgent, and often about love--with a certain grace. Certainly this hinges upon Banks' dark lyrics; he explains, "I feel most inspired either in bars or with hangovers. That's just when I feel inspired; but the themes, yeah, love and sex and alienation. It sounds a little contrived for me to be able to just list them off, but relationships are a big point. With most of the songs, it's nothing specific. Like on 'Stella is a Diver'--I don't know Stella. The female presence in 'Obstacle 2' isn't necessarily a particular woman--it's sort of a scene. For me, I envisioned it like a movie scene. There's a fictional aspect to it."
But at varied points on Bright Lights, it's the subtlety of the music that makes Interpol such an impressive band. A little driving bass here, some melancholy guitar there, the precisely placed hit of the high-hat; they unfold in surprising shots. You will fall in love with it.