Since their New York beginnings over a decade ago, Interpol have constantly pushed themselves in new directions. With Interpol’s unusual press-conference to announce Marauder it’s been clear from the start that this album is taking things even further, and working with Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, MGMT) is just the tip of the iceberg. We caught up with Interpol singer, guitarist and bassist Paul banks ahead of the band’s album and North American tour to hear about why they continue to take unexpected turns and how they got kicked out of their rehearsal space with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Northern Transmissions: First off, I was interested to hear what prompted you to announce your album through such an old-school press conference in Mexico, considering it’s such an oddity in our modern music world?
Paul Banks: The music business is interesting these days, and any way that you can creatively make a splash is good. We’re always asked about our fashion and I think if there’s a cool way to be better than average then why would you not? I felt doing something retro and vintage like a press conference was more interesting than a press release and is cool. We also have a huge and very loyal fan-base in Mexico. I lived there and met a lot of people in Mexico City, and Daniel spends time there, so we feel an authentic connection there. Credit to Matador and Chris Lombardi, he’s a great idea guy, and he was so crucial to that concept.
NT: And how did the concept for the music video cross-over with Ebon Moss-Bachrach walking into the press conference come about?
PB: We didn’t plan to do the music video in Mexico but we wanted to capitalize on the great locations. We had a really good time with this album where we’re surrounded by good, creative people and that allows for good ideas to develop! Everybody in the conversation is bringing something to the table. Our original idea was to shoot in Venice Beach, Califorina and set it in the seventies. We thought about just doing that in Mexico, and then getting Ebon to be The Rover since he’s a friend of the band. The concept was my idea, but Ebon was Daniel’s idea, and the moment he said it, I thought he would be perfect. Ebon had made a movie with Gerardo Naranjo, who we’d licensed a song to. So that all felt good because we already knew Gerardo too. After all that we came up with the Andy Kaufman shit of a faux documentary with him coming into the conference. The label had to sign off on us f*cking up our press conference just for the video, and they were on board with that. You’re lucky to work with all these moving parts and have something so zany and great come out of it.
NT: You guys hadn’t worked with an outside producer for at least a decade now, so what attracted you to working with Dave Fridmann?
PB: We just felt like it was time to do something new and we were ready to change it up. Fridmann also knew we weren’t going to show up with just a vague idea, we sent him demos of mostly completed songs as we went. He would make suggestions as we sent him songs and then he had even more ideas in the studio. We have maintained our creative process and we were game to hear Dave’s take on it. We were really excited to also go to just work with Dave and not deal with anything else while we were there.
Dave didn’t have an ego either where he would give us notes for everything, but he would talk about songs. Recording to tape was Dave’s idea too because he knew Interpol isn’t a band where he needs to piece together the songs. He wanted to capitalize on how stage-ready many of them were, which brought this raw immediacy to the songs. He really played to our strengths and amplified those while also helping change directions when we needed.
NT: I hear Dave even threw some weird another band’s track in your headphones at one point?
PB: That definitely wasn’t intentional. (Laughs) It was the first day of recording and I thought he was doing some weird Jedi-mind-trick like Obi Wan saying “Free yourself, don’t think about it just play.” It was crazy though because there was this great vocal melody playing in my head while I was trying to lay down a bass line, and I got through the take. Then I realized they just hadn’t wiped the tape clean yet, it was a trip but I got through it.
NT: You’ve talked about an aversion to autobiographical music in the past, so what changed your tone and how did you want to use Marauder to put a part of yourself to rest?
PB: The Marauder is definitely the selfish facet of everyone’s personality, it’s also a kind of childish part that is about impulse rather than meditated action. I think it’s that spontaneous kind of fire that’s good for everyone to maintain, but it can also make you too reckless and burn people with that fire. I thought it was cool to explore this force that can be really destructive but can be really positive if you cultivate it well. Autobiographical writing has always seemed a little dull to me, and anything too literal isn’t interesting. I’ve always wanted to be honest and transparent in my own way, and now I have more clarity in my own life and experiences, and that’s coming through.
NT: I thought it was pretty interesting that you had basically wrapped up writing The Marauder ahead of your Turn On The Bright Lights anniversary, was that a way to give your new songs time to air out or did it inform the recording process in other ways?
PB: Because Sam lives in Georgia, we never spend eight straight months writing. So breaking from the process was constantly built into the process. Playing those shows didn’t disrupt the process, it let them play around in our mind to see what was working. The shows gave us that time to think and that experience playing on stage with fans to remember how those songs would end up. That was so useful going into the studio because it had been a long time since we’d played live and we needed to think about the songs as a live band. We could’ve had 50 guitars but we thought let’s just do what we’ll play live!
NT: You guys go back a ways with Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and I hear there was a bit of noise issue with everyone in your rehearsal space?
PB: We were sharing a rehearsal space with them and it was f*cking awesome. It was a great location and a great vibe in there, it got too loud so some guy called the cops and made us leave. Then that was the end of the space, we may have helped end that space unintentionally.
NT: Was it intentional to have Ebon’s crew look so similar to Karen, Nick and Brian right as you were discussing the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s in your conference?
PB: They were supposed to just be a gang of young, crazy kids, so it was just a coincidence (laughs) that they looked so similar.
NT: How has your work with RZA and your own mix-tape come back to affect your work with Interpol?
PB: The mix-tape got labelled as one, but it was really just electronic music I’d been making over the years that I wanted to put out. My manager said “Why don’t you get some people to rap on it?” and I thought that was great. That was really a sketchbook from me learning to make music on my laptop. Hip hop has always been a passion of mine, and RZA had always been up there for me, I’m really a super-fan. Working with him was a privilege and honour. Everything I do outside of Interpol always comes back to inform Interpol. It’s hard to trace a line of what it influenced but it’s there. It definitely loosened me up and got me out of my comfort-zone too, trying to write vocal lines that RZA likes. All of that helped me hone my craft and it was amazing to work with someone of RZA’s calibre who’s really a bonafide genius.
Words by Owen Maxwell
Interpol Tour Dates:
8/23 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer – w/ Honduras
8/24 – Brooklyn, NY @ House of Vans
9/11 – Boston, MA @ Orpheum Theatre – w/ Sunflower Bean
9/12 – Montreal, QC @ Olympia Theatre – w/ Sunflower Bean
9/13 – Toronto, ON @ Rebel – w/ Sunflower Bean
9/14-16 – Chicago, IL @ Riot Fest
9/16 – Detroit, MI @ Royal Oak Theatre – w/ Sunflower Bean
9/17 – Columbus, OH @ Express Live! Indoor Stage – w/ Sunflower Bean
9/27 – Dallas, TX @ Bomb Factory – w/ Sunflower Bean
9/28 – Austin, TX @ Bass Concert Hall – w/ Sunflower Bean
9/29 – Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall Lawn – w/ Sunflower Bean
10/1 – Phoenix, AZ @ The Van Buren – w/ Sunflower Bean
10/4 – Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Bowl – w/ The Kills, Sunflower Bean
10/5 – San Diego, CA @ SDSU Open Air Theater – w/ The Kills, Sunflower Bean
10/6 – Berkeley, CA @ Greek Theatre – w/ The Kills, Sunflower Bean