Interpol on “Marauder”

The Rovers Return

Oct 31, 2018 Photography by Jamie-James Medina Issue #64 -  Kamasi Washington
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On "Complications," the second track from Interpol's latest record, Marauder, frontman Paul Banks sings "dream of combinations/all night long/round and round a rhythm escapes/I'm stuck without no answers." It's a line that sticks out as the most unintentional yet pitch-perfect epigraph for Interpol, a band that's built a reputation for enticing listeners with saturnine vocals, impenetrable yet impactful lyrics, and the sort of ceaseless rhythms that made the quartet-cum-trio a staple of the New York post-punk revival over a decade ago.

As one of the last bastions of that era still standing, Banks, guitarist Daniel Kessler, and drummer Sam Fogarino have an inescapable chemistry that's as evident on Marauder as it was with their 2002-released debut album, Turn On the Bright Lights. "When we sit down to write music together, that's the glue, that's the history, that's the magnetism in the music that's in the room," says Banks of his bandmates. "It all comes back, we all get along, we're all friends. If we're not writing records then I think we've all been friends long enough now that it's like another sort of lifelong relationship where we don't even need to see each other or talk to each other for two years."

"It's so very much like a band family," Kessler says. "That's the way we used to do it back in the day and I kind of like that." Marauder's production saw the introduction of the newest member of that familyfor the first time since 2007, the band agreed to have an outside producer join them in the recording studio, and Dave Fridmann, producer extraordinaire to bands like The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, and Mogwai, was brought in. It was Fridmann who took the reigns on deciding to record Marauder directly to tape, forgoing ProTools in the process and resulting in a much more raw, punchy final product.

"I feel like it almost took Dave Fridmann to help us carry that concept all the way to the end, as a sort of ballsy aspiration," says Banks of the decision to minimize the technological "bells and whistles." "Let's not overcook the shit out of these songs, over-polish them.... I think with rock music, it's nice to just eschew all of that and just be a band that can fucking put up some mics and play down a song."

Album opener "If You Really Love Nothing" embodies this reclaimed roughness perfectly; Fogarino bursts in with a cymbal crash that sends a jolt down the unsuspecting listener's spine, while Banks soothes the shock with his plaintive falsetto; "Breathe in it's optimal/Reading remember/The week's end grading/Better than seven other men/Wayward from women who break dimension/I know that you could just leave forever."

Interpol lyrics have always been the subject of unending debate and have haunted many a music critic's sleepless nights, and the writing on Marauder is no different. Banks doesn't seem overly concerned with how his words are received by the press or their fans. "I'm aware that people take things the wrong way," he says. "I'm comfortable with criticism...as long as you're getting the correct quote, then I don't have any worries that people experience differently or the wrong way. I don't care. I feel like those are the words that I'm saying and how you take them for yourself that's A-okay by me." Banks himself admits that some of the band's most popularly recited lyrics are often the ones he is least proud of, but that hasn't stopped fans from latching on to his words, as cryptic or intimate as they might be. "It's similar to body language," Banks notes. "They say that we interpret the majority of what we exchange from somebody else silently, and I think the same thing comes from these energies that get transmitted through the voice that are deeper than the words. All of those things come into play. Then there's the fact that one [choosing] to be obtuse with the lyrics in itself [sends] a certain kind of message of, 'We're not going down the trodden path here.'"

Where that path ends may not be clear to Banks and his bandmates either, and after six albums together, it's a question worth asking. "I think that there is something very strange about making art in collaboration with other people," Banks says. "It's a very odd process [but] I think it's like a puzzle that you're always trying to solve amongst yourselves.... I think the goal is to always write better music and just keep improving as artists."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Issue 64 (August/September/October 2018), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

www.interpolnyc.com

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