A number of things have changed in Camp Interpol since we last heard from these local gloom-rock dudes: In May, the band posted a note on its website announcing that fashion-plate bassist Carlos D had split in order to “follow another path, and to pursue new goals.” And after a brief stint in the major-label world, Interpol are back with Matador Records, the New York mega-indie that released the group’s first two albums. Interpol, the tellingly titled follow-up to 2007’s Our Love to Admire, is out this week.
“We’re not starting over again, but it’s like we’re coming in from the left this time,” figures drummer Sam Fogarino. “We sort of cleared the slate, and now we’re a bit refreshed.”
Even so, a number of other things haven’t changed so much. “I do get the feeling,” frontman Paul Banks says, “that unless you really, really listen to our music, you probably have the wrong idea about what kind of person I am.” What do all those shallow listeners think? “That I’m depressive, jaded, cynical, bitter, and pretty angry a lot of the time.” Ah, yes—that. “I’m really not this brooding, sad guy,” Banks continues. “But whatever. If people have this totally one-dimensional view, that’s fine. It’d probably bother me more if I weren’t so confident in our music.”
The singer comes by that confidence honestly: On Interpol, he and his bandmates manage the seemingly unmanageable task of finding new wrinkles in a tightly defined sound, one that’s been theirs for nearly a decade. Tunes like “Lights” and “Always Malaise (The Man I Am)”—um, Paul?—offer up minor-key melodies and mosquito-buzz guitars but take all kinds of weird structural detours that feel more downtown art song than Williamsburg indie rock. Banks says his goal was to give his vocals an immediacy that would allow listeners to navigate the “beautiful, mysterious” music Carlos and guitarist Daniel Kessler demoed and brought to him and Fogarino in early 2009.
(Carlos took part in recording the new album before leaving the band.) Says Fogarino: “This record is a slow burn—it gives back the more you listen to it.”
“Our Love to Admire slipped by a lot of people,” says Matador founder Chris Lombardi. “But now there seems to be a genuine curiosity about what the band is up to. I think people care about Interpol again.”
In order to capitalize on that interest, the band is spending much of this fall on tour, including a November 5 headlining date at the United Palace Theatre and several European gigs opening for U2. Along for the ride in Carlos’s place are Brandon Curtis of Secret Machines (on keyboards) and bassist David Pajo, who, in addition to co-founding the semi-legendary post-rock outfit Slint, has played with Tortoise, Zwan, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, among other bands. “He was the only person we discussed,” says Banks of Pajo. “I listened to [Slint’s] Spiderland up the waz in high school.”
As for not having Carlos around, Fogarino admits that it’s been “kind of a relief not to have to deal” with what the drummer calls his former bandmate’s “self-cultivation as a persona.” (“I don’t want that to sound bitter,” he adds.) For his part, Pajo says his experience on the road so far has been “nothing but positive.” He’s especially impressed by the way his new pals have outlasted the cool-kid fervor that climaxed with their jump to the majors. “They sort of survived that hype bump, and that, to me, is where a band is set up for longevity,” he says. “They seem really liberated.”
Interpol, November 5, the United Palace Theatre, 4140 Broadway, ticketmaster.com
Fall Music Picks
The Damned Things
You may have heard that Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump is spending the emo band’s hiatus working on a soul-influenced solo album. And perhaps you’ve read about Black Cards, Pete Wentz’s new reggae-inspired outfit. Slightly lower-profile, though, is the other two Fall Out Boys’ side project, the Damned Things, in which guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley are joined by two dudes from Anthrax and two dudes from Every Time I Die. The tunes they’ve released online sound like late-’80s hair metal pumped up with late-’00s arena beats; an album is reportedly due before the end of the year.
Jay-Z + Eminem
The two biggest rappers on earth are joining forces this fall for four concerts—a pair in Eminem’s hometown of Detroit and a pair here in New York. Though his dominion over his local subjects is not to be underestimated, Jay is advised to bring his A-game to the House Across the Street From the House That Ruth Built: Since its release in June, Em’s Recovery has been racking up the kind of superstar sales that just don’t happen anymore.
Central Park SummerStage
Is it just me, or does Pavement’s reunion feel like it’s been going on for ages? More than six months after they first got back in the saddle, the slacker kings of old-school indie rock are finally making their way to New York—and now that they’re here, they’re making sure fans get every opportunity to see what lovable rapscallions they remain. If you can’t decide which of these five gigs to catch, aim for the Williamsburg Waterfront, as Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis’s new band, Jenny and Johnny, is scheduled to open.
Atari Teenage Riot
“Music is a weapon,” CX KiDTRONiK announces at the top of “Activate!,” the first single from Atari Teenage Riot since 2000. So right away you know some things haven’t changed for this Berlin-based outfit, an early pioneer of what group mastermind Alec Empire rather descriptively dubbed “digital hardcore.” What has changed, though, is the context in which ATR operates: The band’s shows were once known for their random outbreaks of violence, but in an age of casual laptop-noise terrorism, can that reaction still be provoked?
Alice in Chains + Deftones + Mastodon
Madison Square Garden
Dubbed the “BlackDiamondSkye” tour after its participants’ latest albums, this hard-rock triple bill teams Alice in Chains with a pair of heirs to its sludge-metal legacy. Not that Alice is ready to give up the crown: Last year’s Black Gives Way to Blue, the band’s first effort since the death of former frontman Layne Staley, surpassed all kinds of commercial and creative expectations. But Deftones (supporting this year’s Diamond Eyes) and Mastodon (2009’s Crack the Skye) are both well suited to keep the gloomy spirit of “Them Bones” and “Man in the Box” alive.
Following a series of stylistic experiments that didn’t necessarily trigger the kind of mainstream breakthrough the band’s members might’ve been after, Soulive is back to its instrumental-trio roots these days, a retrenchment that’s hard to find fault with on Rubber Soulive, a just-released set of tastefully funked-up Beatles covers. Especially nice: the local outfit’s take on “Eleanor Rigby,” which somehow splits the considerable difference between death metal and elevator jazz.
The gospel-music veteran wooed well-meaning NPR types in 2007 with We’ll Never Turn Back, a deeply felt set of civil rights–themed material produced by Ry Cooder; this fall, she’s set to scoop up more of their Paste-reading brethren with You Are Not Alone, which she made in Chicago with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Beyond the Tweedy-penned title track, the disc includes covers of tunes by Randy Newman, Allen Toussaint, and John Fogerty.
My Morning Jacket
My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James got his side project on last year, releasing a solo EP of acoustic George Harrison covers (under the name Yim Yames) and touring with Monsters of Folk. So perhaps this five-night stand is meant to assure MMJ fans that James hasn’t retired from his day job. Each show will find the Kentucky psych-jam band tackling a complete studio album from its catalog.
Madison Square Garden
How the heck did Phoenix get so big? Eighteen months ago, these French disco-rock dudes were probably dreaming of scoring an iPod spot; now, they’re headlining Madison Square Garden just like the real rock stars they’ve resembled for years. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the wonderfully titled 2009 disc that broke the band wide, certainly contains its share of effervescent delights: “Lisztomania,” for instance, still hasn’t worn out its welcome. But it’s still a song about Franz Liszt. That’s weird, right?
The Corin Tucker Band
The former (and perhaps future) Sleater-Kinney frontwoman spent the latter half of the ’00s concentrating on her family, but this fall, she’s returning to public life with 1,000 Years, an album of new tunes credited to the Corin Tucker Band, which also includes Sara Lund of Unwound and Seth Lorinczi of the Golden Bears. It’s a quieter disc than any of Sleater-Kinney’s, with none of the psych-guitar fury of that band’s 2005 swan song, The Woods. But Tucker remains a startlingly incisive songwriter, no matter her subject.
After working through their initial infatuation with Sonic Youth’s boy-girl art-guitar skronk, these internationally minded locals hit upon a unique indie-noir sound that’s been Blonde Redhead’s own since at least 2000’s Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons. Their new one, Penny Sparkle, is synth-ier and less discordant than the several that preceded it, but it still resembles the work of no one else. Live, the band physicalizes the sexual tension between singers Kazu Makino and Amedeo Pace in a way that’s as arresting as it is uncomfortable.
The Levon Helm Band
Here’s something worth giving thanks for this Turkey Day: The man who already sounded like an old soul in 1969, when he sang “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” with the Band, is still recording and performing—and the results are as lively as anything 70-year-old Levon Helm did as a youngster. Expect this pair of post-Thanksgiving gigs to draw from 2007’s Dirt Farmer and last year’s Electric Dirt, but also from the history of American music; Helm’s roots go deep, deep, deep.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 1, 2010