Monday night in front of a crowd of about 150 people, Interpol was born again. As part of a live recording for KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic (airing today at 11:15 am), the recording session at acclaimed music engineer Bob Clearmountain's Berkeley Street Studio unveiled the new incarnation of the NYC-based band on the eve of their 4th album's release.
Since their breaktrough album Turn on the Bright Lights in 2002, the rock landscape has changed considerably. In the early 2000's, music writers lauded a "return to rock," as bands like the Strokes and Interpol closed the door on the boy band and rap rock era. Gone were turntables and frosted tips, in came rock 'n' roll ennui and guitars. The Interpol sound, and buttoned down look, was oft imitated, as record labels began to sign their own versions of the band (who itself was gleaning influence from Northern English post-punk).
These copies (perhaps of a copy, itself) began to lessen the impact of the original innovation that Interpol brought to the musical climate at the time. With subsequent releases like Antics on Matador, and Capitol Records' Our Love to Admire, explored this world of their own making.
On their new self-titled album, released Tuesday back on Matador Records, the sound never expands out from what Interpol does. Moody, atmospheric, driving, droning, angsty. All the adjectives are still there. But that's the point. It's cool minimalist rock you can dance to. It's Interpol.
Read the transcript of Jason Bentley's interview with the band and check out Interpol's new bass player David Pajo (studio player for Slint, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and many more) as he talks about replacing Interpol's fashionable bassist, Carlos D.:
Interview with KCRW Music Director Jason Bentley
Try It On
Interpol interviewed by Jason Bentley for Morning Becomes Eclectic
JB: It must be an exciting time for you with the album coming out tomorrow, how's it
going for you?
Interpol: Well, we have these gentleman right here: Brandon Curtis, Dave Pajo, bass
and keys. And as Paul usually says, BVs (backing vocals) They are making it very
exciting for us, especially on the eve of album number four.
JB: How has it changed working with these two guys who are legitimate rock stars in
their own rights - Pajo is from Slint and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs and Brandon is from
Secret Machines; whose brother from School of Seven Bells we had on air last week.
How has it changed the dynamic for you?
Interpol: I don't know - it's a whole new thing. It's a lot of fun on stage; the audience
seems to be having a lot of fun with us. We all get along and it's kind of an honor to
have these two dudes on stage with us - it's a nice, happy family. So, it's good.
JB: For those of who don't know, they are replacing Carlos D. who departed amicably
from the band. Was that sudden or was it something that, he just wanted to do other
Interpol: Yeah, he just wanted to do other things, I think. It wasn't so sudden. In a band
like ours, we're all really open with each other. It's a bit like being in a relationship -
there's always signs. It's really exactly kind of like that. I don't think we were shocked.
Obviously, disappointed -- he's a great guy.
JB: Now, he recorded and wrote this record with you. So, his finger prints are all over it.
Interpol: All over it
JB: So, guys, does that kind-of put the pressure on you to pick up the slack and do you
try and play like him?
Interpol: I try to play his parts the way I hear them. I think that's about it...
Interpol: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.
JB: Here we are on the cusp of this whole album campaign. What do you have in
store? I know you're going on the road with U2 in the fall. Does that begin in the fall?
Or, how soon is that?
Interpol: That's in ten days, or something like that; nine dates or something.
Interpol: Little Irish band. Stick around, you'll find out about them.
JB: It's terrific that you're taking the time to do these kinds of things around the album. It
feels like you're taking a back-to-basics approach on this record, at least being in touch
with the street more so. Part of that is also being on Matador, your original label.
Interpol: It just all feels really right. I do think they are a great home for us right now.
I think we're kind of - we have a lot of loyalty and love for our fans. I think it suits us to
come and play for people and be face-to-face.
JB: Let's talk about the record a little bit - where did you really write and record this
Interpol: We wrote and recorded in New York. We wrote it in the first half of 2009.
Then, we recorded it at Electric Lady Studios where we did half of "Our Love to Admire. "
We mixed it London, with Alan Moulder.
JB: I always love this question about the environment that you're working in. Is
it safe to say that New York is an inspiration to you when you write and record?
Interpol: It was always very hard to answer that question. Then I think when taking time
out of New York City and then coming back to it you realize that it's just such a hyper-
stimulating place and I think it just revs you up - not always in a good way. But I think
that our music does reflect in a way, that kind of like, a lot of stimulation. There's a lot of
grit in New York City too. It's definitely like a pace - a pace thing that is cranked.
Interpol continues: Don't you feel that after having spent so much time there, that you
have it deep within you? We could have written this record in Tahiti - it all becomes a
state of mind, you know. New York leaves such an imprint - that you just can't - you can
leave for years and it just doesn't go away. There's always a lot to draw upon, from that
imprint. Black imprint. (laughter)
JB: I spent a little time with the record; it feels like a very confident album. I wonder if
the sessions felt that way as you came together? Did it feel like you were very assertive
in putting it down?
Interpol: I think whenever we go into the studio, we know what we're trying to do. We
always have - we're not like the kind of band that sorts of starts experimenting too much
in the studio. We kind of go there - we've already written everything, we've already kind
of explored all these other avenues where we can take the songs. We use the studio
very much to accomplish what we've decided upon, so, when we went into the studio,
we knew exactly what we wanted to leave with.
JB: Has that always been the case with this band?
Interpol: Pretty much, since day one. Since the very first record. I think because we
spent so much time - in New York -- before we actually signed a record label deal that
kind of, sort of formed that process. We spent four years in New York just playing shows
and writing songs. That gave us time.
JB: Did you find that just came naturally as a group because it seems like you've had
such a strong aesthetic, overall, the music and the imaging. Everything has been
just really well done, but confident and well thought out. Actually, I was just talking to
Lombardi who's here in the back, somewhere...
Interpol: Oh Chris, watch out for that guy.
JB: He was telling me that from the very first meetings with you guys - that's Lombardi
from Matador, by the way, for everyone else.
Interpol: Come one - he puts out our records. (crowd claps) And like, millions of other
great records, for the past 21 years. Cheers.
JB: Cheers, man. He told me some other stories, by the way, which we may touch on.
He said from the very first meeting, he was taken aback because you guys had such
a well thought out vision, game plan, everything, you just had it together. Did that just
come naturally when you got together? You had this vision?
Interpol: I think aesthetically, it's just a product of four strong-minded individuals. That's
our sound and that's why it was such a firm thing. We're all sort of nudging our own way
into the music. It's just a good combination of individuals. As far as a game plan, Daniel
has a lot of insight into just sort of - he's a good strategizer. I think that paid off for us as
I think also having all those years - four years without putting out a record gives you a lot
of time to think about what you'll do when you get to put out a record.
JB: Well, You've done well. You've done well. Paul, I wanted to ask you about
Julian Plenti and the album. When did you write that and where does that begin
and Interpol end for you? Were you just writing things on your own on the side?
Interpol: Yeah exactly, it was just something to explore and something I'd had in mind
to do for a decade. It was just a need, a personal need. The Interpol process is a whole
other kettle of fish, and it's this beautiful collaboration. And Julian Plenti is sort of the
control freak getting to have the whole sandbox to himself. And it was good for me to do
JB: How do you balance, in your creative process, atmosphere and structure?
Depending on the song, for example the last album's "Pioneer to the Falls" is so epic
and drawn out, and you even did an orchestral version which came out as part of a
bonus disc, but that to me is more mood and atmosphere, whereas on the new album it
seems more dialed in and songs like "Barricade" are tight, are very structured. How do
you balance those two things?
Interpol: I think if you write one song like "Pioneer to the Falls" there's a good chance the
next song will be entirely different. Almost like a reaction, something less orchestrated,
but more minimal in terms of structure. Its like all of a sudden you start writing a song
and you realize it's a bit more of an elaborate piece and an orchestrated piece, and it
starts happening very organically, without much of a game plan, that's just what the song
is asking for. But then after that you don't want to keep doing a new record entirely like
that song, you'll probably do something that's a bit more of a reaction to it, more succinct
maybe, with less orchestrations and so forth, maybe a different tempo and everything.
JB: So, a back and forth.
Interpol: I think it's a very visceral thing. You know...you don't want to keep doing the
same thing, and you already did that, so you want to do something a bit different right
JB: OK, Final question is Chris Lombardi told me a story about a show in Mexico
Interpol: You gotta stop talking to that guy, I'm telling you, he's bad for you!
JB: and he described it as a "pogo earthquake". Do you remember this show, and can
you describe what happened?
Interpol: It was at a big, big rectangular venue with that had a wooden floor, a 4th floor
convention hall at the world trade center of Mexico City. I don't know how many songs
into the set we were, but around halfway through the set I guess they all started jumping
in a rhythm, and the floor was responding like when you see a suspension bridge
freaking out in an earthquake -- that was happening with the floor, and heads were going
up and down, it seemed almost like 5 feet. I don't know if Chris can vouch for that, but it
was crazy and unsafe and the show got called -- we had to cancel it. I don't think people
were afraid, I think they were really enjoying themselves, but from the stage it looked
scary. (They didn't know they were going to die). And people were actually holding on
to the sound board because it was moving around. so much so it wouldn't move into the
Our tour manager after that show, who was already a pale gentleman from Glasgow
Scotland, turned even whiter, and he's like "hey mates, second show is canceled". And
we said "Yeah Stevie, you're funny."
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And it was for real, the floor almost buckled.
JB: Well, you guys have been challenged tonight, for the second set. Thank you again
for doing this and spending some time, and we truly appreciate you playing for KCRW,
let's enjoy our second set tonight, Interpol LIVE!