Interpol: ‘Improvement and evolution is sort of the whole point

Interpol. Picture: James Medina
Interpol. Picture: James Medina
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New York post-punk band Interpol head to Leeds this summer. Duncan Seaman caught up with frontman Paul Banks.

Paul Banks, frontman of New York post-punk band Interpol, is reflecting upon a prolific period of song writing during which the trio produced not only their seventh album, Marauder, but also a standalone EP. Called A Fine Mess, it’s due out today.

“We kind of had the idea of making an EP when we were in Tarbox recording Marauder,” he says. “It was a body of songs we felt would be better on a separate release and thought it would just be fun, quick on the heels of Marauder, to release some new material that works well together as a suite.”

He believes there is a unifying theme that runs through the five songs on A Fine Mess, but adds: “It’s always easy for me to find narrative threads.

“I do enjoy the malleability of meaning in that way, and then also things that happen creatively under the conscious thought process and then later you can apply a conscious thought process to them and see this is how I feel, all these things co-relate. But this batch of songs they go well together as a little niche world or character that’s represented through a course of songs.”

Interpol revisited their first album, Turn On The Bright Light, on tour in 2017. After that, Marauder felt like a fresh chapter for the band. “It seems a lot of weight to think about your past work in connection to your current work, but the experience of playing that first record was really great in a lot of ways,” says Banks. “Creatively it was fun to play those songs in sequence and immerse ourselves in that early work and I think it’s not bad to take a refresher on essentially that first DNA that you produce as a group of artists, as a band, but not so much as to say how can that relate to what we do now. It was really more of a creative curiosity.

Interpol. Picture: James Medina

Interpol. Picture: James Medina

“Bright Lights is a very immediate record and I think there’s a connection there. The latest record is a pretty straightforward, heavily live recorded, lots of tracks and that does hark back to earlier days of recording techniques when you had no budget and were just in the studio for an amount of days and had to get it done. I think this record has a similar immediacy – by intent rather than necessity.”

While on the promotion trail for Marauder, Banks spoke of his “ambition to go higher and do better”. The 40-year-old says that feeling is motivated more by a desire to move onwards creatively rather dissatisfaction with previous records. “Dissatisfaction with work from the past, I think that’s an idle thought process that not much good can come of, so definitely as best as I can and as often as I can it’s more about facing forward. I think improvement and evolution is sort of the whole point.”

The singer has described the central character in Marauder as an “unmitigated id”. Today he admits that there were aspects of it that had an element of autobiography. “I think there’s so much to the way you experience life, not before you have a real sense of mortality, but in youth there’s that phase where it’s like a cross-species, there’s sort of like a dangerous phase because you’re pushing the capacities of your physical self or you’re sort of defining the parameters of being a living being and in that phase, built into that, is a pushing of the envelope. I think inevitably there can be repercussions that come from that as well as all the experiences you gain from it, it’s sort of a messy inevitable part of a full life, that’s what I mean about the unmitigated id.

“Some of what comes from that is very beautiful and very rich and some of what comes form that is sort of poor, the things that inform you of perhaps how not to conduct yourself in the future. It’s just a very vivid phase, and I think some of those songs are maybe focusing on the experiences of that phase of pushing and testing.”

I see rock probably stands to make some grand re-emergence back to being mainstream or being a dominant genre. I feel like it’s in the wind.

Paul Banks

Next weekend Interpol join fellow survivors from the New York scene of the turn of the Millennium, The Strokes, at All Points East festival in London. Banks chuckles at the idea that they might have entered into a statesman-like age. “I’ll take it, if that’s what it is,” he says. “But as an artist I’m very honoured to have this career and I love The Strokes.”

Banks remains convinced that rock still has a vital place in mainstream culture. “Even though I’ve been not a champion but a big fan of hip-hop primarily for most of my career, now I see rock probably stands to make some grand re-emergence back to being mainstream or being a dominant genre. I feel like it’s in the wind. It’s such a vital, exciting genre of music, and just live musicianship, it’s a wonderful genre and I think it could come back. It could just take some crazy guitar solo in a big banging rock song to spark a whole movement again. I’d be into it.”

Interpol play at O2 Academy Leeds on June 25. interpolnyc.com