September 28, 2004
"Achingly beautiful, explores emotional blues but never, ever plays the blues." -- Vanity Fair
Interpol. A name generally associated with international espionage, covert operations, and distant ports of call. Yet since Interpol, the band, swept up listeners with their 2002 Matador debut 'Turn On The Bright Lights,' the moniker has gained new associations as well. It still carries global recognition. For the past two years, one could hardly open a magazine, turn on a radio or television, or step into a nightclub, without hearing Interpol's dark, gripping songs or seeing their countenances. Despite this high level of media exposure, the quartet never lost the tension and complexity that won them acclaim worldwide.
So it remains on 'Antics.' But what has changed, markedly, is the breadth of sounds, emotion, and characters at play in their music. Contrast the disc's stately opener, "Next Exit," with its swells of percussion and piano, and abrupt brush strokes of whammy bar, to the final track, "A Time To Be So Small," which pulls the listener in like a camera honing in on a great actor in the climactic scene of a classic film, the music building into a swirling vortex that suddenly dissolves into a quiet eddy, and good night.
After two years of seemingly endless tours, the quartet returned in early 2004 to Peter Katis' Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, Conn., to record their second album. They had already debuted a handful of songs earmarked for 'Antics' on the road: "Length of Love," "Narc," "C'mere." Meanwhile, having revisited - and reinvented - the material from 'Bright Lights' night after night, they discovered new strengths. There was more room for experimentation in these songs, for toying with arrangements and intricacies of individual parts, than on their debut.
"On the road, Sam and I would constantly try to outdo each other," says bassist Carlos D. of his interaction, night after night, with drummer Sam Fogarino. "But we still had to 'obey' the old songs. We knew, with the new songs, we could push everything up a notch." Singer Paul Banks concurs: "We learned how far our songs could go, and shot for a higher degree in our songwriting."
They succeeded. "Public Pervert" pushes Interpol's use of dynamics to new extremes, starting with a low, isolated guitar riff, adding a sheen of keyboards in the background, eventually bursting into an explosive chorus, then suddenly dropping back to nearly nothing save a tambourine before ascending the next crest. Hear how, on "Length of Love," one simple syncopation of the bass line adds a seductive additional dimension. On the propulsive single "Slow Hands," lyrics rife with images of abandonment ("Can't you see what you've done to my heart and soul?") skitter across a floor-filling dance groove that swirls with a new fever.
Often, say the band members, it was guitarist Daniel Kessler who would come up with an initial chord progression, or a mood he wanted to capture musically, for a new song. "And then Sam and Carlos would turn it into something else completely," admits Paul. Case in point: The mesmerizing "Not Even Jail," which bristles with a peculiar frisson that suggests the souls of two songs trapped in a single one. "Daniel was trying to push a particular chord progression, and I didn't like it," admits Carlos. "I caused a stalemate. Then one day, Dan came up with a whole new bass line, and that broke the stalemate - because we had to change the original chords and write a totally different melody."
The wider playing field of 'Antics' is especially evident in the diverse ways Paul deploys his voice. "My vocals are higher, more melodic, less monotonous," he observes. His lyrics, though still elliptical, are more upbeat, too. "With 'Bright Lights,' I wanted to sound alienated, to imply tension and desperation, by sinking my vocals into the mix and shouting them. This time, the songs are more expressive and less hopeless. I want the compelling aspect to be the melody, not the drama of the delivery."
With 'Antics,' Interpol has delivered a disc even more engaging than its celebrated predecessor, without sacrificing any of the depth that has made them such an important band for so many. The songs are at once catchier and more variegated, revealing themselves over time to a degree heard on few current releases, and nothing is ever obvious. "A lot of time, there are specific topics or events that that inspire the songs, but it's not explicit in my lyrics. " Indeed, with Interpol, things are rarely what they seem. And that's how they - and the fans - like it. "What I like about us is that we don't explore ideas in a way where the viewpoint is clear," concludes Carlos. "There's always an element of mystery."
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Turn On The Bright Lights
August 20, 2002
With their expansive sound, dark wit, and a flair for the dramatic, Interpol have gone from being one of the New York City's most talked about new bands to becoming one of America's most exciting and acclaimed. Fulfilling the promise shown on their three previous EPs, Interpol's full length debut, Turn On The Bright Lights, establishes the quartet as a major force despite their brief tenure. It is a filler-free, fully realized statement of intent; few debut albums have sounded this confident or displayed as much emotional range.
Singer/guitarist Paul Banks' angelic exterior belies his twisted lyrics and macabre vocals. Bassist Carlos D. carries much of the mood; while his forceful approach reflects early influences John Paul Jones (Zep) and Clifford Lee Burton (Metallica), other faves like John Taylor (Duran) and Simon Gallup (Cure) are more evident in his rubbery, melodic playing. Daniel Kessler's guitar cuts it straight down the middle with an incredibly atmospheric sound, owing as much to current electronic music as the pop bands of his youth. And though Interpol technically formed in 1998, it wasn't until Sam Fogarino replaced their original drummer in 2000 that they developed the focus and authority that characterizes their current sound.
Turn on the Bright Lights was created at Connecticut's Tarquin Studios in November 2001, recorded by Pete Katis and mixed by Gareth Jones (Clinic, Depeche Mode). Tarquin Studios occupies the top floor of a 150 year-old house which once served as a hospital for mentally impaired children, and where the Interpol boys felt strangely at home. Of the intense recording schedule, Dan remembers, "The 'Outside,' as we called it, took on mystic proportions by the end. We hadn't had any contact with anyone but ourselves for a few weeks, so when someone went out to the store or for a walk, it was like they were venturing out into the wild. It was authentic cabin fever."
Interpol's first single, "PDA," is accompanied by a groundbreaking video by director Christopher Mills which portrays the band as characters in an animated science fiction/spy film. The band has toured North America and Europe twice this year, with additional North American dates in late 2002 and early 2003.
June 4, 2002
Interpol was created in New York City in 1998. The original line-up of the band was Greg on drums, Daniel on guitar, Paul on vox and guitar, and Carlos on bass. Between '98 and 2000, the four lads forged a unique sound in a variety of the city's decrepit and shady rental rehearsal rooms. Paying by the hour, they cultivated a unique aesthetic and developed their notoriously delicate and complicated creative process. In 2000, Greg and the band split leaving Daniel, Paul, and Carlos with a significant and reflective hiatus. It soon came about that Interpol would try out Sam, whom Daniel knew through the record store where Sam worked. Sam was perfect for the band as he gave Interpol a healthy shot of punk aggression and rhythmic backbone. Now with the line-up revitalized, Interpol resumed gigging at venues like Brownies, Mercury Lounge, and The Bowery Ballroom. Throughout 2000 and 2001 they opened for bands like ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, Arab Strap, and The Delgados. Then came Interpol's first release, at the end of 2000, in the form of the third installment of the FukdID EP series on Scottish label Chemikal Underground. Around the same time, the band also contributed an unreleased track, "Song Seven," to the Fierce Panda Records compilation Clooney Tunes. Popularity abroad increased as a result of regular rotation on London's XFM. In April 2001 Interpol played in Glasgow, Manchester, and London, capping off their visit with a session for the famed John Peel. Later on in August and November, the group visited France with appearances at festivals La Route du Rock (St. Malo) and Festival Off (Paris) respectively. In November of 2001, the band tucked themselves away in Connecticut at Tarquin Studios to record their debut full-length. The album was recorded and mixed by Peter Katis (Mercury Rev, Clem Snide) and Gareth Jones (Depeche Mode, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Clinic.)