Written by Chris Langenberg & Amber Ramsay
Live Photographs by Rei Bingham
If you haven't heard of Interpol, maybe it's time to take a long hard look at yourself, your workplace, friendship groups and dare I say family just to consider what is going on within your social circle. Interpol aren't just another band from New York City, as far as I'm concerned they are the band from New York City. Since their inception in 1997 and with the release of one of the most important indie, post-punk albums of all time, Turn On The Bright Lights in 2002, the band have been sitting amongst the top of the world's most respected groups.
With stand out and instantly recognisable songs such as Evil, Rest My Chemistry, Obstacle 1 and Slow Hands, Interpol have gone from strength to strength throughout their career and have the live reputation to back every critically acclaimed record they have released. After releasing their 7th studio album Marauder in 2018, the band returned to Australia to tour with Falls Festival as well as play two theatre side shows at the Sydney Opera House and the Palais Theatre in Melbourne. We had a chat with guitarist/writer Daniel prior to their tour.
Firstly, thank you for taking time out of your day to talk to us and we are really looking forward to seeing your show soon. Last time you came to Australia was in 2014, how do you personally feel the band has changed in the last four years and what can the Australian crowds expect if they haven't seen you before? Is there any difference in the live show?
Yeah I don't know, we always change things up a little bit structure wise, I don't know if I can really exactly summarise what the differences are. At the same time we have a new record out so I think that was the biggest change for us. It's sort of formed our process and our path forward. It's always a pleasure to come down and play in Australia, last time we only got to do one show, so I'm excited that we have quite a few shows booked in and to have a bit more time down there.
Yeah absolutely! Following on from that, when you got back together to start writing the latest album, did things seem to fit back into place easily? Was it as fluent writing this record as it has been for previous records?
Yeah I mean I think we have been pretty fortunate that every time that we designate a period to start writing and exploring new ideas, it never feels too much, we never really hit a writers block or we never feel like we have to discuss things too much. Things kind of move pretty quickly, I think we just have something that probably gets set into motion in the very early days with the band.
Certainly when we put out our very first record, because I think touring is really just one beast that’s really about performance or playing live, being very present and you know, connecting with the audience. But for me personally I don’t write too much on tour and we don't really use touring for that. So to me when I get off the road, I find that I'm a bit starved. From the other side, just writing and creating new things, ideas are usually things that are just dying to come out. The songs all began with me and then as soon as Paul and I got together, it didn’t take very long for the songs to gather their own theme and Paul to create a bass part and vocal melody. It just got very exciting very quickly so, that's the fortunate side of our process so far.
We're never short of ideas and we are never short of things just moving, we might have conversations in the middle of writing, like should we go this way or that way with a song and it's never so much of a slog as far as, "what should we do next?" I think we operate better less through conversation and more through just playing. It's nice when the music is just sort of speaking for itself.
Speaking of ideas, where did you get the concept for 'The Rover''s video?
That was Paul's idea, he used something that he shared with Sam and I when we were in the studio stuck in the snow and he had a vision of it being set less in Mexico City and more in Venice Beach, California. But we already had this time to go to Mexico City to do this press conference and to announce the record, and with that we thought we could take Paul's concept and actually transplant it to Mexico City, which you know, I've always wanted to make a video in Mexico City and then it just grew from there.
The person who plays the 'rover' is a good friend of mine and a friend of the band and as soon as Gerardo (Naranjo) became the director, it sort of morphed and evolved into an idea that maybe the rover can overlap with the actual press conference and make a crazy thing that intertwines. We didn't know how if it was actually going to be good but we were all up for it.
We were actually watching the live stream of the press conference and we were very confused when he walked to the front of the crowd but it worked out incredibly in the video.
Yeah it turned out okay, the dress rehearsal was not okay but we made it work.
Some bands have spoken about finding inspiration when writing from the perspective of a 'tortured artist', now that you don’t have pressures of money or keeping the band together, do you find it easier or harder dynamic for finding inspiration for these songs?
I mean I never had a desire beyond hoping to make one record. It took us long enough to get signed or to even have that opportunity, so I never really had visions or dreams beyond that. We actually got to make a record and we got to make it with my favourite record label, Matador Records. I never got further than dreaming of that, so ever since then it's crazy to think that we are still doing this 20 years later. I think when we get together for writing music, we're not together because this became a job or something, this is just what we do.
We're still together because when we get in a room and start playing music together there's an undeniable chemistry. I think performance and certainly more writing together, that’s why we're still here now because there's that thing in the room, the thing that's just pushing us to go forward.
On a personal level of just writing songs at home, the foundation of that 'it's something that happens', I feel like there's an evolution to it on my side but it's this deep need and real enjoyment for coming up with new ideas and that feeling is similar to the feeling I had when I was a teenager. So to me all that is there and it's not fading because I feel like I could do something better than I have done previously and I'm just addicted to it, much like I have always been because it kind of keeps going. Writing a new song can sometimes be like fishing, you never know if it's going to come to you. If you want to find it, you have to keep doing it almost everyday and just see.
So on your upcoming Falls Festival sideshows here in Australia, you're playing seated shows. Have you done any of those before in Australia and how do you find the dynamic between playing a show that is seating in comparison to a festival show?
I don’t know if we have done a tonne of them in Australia, I think we have done a few, but with this new record we played some places that just had seats or like half seated half standing, and some theatres in our most recent run of Europe. I mean, it's always nice when people are kind of all in this room and people are kind of jumping up and down.
Is that your personal preference?
I like it, I mean, I do like enthusiasm and I like when there's just people kind of going crazy and yeah it's very lively and fun. That probably is my preference but that's just as a performer but as a viewer I definitely like being seated and watching a show, it's more comfortable.
In terms of translating ideas into songs, you sort of touched on it before in that it’s less of a process and just kind of happens, do you have a personal favourite Interpol record that has been the most fluent to write?
Well there is a process, the songs usually just start with me in my house just on a very basic level on guitar and then usually I'll play something for Paul and we will map it out a little bit, he will start with the bass and Sam will jump in as well. Or Sam might be in the room while Paul and I are working out the basics of it, and then it goes from there.
In terms of a favourite record, I think artistically usually you should feel like the thing that is most current to you it’s the thing that you have a strong connection to, so to me I think I feel really good about Marauder. I think it was a really enjoyable process, it was incredibly fluid between the three of us. There were so many days we would leave the rehearsal studio, really pleased about the future and plans to do with specific songs. I would just say it was really great with it's liveliness and it’s urgency and energy to the songs that kind of made us more and more excited about the record to make it.
The fact that we got to make it with Dave Fridmann, we kind of really brought him into our process and it was a very enjoyable collaboration. I feel really good about Marauder and I do think it hold's itself against anything else that we have done to date right now, so I'm really proud of that record.
How was the Turn On The Bright Lights anniversary tour? Was it a strange feeling playing all those old songs again?
We play a lot of those songs anyway so I never want to be a band that separates themselves from records they have made in the past. I always wanted to be okay with everything we have done, and I am. I think that's why I can play the songs and feel very connected to them, because I think when we were writing them and recording them I was really thinking of those times.
I remember making Turn On The Bright Lights and wanting it to be something that was good forever I didn’t not understand what I was trying to do when I was doing that. So consequently I love playing the songs, and to do it from start to finish, it was a bit of a trip because one, we had never done that and two, we were in the middle of writing Marauder in fact, we were almost finished writing, it just needed a few pieces here and there, mostly vocal related. It was a strange but interesting and good to be so deep into writing a new record and put that down and pick up something that you wrote 20 years ago. Ultimately just going out there and doing the tour, I thought playing shows it would be a fun thing to do but I didn’t know it was going to be that much fun.
It was really was a good time to do it, I didn’t know people would be waiting for that and for it to be that much of a relevant tour, so it was really a humbling reception.
So, you wear suits at your shows. Falls Festival which you will soon be playing, is held in the middle of Australia's summer. Have there been any shows where it was physically dangerous for you all to wear suits on stage, you might have to be prepared for that.
Haha probably, but I've always worn a suit on stage and I have also played Falls in 2011 so it's not going to be my first time.
Thanks so much for talking to us, it means a lot that we could speak with you.
Cool! I'm glad to hear.