The story of Interpol might have had its share of rollercoaster moments, but the majority of the time it’s been one of triumph. 2002’s seminal debut Turn On The Bright Lights, released five years after the band’s formation, has gone onto become one of the most revered records this century. A feat celebrated last year when the band toured it in full to commemorate the album’s 15th anniversary, Turn On The Bright Lights has remained a timeless artefact of beauty to this day. A record to benchmark all others against, and not just its creators, but also any of their contemporaries past, present or future.
So it’s to Interpol’s credit they’ve rarely blotted that trademark of quality admonished by such a flawless debut. While the next two records (2004’s Antics and 2007’s Our Love To Admire) maintained the standards of its predecessor, 2010’s self-titled fourth marked a difficult period in the band’s career. Long serving bass player Carlos Dengler left shortly after the album was completed with its muted critical response being the first time Interpol had felt the wraith of the media.
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Having undertaken a three-year hiatus after touring Interpol for twelve months solid, the band regained their creative spark once more. 2014’s El Pintor revealing some of their finest work to date. Now, four years on once more, they’re about to release Marauder, their sixth long player.
Across its thirteen tracks, Marauder mixes classic Interpol with a more direct and at times, visceral sound. With the band having a few weeks off before going back out on tour next week, Daniel Kessler looks back on the summer so far with pride. Particularly last month’s show at Hyde Park celebrating The Cure’s 40th anniversary.
“They just asked us which was very flattering,” he beams. “We weren’t that far into making the new record at that point so hadn’t really thought about playing any shows. But it was really nice of them to ask us to play and we jumped at the opportunity to do so. We actually toured the States with them, Mogwai and The Rapture back in 2004 so it felt really great to get out there again.”
Of course, we’re here primarily to discuss the new album, Marauder. Recorded over a five month period between December of last year and April of this, Marauder saw the band go back to basics, preferring to record straight to tape rather than infuse with layers and overdubs from the outset. Some of the songs date back even further than that, as Kessler reveals.
“I started writing a little bit in between tours, but predominantly when we finished touring El Pintor in the latter period of 2015. So we’d take two weeks off and I’d write a little bit here and there, sometimes in hotel rooms when we were on tour. I guess the real genesis of this record didn’t really start materialising until we’d stopped touring. I usually write by myself for a while so I don’t really know whether they’ll become songs until they become songs. ‘The Rover’ was one of the earliest songs I came up with, the guitar arrangement anyway. We didn’t really get together as a band to work on these songs until the back end of 2016. ‘The Rover’ and ‘If You Really Love Nothing’ were definitely the first two pieces of music I played to Paul (Banks), and he was really quick to write the bass parts and vocal melodies for both.”
While Marauder is clearly more raw and immediate than its predecessor, the record’s lyrical themes range from dystopian Black Mirror type nightmares to hedonistic cult leader figures and the emotional transients of everyday relationships. As with all of Interpol’s previous works, it benefits from such diversity rather than following any specific theme or formula, a point Kessler labours vehemently.
“We don’t think too much about what we’re going to write before we start writing. I tend to write the music first then see what comes out of it. With this record there was a lot of energy there and I guess some of Paul’s lyrics may be responding to that. But at the same time, I don’t think it was deliberate per se. There was no concept or anything like that. It just subconsciously felt like we had a strong inner core of songs and that’s what really inspired us as a band. There was such an urgency to these songs and I think everyone responded to them accordingly.”
While thirteen songs made it onto Marauder such as energetic lead single ‘The Rover’, already a live favourite and jaunty follow-up ‘Number 10’ which is perhaps the closest song on the record to Interpol’s signature dual interlocking guitar sound. Nevertheless, it’s the songs that didn’t make it onto the record Kessler is keen to emphasise.
“This was the hardest record to decide what made it on to the album and what didn’t,” he declares. “It was really hard record to sequence, and we had a pretty fruitful writing period so there’s a few songs that didn’t make it onto the record which I think hold their own and I hope resurface in the future. If someone had asked me at the start of this process which songs I thought would make it onto the record compared with what actually did, I’d have gotten it super wrong! We had so many choices here and we’re very much an albums band, so we tried to do what was right for the record and give it the most cohesive feel. We thought including another song might give it an energy that was missing and that’s how we eventually arrived at the thirteen songs which made the final cut. I think we made the right decisions in the end.”
Kessler’s statement about Interpol being an albums band is one that’s hard to disagree with, and yet with Marauder having such an immediacy and distinctive flow about it, the album could almost be a compilation of singles. However, the guitarist doesn’t necessarily share the same view, especially when it comes down to choosing what fits and what doesn’t fit for radio playlisting.
“We’re never conscious of that, even going back to the early days of Interpol. ‘PDA’ was our first single; one of the first songs I ever wrote as it happens. It was on our first three demos before we got signed and even though we recorded a different version albeit with the same arrangement for ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’, we still had no idea it would be our first single. Same as we never had any idea ‘Obstacle #1’ would be a single either. Some songs become obvious candidates because of the way they’re structured I guess, but ultimately, these songs are on the record because they’re needed to occupy a certain position on that album. We’ve never written anything intentionally as a single, but we have written energetic songs when we’ve felt a certain record’s needed that at some point or other. For example, ‘The Rover’ is quite a Johnny come lately track I thought would only be used as a b-side or bonus track somewhere. It’s nothing to do with the song itself, I just think you sometimes get to a point where you become lost in the woods when you’re heavily focused on something yourself. It’s natural to feel like that when you’re constantly writing songs.”
Another change from their previous two albums saw the band work with a producer for the first time in over a decade since third long player ‘Our Love To Admire’. Enter New York-based Dave Fridmann, renowned for his work with The Flaming Lips, MGMT, Mercury Rev and Mogwai among others. “We liked these songs anyway but thought if we worked with someone their contribution could take them up a level.” Kessler takes up the story:
“We were making great headway with the songwriting but then after one or two conversations about where we wanted to go it seemed the right thing to do. The last thing we’d ever do is bring someone in that changes things just for the sake of changing things. We wanted to work with someone who would make the songs better. We had an idea where we’d go if we produced it ourselves, but at the same time were also a little bit more open towards the unknown. So we started talking about what a Dave Fridmann produced Interpol record might sound like. We’re big fans of some of his records. Another thing that drew us towards working with Dave was he doesn’t have one particular sound. He just knows how to listen to bands and try to get the best out of their songs. He has a really incredible way of recording so we decided to take the opportunity to experience this first hand. He had a lot of good ideas, which meant our conversations were really healthy throughout this process. Certain songs, which we’d dismissed early on in the process, made a great comeback and became undeniable. They just really found their form and much of that was down to Dave. He really helped us get the best out of each one of these songs. We had certain aspirations when we were writing the album and he helped us get there. The songs themselves didn’t change that much in terms of the arrangements; only here and there in certain parts but not where most of the choruses and verses were concerned. They were already together. He encouraged us to record straight to tape and keep it simple, which comes through on 95% of the record.”
Which brings us to the band’s forthcoming world tour that commences in Mexico on 13th of this month. With Interpol already scheduled to play ten countries up until the end of November as more dates are added on a near daily basis, Kessler has high hopes for each of Marauder’s thirteen songs when it comes to playing the record live.
“I feel really strongly about every song on this record, so I’d like to think we’ll have them all ready by the time the tour gets underway. I don’t think it will take us terribly long to rehearse them at all. We don’t want to overwhelm people by playing too many songs off the new record every night either but we’ll definitely be adding more to the set as the tour progresses.”
So how do the older songs fit in with the new record when it comes to putting together a live set?
“We’ll always introduce new songs alongside some of the older ones from our catalogue and see what works and what doesn’t,” admits Kessler. “We also like to make a point of playing some of the less obvious ones when people least expect them. I think most Interpol fans favour very different tracks. It’s not always the singles they want to hear, so we’ve recently brought songs like ‘Roland’, ‘Success’ and ‘The Scale’ back into the set – we hadn’t played that for ten years. I think it’s good for our fans and it’s good for us too. It keeps us on our toes a little bit.
Last year’s Turn On The Bright Lights anniversary tour was a resounding success, not least because it gave both band and audience an opportunity to celebrate one of the finest albums of its generation. While the tenth anniversary of Our Love To Admire also passed last year without a tour (although the band released a special commemorative edition of the album), Kessler says it’s something they haven’t ruled out for the future.
“We hadn’t thought about doing it before the …Bright Lights thing came along, but I think that helped us exercise and do something a little different. We had fun playing that record, and it also made things easier in not having to work out a different setlist every night. Everything is always open, and it’s something I’ll probably discuss with my bandmates at some point. I’m proud of every song we’ve ever written, every record we’ve ever made. They’re documents of that time and an important part of our history. I never wanted us to be one of those bands that gets to a point where we disown some of our early material. That was always important to me, ever since I was a kid. Even when we were recording Turn On The Bright Lights in the studio I knew we’d be playing that record forever, and consequently I am. I think it stands the test of time. It’s a hard journey. You do this because you want to do it, not because you’re hoping for or expecting some kind of response.”
The album Marauder is out on 24 August via Matador Records.
Read Interpol tour dates on Gigwise here