Interpol takeover: Dan on their artistic drive, originality and passion
Andrew Trendell
21:07 31st August 2014

Everything from a short stanza to a towering cathedral starts with a basic sketch. That seemingly insignificant seed that soon blooms into fully-formed work of beauty. In Interpol, those origins start with guitarist Daniel Kessler. His sonic sketches are what lay the foundations for the huge sound structures they've become famed for. 

Their fifth album El Pintor is a triumph and Kessler knew even at the embryonic stages that he was on to something special.

"Truthfully, after the last touring campaign when I started writing the new songs, I got about a third of the way through what would be a part of the album and I got a sense that I really wanted to work on them with Paul and Sam  - and that's a really good sign. It shows that you're into the direction and for me, it needs to have that bug that gets into your brain."

There's an infectious spirit to El Pintor - one of conviction and drive that bleeds from each song, giving the feeling like it needs to exist. "When we were working on the songs together, there was just a really good energy," nods Kessler. "Artistically, you're not doing this because you need to, but because you have something better to say. "

Kessler on stage at Brixton Academy. Photo: Gigwise/Justine Trickett 

That's a pretty promising environment for any band to find themselves in, especially after the departure of a key member. For El Pintor, Interpol entered the songwriting process for the first time without the presence of former bassist Carlos Dengler, who quit the group just before the release of Intepol's 2010's self-titled LP.

However, that organic energy that drives El Pintor is also what pushed them to persevere, never questioning if they were going to 'make it' without Carlos D.

"There was never a question because there was never a conversation," admits Kessler. "I think it's just more in my own brain, there was never an assumption that we should just do this. There was never a lack of confidence or the belief that we wouldn't do this, but there was never that assumption. We've never had a shortage of ideas between us so I had no worries that we'd never have anything to take into the studio, I just didn't know what it was going to be like.

"You just don't know until you start doing it. I like the fact that I don't overthink these things. It feels like there's an honesty to that process."

Rather than pull in an outsider to fill Dengler's boots, the answer was staring them right in the face, and that in itself led to inspiration. Struggling to match Kessler's ideas on guitar, frontman Paul Banks realised that he needed the bottom line of those iconic meandering Interpol bass parts too weave his ideas around. He picked up  the bass, and the muse took hold.

The best thing was that it didn't seem strange, as the band had already had years to grow and evolve together, into this new, self-contained beast.

"It's interesting because Carlos left four and a half years ago, and then we finished mixing the record, released and toured to play 200 shows," says Kessler. "So it gave us time to get used to being a three-piece and then on stage being a five-piece, which is the way it's always been. When it came time to actually writing, we'd had some separation but not any time spent together in the writing mode."

He adds: "As soon as Paul picked up the bass, then I can say that by the end of day two we were already making pretty great headway with two songs that are on the record now. At that moment, you leave and you [think] 'Yes, I'm in' without overanalysing what's happening. I probably haven't taken too much stock yet, and that feels like a healthy thing."

Back on the form of their career, at Brixton Academy. Photo: Gigwise/Justine Trickett

It has taken a lot for Interpol to arrive at this stage for El Pintor. Banks took time away to release his second solo album, drummer Sam Fogarino launched side-project EmptyMansions with touring keyboardist and Secret Machines' man Brandon Curtis, and Kessler himself is currently working on his own project, Big Noble ("I'm putting out a record next year," he tells us).

Now, with the decks clean and a renewed vim, they may sound more confident and comfortable than ever, but don't say they're in any kind of 'comfort zone'. It's  just Interpol doing what only they can. 

"When people say that it sounds like an Interpol record, I totally agree," agrees Dan. "It does sound like an Interpol record, whatever that means. We've had different directions but I get what they mean. I still think that it's pretty progressive and vibrant and that there's a strong urgency to each song in their own specific capacity.

"It just sounds like a band working well together with songs bouncing off the walls."

Amen to that. 

See more of our Interpol take-over:


EXCLUSIVE: Go behind the scenes with Interpol on the making of the band's 'new chapter' in this in-depth video EPK

INTERVIEW: Sam discusses El Pintor, evolution and 'the cult of Carlos'  

INTERVIEW: Paul talks staying true, Interpol fans, ignoring critics and 'becoming a new band'

CULTURAL INSPIRATION: We ask the band what they've been enjoying  

COMPETITION: Your chance to own a copy of the album on beautiful vinyl