It figures that in their recent profile of New York's "coolest" bands, Rolling Stone missed the city's best. Interpol has been playing the live circuit for a couple of years and yet somehow they've managed to stay relatively under the radar the entire time. In part, it's been a concerted effort, but the dearth of publicity can also be attributed to their outside commitments. Each of the band members (Paul Banks on lead vocals and guitar, Daniel Kessler on guitars and vocals, Carlos Dengler on bass and keyboards, and Sam Fogarino on drums) has had to hold down demanding day jobs to fund their collective musical endeavor. But thankfully, that's all about to change in the coming months. Interpol will become a full-time effort as the band takes to the road to support their as-yet-untitled debut album. And the rest of the world will finally have an opportunity to become acquainted with their unique sound: a skillful synthesis of post-punk influences like Joy Division and Magazine, and revered contemporary torchbearers like Clinic and The Dismemberment Plan. To get a taste, I recommend downloading "PDA"one the most intelligently constructed pop songs I've ever heard, from an unsigned band or otherwise. Voices recently spoke with Dengler about the current state of affairs and what we should expect from Interpol in the near future.
Voices: Your shows have been pretty sporadic, and yet you've somehow managed to play shows in Paris and in a couple of weeks you'll be playing in Chicago. What's allowed you to do that? I mean, most bands play the local circuit a lot first and only play outside dates once they've secured a record deal.
Carlos Dengler: Well the good thing [about it] is that whereas other bands percolate into the consciousness of more and more people in different cities without even having played in those cities, both through hype and magazine articles, we haven't taken that road. Not so far at least.
V: Well, I saw the band was written up in Alternative Press as a band to watch in 2002.
CD: Yeah, but that was a musicthat was a little blip that we got. I'm not trying to say we haven't gotten any press, but there isn't that sort of buzz that maybe other bands have. Instead, there's a buzz among certain people, like [concert] bookers.
V: Was that a conscious choice on your part?
CD: Not at all actually. It's just people who are looking for music and someone says, "Hey, there's this band." And then they listen to it, and they just really like the music and like it enough to give us a call. That's what happened in England. And it's kind of what happened in France, although we do have a publicist over there.
V: New York City has certainly been a hotbed for new bands recently. Do you consider yourselves part of the New York City scene? And do you have an objection with being lumped together with a bunch of other bands based on location?
CD: No. I think we'd be here anyway and so would all the other bands. The consciousness of all of us working together or being a part of some mass pool of creativity is an exciting notion. And I think it's very positiveall of the bands wind up inspiring one another.
V: So you definitely feel it's like a cohesive scene right now?
CD: It's getting there. When the idea that there was a New York scene started to get thrown around all over the place, I didn't have any objection to it per se, but I didn't really see it or feel like there was anything going on. I think that's starting to change a bit. More and more bands are starting to get attention and bands that we're friends with even. And we all talk with one another after shows. So I think people are making connections now.
V: So it's more connected than it would seem to the outsider?
CD: Well, it wasn't a conscious thing to begin with. It just sort of happened. But it's great. We all go to each other's shows
V: Was it that there really wasn't a scene a couple of years ago, or has there always been a New York scene and no one took notice until recently?
CD: I think more of the latter. Although the thing is that a lot of the attention the press is giving to New York right now is making us self-conscious and now there's something to talk about amongst ourselves. It's a sort of camaraderie. Yeah, we are part of that. It's a little vain of me to say that. But at the very least there is a self-consciousness about it that binds us together and maybe in the long run it will provide solidarity and strength. Who knows? But I'll say this much: before this whole scene business started happening, I was really bummed out because I thought we were just on our own. There were other bands, but we didn't know them or who they were. I don't feel that way any longer.
V: In almost all the reviews and articles I've read, you're inevitably compared to Joy Division. How does the band feel about that? Does it bother you at all?
CD: No, because we know how fallacious it is. I mean, some critics are just not good and are very superficial in their analyses. So they hear a vocal style that is maybe reminiscent of Ian Curtis and then they won't notice that the music sounds virtually nothing like Joy Division.
V: I hear more modern influences myself. The Dismemberment Plan and Clinic spring to mind immediately, but I suppose I can also hear where those critics are coming from as well. Certainly there's some Joy Division.
CD: I see where people are coming from with the comparisons, too. The irony is that [the Joy Division influence] isn't as prevalent as they claim. If you go through each of our record collections, you would probably find the most diverse set of genres among any band. I'm not going to claim that we're the most eclectic, but there are very few bands, maybe a handful, that all four of us can agree on and say that we love. And usually it's classic bands like Led Zepplin, bands that everyone likes.
V: Okay, let's back up a bit to the beginning. You released your first EP on the revered Chemikal Underground label, which is run by The Delgados. How did that come about?
CD: It got into their hands through connections among people that we knew. Daniel used to work for Jetset and that's where he met Emma from The Delgados. She was working there at the time, and he's kept up a relationship with her.
V: He works at Domino now, right?
CD: Yeah. So he's good like that. He gets to meet those kinds of people. Anyway, then the tape sort of fell on her lap one day, and she came back and said, "Hey, by the way, I actually liked your band." And Daniel was like, "Oh, well, since you mention it " Of course, it didn't happen exactly like that, but close enough.
V: Right. But anyway, that Fukd I.D. #3 EP was released a while ago.
CD: This December it'll be two years.
V: That's amazing. See, I just got it this past November. So it's still relatively new to me.
CD: And on top of that, the recordings are super, super old too. We recorded those tracks in '97.
V: So there was a significant lag between the recording and actual release.
CD: We used a lot of those recordings as demos. We'd pass them out at shows. And then Chemikal Underground wanted to license those recordings from us. So we said hell yes and gave it to them.
V: It's been a really long time since you recorded new material.
CD: Yeah, we're really anxious right now in a way because we're very appreciative of the people who are into us and we're glad that we're able to offer this kind of music and we do it live a lot, but people don't really have a good idea of what we sound like on tape because the recordings they're listening to are really old. It's not that they're bad musically. We have new recordings of some of the older stuff.
V: Do you think you've changed a lot since the first EP?
CD: Our production has. Our execution has. And maybe one couldwell, I don't like to say that we've progressed creatively because that makes it sound like our older songs suck compared to the new ones.
V: Are those songs going to appear in reworked forms on the debut album?
CD: I would love to be at liberty to discuss what tracks are eventually going to make the cut, but
V: Oh man, you're going to axe a whole part of my interview here.
V: No, I'm kidding. Not a big deal. Let's talk about other aspects of the album. When did you start recording it?
CD: We started recording it November. We kind of did two-week spurts. Or like one-week spurts actually. I can't even remember. It's all a blur when you're stuck in a studio that long.
V: Well, and it must have been hard trying to hold down day jobs as well.
CD: Yeah, that too. I mean, I lost a lot of money.
V: Oh yeah, I meant to ask you about that as well. You funded the recording of the album yourselves, correct?
CD: Well, we fronted the money.
V: Right, that's what I meant. On the front end.
CD: I'm sort of ignorant about that stuff. Our manager handles the money-type stuff. I don't know how much was paid up front.
V: But in any event, the label you sign with will comp you for the studio time.
CD: Presumably, yes.
V: So did you front the money yourself in order to shop the finished product around?
CD: No. The recordings that we've just done are very recent, and we're still working on them. Little bits and pieces here and there, randomly. A day or two remixing every now and again. We wouldn't have had the time to shop these recordings around. These were done specifically with an album in mind. "We're going to record these songs and they're going to be on the album. And it'll be the first Interpol full-length." It was the previous recordings that were for the purposes of demoing.
V: Where did you do most of these new recordings? Somewhere outside the city?
CD: Yeah, we did them at Tarquin Studios at Bridgeport or Fairfield, Connecticut. And Peter Case was the engineer.
V: What else has he done?
CD: He just finished the new Get-Up Kids album. And he did Clem Snide I believe.
V: He did mixing?
CD: Yeah, the mixing on this album was shared to a certain degree by us, to a certain degree by Peter, and then Garreth Jones naturally.
V: Who produced it?
CD: We all produced it in a way. The way it happened is that we were all in the control room listening, talking about it. It was a very involved and democratic process.
V: Is that true of the songwriting as well?
CD: All songs: Interpol. They're not credited to a couple members of the band. It's not like that. Everyone has an equal say in the music and that translates into the studio as well.
V: So this is your first major undertaking, recording-wise. Was it what you expected? Can you talk about the experience of being in the studio working on a full-length album?
CD: You know, being in a band can resemble being married. Let me just put it that way.
V: Lots of sweat and tears.
CD: Yes, and love. There's love and creativity. There are things that get nourished. And things that are born. And then there are fights. I mean a marriage is hard enough with two people. Now try and imagine four and the dynamics of that.
V: On the business-side of things, where did you see yourselves fitting in? Were major labels considered when you were looking for a deal? Or did you guys always think of yourselves as strictly an indie band?
CD: We definitely don't consider ourselves an "indie" band cause that makes it sound like we have a certain sound, ethic, and ethos. And we don't really like to get mixed up in that sort of stuff. We're just musicians and we don't approve of that "indie" label. However, we did have an expressed limit in terms of what kind of deal we were looking for. We definitely wanted an independent label. We didn't feel that a major label could see to our needs. I mean, maybe they could, but it didn't seem that way. We were really focused on independent labels.
V: What, specifically, in your mind was undesirable about a major label arrangement?
CD: Major labels have the potential to ruin bands. Ruin their credibility. Their standing in the public and their viability. We were concerned about legitimacy.
V: So where are you in the signing process right now? Have you chosen a specific label?
CD: Oh yeah, we've decided. We're in the final stretch right now. It's virtually done.
V: And have you decided on a release date for the album yet? Any plans to report?
CD: We're thinking early fall for the LP. There's going to be a three-song preliminary EP released Stateside at the end of May. I believe it's self-titled.
V: Will they be songs that no one has heard?
CD: Two of them will be. I mean, people who have seen us live will have heard them, but for everybody else who's only familiar with the Gray EP and the Chem EP, they'll only have heard one of these songs before.
[Editor's note: Since completing this interview, Interpol has pushed back the release of the new EP to June and announced that the album will follow in August.]