Interpol - Biography
By Marcus Kagler
At the dawn of the millennium, New York City was something of a primordial ooze secreting bands as varied as the garage rock of The Strokes, the art-punk of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, and an infinite amount of 80’s inspired “electroclash” outfits. The post punk minded Interpol was among this motley crew, yet they existed, and continue to exist, in a category all their own. Where their NYC peers possessed distinct American roots, the boys of Interpol were influenced by the cornerstones of British alternative rock like Joy Division and Gang of Four. Post punk had largely been out of American favor since the late 80’s, leaving a whole new generation unfamiliar with the genre. Interpol not only revived post punk for new American audiences, they brought it into the mainstream, blazing a trail for numerous American and European bands following in their wake.
When guitarist Daniel Kessler was looking to form a new band in 1998 he wanted to indulge his post-punk influences even if they weren’t exactly en vogue at the time. Along with fellow NYU friend Greg Drudy on drums, Kessler recruited a like-minded fellow student named Carlos D (aka Carlos Dengler) on bass, and an old friend from his study abroad days named Paul Banks on vocals. Although the band had no name they would frequently play gigs in the NYC area, quickly attracting an underground following eager for something more substantial than the lowest common dominator of Nu-Metal. After considering potential names like The French Letters, Las Armas, and even playing a show under the name Cuddleworthy, the band settled on Interpol (although the story of how they finally chose the name remains unclear.)
Packing original compositions with driving drum fills, heavily melodic bass lines, ringing staccato guitar parts, and Banks' monotone poetry, Interpol perfectly honed a sound long forgotten within the NYC scene. Known for wearing stylish retro black suits on stage, the group quickly developed a diehard following and a buzz worthy reputation extending outside of the NYC area. After releasing their debut EP, Fukd I.D. #3 (Chemikal Underground) in 2000, Drudy exited the band and was replaced by Sam Fogarino, former drummer for The Holy Terrors. In Fogarino the band not only found an extremely accomplished drummer but an experienced and label savvy musician. Regularly writing, recording, and playing gigs, Interpol’s popularity began to spread throughout the U.S. and across the pond to Europe. After releasing the Precipitate EP (Self Released) in 2001 the band embarked on a short tour of England where they landed a session with the legendary John Peel. Upon returning to the states a bidding war erupted with Interpol eventually signing with indie label, Matador, after being offered more creative freedom. The band released the self-titled EP, Interpol (Matador) in 2002, which included re-recorded versions of classic Interpol tracks “NYC” and “PDA”, garnering critical raves that created worldwide buzz even though they had yet to release their premiere album.
Interpol’s debut full length, Turn On The Bright Lights (2002 Matador) was a massive critical and commercial success for an independent band. Easily making numerous “Top 10 Albums of 2002” lists the album was an invigorating slice of moody infectious post punk spawning the hit singles, “Obstacle 1”, “PDA” and “Say Hello To The Angels”. Interpol toured the globe relentlessly throughout the rest of the year before returning to Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, Connecticut to record their sophomore follow up. Antics (2004-Matador) mined the same vein of its predecessor although with more radio friendly streamlined production values. Where Turn On The Bright Lights was a huge indie hit, Antics took Interpol into the mainstream on the strength of the radio hits “Slow Hands” and “Evil”. The band embarked on another mammoth 18 month world tour playing stadiums, festivals, and even opening for U2 and The Cure. In need of a break, Interpol returned to New York and took a year off to recuperate.
In early 2006 the band commenced work on their third full length album. By the fall, Interpol announced they were leaving Matador for Capitol Records after months of Internet speculation. In early 2007 the band began playing small tours in Europe, Canada, and the U.S. to road test new material. Where their past two releases were largely guitar based the new material was written around keyboard parts that opened up Interpol’s tight knit sound to more epic soundscapes. Our Love To Admire (2007-Capitol) was released that summer entering the U.S. Top 10 at #4. Although critics were divided on the album’s looser atmospheric sound the material didn’t stray too far from the successful Interpol formula, spawning more worldwide hit singles with “The Heinrich Maneuver”, “No I In Threesome”, and fan favorites “Rest My Chemistry” and “Pioneer To The Falls”. Interpol spent the rest of 2007 touring the album, with EMI releasing an expanded edition of Our Love to Admire featuring a bonus DVD of live performances filmed at London’s Astoria in early 2007 along with the videos for “The Heinrich Maneuver” and “No I In Threesome”. In 2010 the band released Interpol, their fourth studio release, eventually going Top Ten on the Billboard charts. September 2014 saw the release of the band's latest, El Pintor, which has so far received positive accolades.