You’ve heard it before, right? “They’re not as good as they used to be.” “The first album was better.” “They sound like Joy Division.” And so on and so forth.
But, come to think of it, the worst you can say about New York’s Interpol is that they launched their career with a superb album (2002’s Turn on the Bright Lights) and, ever since, they’ve been trapped by their own greatness. But the band’s drummer suggests that, perhaps, that first album wasn’t that great after all, and it is only now that the band is doing its finest work.
“When we did the first album we were very naive,” Sam Fogarino told the Current on the phone from London, days before Interpol’s scheduled show at Josabi’s on April 22. “We didn’t know how to make a record together, and we were lucky to have a good snapshot taken of who we were at the time.” Read the complete interview with Fogarino here.
The album worked so well (#59 in Rolling Stone’s Best Albums of the Decade list) that it became a curse, but the band has survived worse. First, they survived “the U2 curse”: an opening slot on U2’s 360° Tour that, unlike the Pixies in 1992, didn’t result in the disintegration of Interpol.
“Yeah, we survived that one,” Fogarino laughs. “We’ve established ourselves pretty well in Europe and a lot of U2 fans already knew who we were, so it was a pretty nice experience.”
But right after the recording of the solid Interpol (2010), hailed as the long-awaited comeback album (after the lukewarm Antics in 2004 and Our Love to Admire in 2007), bassist Carlos Dengler abruptly left the band. “He wasn’t into the concept of a rock band anymore,” said Fogarino. “His life changed and he wanted to do other things. He didn’t really appreciate touring and playing live after a while, and that’s a big, big part of what we do.”
For an artsy band that’s all about beat-driven gloomy atmospheres and playing close to each other onstage, Dengler’s departure was particularly hard for Fogarino. “I was surprised at first, kind of didn’t know what to expect after Carlos left,” Fogarino said. “I kind of felt hurt, too, because of that integral relationship between bassist and drummer.”
To replace Dengler for the first half of the Interpol tour the band first used the services of David Pajo (Slint), finally settling for Brad Truax (Animal Collective).
“He’s a great person, great to be around, and a great, great bass player,” Fogarino said of Truax. “He has a big respect for what we do and that’s what counts — his heart’s in it.”
So, how is the band sounding these days? Fogarino himself said Interpol was going to sound similar to the first album, but singer-guitarist Paul Banks later contradicted him (they’re both right, if you ask me). But the question is: What kind of Interpol are we going to hear in concert? Besides a new bassist, there will be a new keyboardist:
Brandon Curtis (The Secret Machines), whose brother Benjamin will be opening the show with his own band, School of Seven Bells (read “Dancing about architecture,” by Jeremy Martin here). “I think the band sounds better than ever,” said Fogarino, without missing a beat. “There’s a great sense of comfort onstage, and `Truax` is a great character. He’s merely himself, he’s not trying to fill `Dengler’s` shoes or trying to compensate for anything; what you see is what you get. It’s a great balance, it’s really nice.”
Better than ever? Does he really mean that? That’s a bold statement.
“It is, but I should feel that way,” he said. “If I didn’t feel that way I shouldn’t be doing this. It’s been 10 years, and if we didn’t sound like we do now we shouldn’t be doing it, it would be a waste of time. It would be pathetic to have a crowd spending money to see us if we weren’t at our best. I never felt so confident and comfortable than I do now.”
That’s good to hear, because this show, at least for San Antonians, is not just another show: It is the first big show put on by promotional/management company LiveIn210, which is trying to attract more quality bands closer to San Antonio instead of letting Austin get all the good stuff.
“We’ve never been `to San Antonio` and I think it’s fantastic because, for the most part, Texas has been good to us,” Fogarino said. “Being the typical Northeastern guys, we never knew what to expect from Texas. But after playing in Dallas, Austin, Houston, and even El Paso … No, we didn’t play El Paso, we had a day off there ... `laughs` But we were totally embraced by Texas and you guys made us feel really good. It’s a very interesting place, very diverse, but sometimes it gets a bad rap out of the region because of … well, because of the other reasons ... So for us to go there and see another city … I think it’s going to be great and we’re totally looking forward to it.”
Interpol w. School of Seven Bells
Doors 6pm Fri, April 22
Josabi’s, 17200 Hwy 16 N (Helotes), (210) 372-9100, josabis.com