Hailing from New York City, Interpol have received much acclaim following the release of one EP. Drowned In Sound were privileged enough to gain an interview with Carlos(bassist),instead of the dastardly Interpoleon Daniel(guitar), via various telephone lines......
So how did Interpol start?
Daniel, our guitar player, attended university in New York and wanted to start a band. He was already informally jamming with a good friend of ours, Greg, our old drummer. I happened to be in one of Daniel's classes, and naturally he was impressed with my sartorial genius thus kindling the McLaren flame within him. He asked me to play bass (I was a guitarist in actuality). Later on, Daniel bumped into another university friend, Paul, and remembering that he was a singer and guitar player, invited him to join. It all worked out from that sort of innocent college years type storyline . . . . exciting, no? After Greg the old drummer left, Sam took over, having been acquainted with Daniel through mutual attendance of shows and interest in music.
What made you want to form a band?
I myself wanted to be in a band when I was a teenager, but that pipe dream disintegrated when I attended college and became intoxicated with philosophy and literature. That's the ironic thing: when Daniel asked me to join, for me it was just for kicks. I was like, "Hell, why not? I haven't played in ages. It'll be cute." For Daniel though it was something different. He really wanted to start a band. And he wanted it to be totally democratic, not HIS band per se, but a band where each member's creative input is second to none. In that sense, he really had a vision . . . . After a while, his vision won me over and now I just laugh at how random the whole thing is for me. As the Swedish say, "C'est la vie . . ."
Why did you decide on the name Interpol?
When I was detained by the actual Interpol in Belgium for transporting classified information in a neutral zone, I looked up at the organization's emblem on the wall of my prison cell and thought "That would be a really cool name for a band"
Would you say your main influences stem from music or your environment?
Definitely from music. If it were the environment we'd be wearing shags and bellbottoms and blasting Sounds of the 70s on stage. Nobody taps into the aesthetic that we offer. Also, New York isn't a uni-dimensional town with one "atmosphere" to which artists respond. It's too multifarious for it to have an environmental influence on your sound. It's so eclectic over here. Anything goes, and anything can happen.
Our musical influences are just as multidimensional. Mine are typically the ones you hear in some of the comparisons we get: the Cure, Factory stuff, the Chameleons, etc. But I've also been listening to late 70s punk, mainstream rock stuff like Pink Floyd, and even rockabilly and classic country. Daniel isn't so into the Cure but from that late 70s/80s era he loves the Smiths, Television, the Clash, etc. . . He's also big on current electronica, a band called Clinic, stuff from the Domino label. Daniel has a very "connoisseur" sensibility in music: all his stuff is super legit. I, on the other hand, have a weakness for sweets so I'm going for the bubble-gum appeal a lot, and especially lately, I try to throw a modicum of kitsch into the mix, although Daniel, and the other guys Paul and Sam, downplay it a little. Paul's really into the Pixies and Frank Black, TransAm, others like Godspeed and contemporary hip-hop, while Sam, also into the Pixies, listens to Shellac and Low.
How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard of you?
I would ask them to listen to Killing Joke's "Eighties" and then say "If that song rocked the shit out of you BUT you still felt emotion and melody - now you know what we're doing"
How does it feel to be compared to the likes of Joy Division and the Cure on the basis of one EP?
That comparison is simultaneously an honour and a curiosity. It's an honour because of the prestige and influence of those bands (it's also neat because it's hard to find bands active today in whose work those influences are detectable). It's a curiosity because only one of us really actively listens to and is influenced by those bands. But then again: who cares?
At the minute there’s a burst of bands coming from New York - is it a particularly community based scene despite the eclecticism of the music being produced? What's responsible for this or is it just a coincidence?
You are absolutely correct about the eclectic nature of the New York scene here: everybody, and I mean everybody will concur that there is no such thing as a New York "sound". Think back to bands like The Ramones, Blondie, and Television who were all playing around at the same time. How similar are those bands?
That being the case, you can also see how New York is not community based. The scene here is very much "do-it-yourself" and "every-man-for-himself", you know? It's not something Interpol is thrilled about, but then again, New York City is what it is: a huge town with millions of busy people without a central locale or HQ. In many ways it makes the scene exciting because it contributes to its eclecticism. Not having a strong, cohesive artistic community can be disappointing, but it hasn't stopped the scene from thriving.
As far as to what one can attribute the existence of this scene in its current manifestation, I would have to say TWO words and then SEVEN words: "MTV SUCKS" and "GIULIANI'S LEAVING SO LET'S HAVE A BALL".
If you could have any other band cover one of your songs who would it be and why?
I would like the Donnas to do a punk-rock version of PDA: we could make a lot of money on royalties.
Where do you stand on the napster debate? And how useful do you feel the Internet is for new bands?
Yes yes, it is so true. So true that we almost don't want to admit it. The Internet is indeed an essential component for the way bands get popular nowadays. NOT THE component, but an important one. To that extent, the availability of forces like napster is crucial. However, a lot of us in the band are divided on this issue so we can just mosey on down the line . . . .
How do you feel about the current state of the music industry?
Things are a little dry right now. Conservatism prevails. Excitement is on a low end. As soon as our snipers do their thing on N*SYNC and Britney, all the money the industry throws at them will be up for grabs. AND if all the glitter on the screen is any indication, it should be enough to feed the hungry mouths of all the talented "artistes" in New York, London, Chicago, etc.
Others part of the Interpol machine listen to a lot of contemporary music >coming out of labels with progressive artists doing unconventional arrangements like synthesizing electronics with rock instrumentation. That's very cool about the industry today. However, I don't really listen to any current straight-forward rock because I feel it's either hyper-produced rap metal on one side, or jangly, slacker rock on the other. I don't want to speak for the others, but I feel pretty disappointed with the "rock" that's coming out lately . . . Things will change soon though, believe you me . . .
Have America been as embracing as Britain of your material?
Britain has been a real doll to us (thank you London). However, we feel that's more because of the nature of the industry in Britain, than, say, an obtuseness on the part of this great country. Don't get us wrong, we've received loads of awesome press here: Arena Rock is putting out a comp with us on it, and they're based in Brooklyn. We've done SXSW, yadda yadda yadda. New York also has been very good to us, as good as London. However, the focus and understanding (and volume), when including other parts of the globe, doesn't compare to that which we've received in the UK and that's because you people know how to run a music industry. Don't forget that Limp Bizkit came from here!
Do you think the Strokes signing to RCA will open doors for you?
Yes! In fact! We've been sending emails to top execs and A&R people at RCA detailing the differences between covert governmental operatives like the FBI, Scotland Yard, and the KGB as a subtle form of subliminal advertising for us.
But seriously . . . ahem . . . ummm . . . when a label like RCA makes a move like that, it can only mean that other eyes are watching on the territory they've staked a claim on . . . and frankly . . . record companies SHOULD be watching ground zero or they're missing out. There's a LOT going on right now.
Are you weary of the hype you've been getting in this country?
Yes . . .! I hate the hype and all the popularity that goes with it! Bah! I hate it when complete strangers approach me and tell me how much they love Interpol (especially if it's a beautiful woman - how degrading!). Britain: please get over us already!
At the Barfly gig your drummer took a photo - is that a gig ritual?
Yes. He has a strange fetish for role reversal. It turns him on but we haven't figured out why. We'll get back to you . . .
What's your plan for world domination?
Plan A: hire an on-the-road troupe of strippers for some intermission flavour
Plan B: do cocaine all the time for the rest of my life
What's the best thing about being in Interpol?
It really sets a contrast to my exciting day job. Makes me appreciate the morning hours that much more.
Finally, can you tell us a rock and roll story?
After our gig in London we went to a friend's dormitory that night and watched Velvet Goldmine. We were so exhausted from all the decadence, debauchery, and dissolution that we wanted to see how bands on a smaller scale managed. Then we fell asleep . . . It was cool.