Interpol returns to Atlanta tonight, playing songs from its dark and career-revitalizing fourth album, Interpol. With the departure of bass player/poseur extraordinaire Carlos Dengler, the group has upped the ante by enlisting post-rock founding father David Pajo (Slint) for the touring lineup. Songs from the new album are bleak and inwardly expansive, taking shape far outside the post-punk traipse of of the group's origins, with a lattice of orchestral rhythms and narrative bits that reveal murky pop atmospherics and damaged emotions in a tangle of songs that unfold in a cohesive album experience.
Drummer and recent Athens, GA transplant Sam Fogarino (pictured right, hiding his face) took time out to talk about the group, the record and how it all came together.
Chad Radford: How's life on the road for Interpol these days?
Sam Fogarino: It's been really good, actually. The best it's been in a good number of years to be honest. The new live Interpol configuration has put a fire under our collective arse. And really, it's nice to be playing with some guys who actually want to get on stage with no pretenses or anything like that.
That brings up a good point, which is that Carols D plays bass on the new record, but he's no longer with the group, correct?
That's correct, he's no longer in the band and we've been playing with David Pajo from Slint and Tortoise, which is very cool. He's such a cool guy and right now he's just kind of playing with us. We haven't even considered writing new material because this record has only been out for a month or so. We started working on it almost 2 years ago at this point - January of '09, so it feels like we should be not touring, but actually going back into the studio to record. But we're hitting the road now, so recording is still a ways off.
Is it difficult to balance touring with being a new father?
Emotionally it is. The physical balance is something that I have no choice over because this is what I do. My wife Christy and I forged our relationship while I was on tour, so we know the score. But it does throw an emotional wrench into the operation of having a beautiful little girl. She changes so much in such a short amount of time that every time I come home she's different. When I left for the last leg of touring she was crawling. When I came home 5 weeks later she was walking.
The way I cool the emotions is by thinking if I did work in Athens, GA, where I live, I would be gone 8-9 hours a day and would miss just as much. It might even be a little worse to be in such close proximity and miss those transitions form infant to toddler.
Nothing in life is easy, but it keeps things special when you have to work a little.
But really, I've been skating by for a decade or so, so it's time to toughen up a little. It's been charmed — in 8 years this band came together, signed to Matador and were press darlings for a couple of years, and created a certain level of establishment. Life was good, and life is great now, but it takes work and there are emotional payments to be made.
Well, the self-titled record is out now and the copy that I have is the double LP with the big hole in the middle, like a 45.
Yeah, it's the 7-inch 12-inch. No pun intended, but I pressed to have that done. When we were at the Matador office back in the spring they had come across an obscure band, who's name I can't recall right now, but they had put out a record with a 45 RPM hole in a 12-inch. I wish I could remember the band's name because I would like to give them credit. Anyway, I saw it and said, 'we have to do that and the record has to spin at 45 RPMs."
Being that it was Matador that we were talking with, they said 'great!' Matador was the right partner for it. Capital Records would have said 'no. You're crazy, fuck off...'
And by the way, Capital Records pressed the worst vinyl ever. It was embarrassing.
Coming from Matador for the first 2 records and then going to Capital for the third one, the quality was total shite. Even the album's jacket separated, and the vinyl was flimsy, and that's just embarrassing.
Not only being on Matador, but in being a fan of Matador and being associated with Matador there comes a level of pride and appreciating the fruit of that kind of labor. When the vinyl came out on Capital I just had to put my tail between my legs.
Well, you're in a better place now that you're back with Matador, and with the climate being what it is, I imagine that Matador probably has a better business head on its shoulders.
Totally. And when things bounce back on an economic level with the rest of the world, they'll be way above the waterline. Right now they're keeping their chin above the water, but they are selling records and doing more than just satisfying a niche market. In this day and age that's pretty heart warming. There's a whole new generation that digs their father's or their older brother's records and wants to go out and keep it going. In contrast to their friends who are just ripping stuff for their iPod.
What's interesting is that what was once considered a boutique or militant DIY approach to making records has pretty much become the norm, or is at least the one viable business model.
...At least in terms of keeping interest in the music alive. I don't think people are surviving off of it, but it's keeping interest going which keeps the shops open, which in-turn keeps the creativity going. It's almost erroneous to not put out vinyl these days. Even 5 years ago, with the exception of Matador or Merge, who had never stopped doing vinyl from day 1, the general thought was 'well... do we really need to do it on vinyl?' Now it's like 'what's the packaging going to be like?' Vinyl is a given now, which is fantastic.
Also, records that spin at 45 have a lot more bottom-end and murky, bass kinds of sounds, which there are a lot of on the new Interpol record.
Yes it is, there's a lot of low frequencies going on, which turns me. The only real issue was sequencing. How do you do sides A, B, C and D. You get around that and make sure that the last three songs remain as the trilogy that they are and you have nice thick vinyl that sounds good, and there you are: 1975.
Have you read many reviews of the record?
I keep a loose ear open but it's a slippery slope. You don't want too much negative criticism to seep in, but you don't want to feel that the record has been ingratiated. You need a little bit for your ego on either side. Negative, as long as it's constructive is something to keep in the back of your head. And you have to watch out for too much praise. But it's been pretty good. People are digging it where it counts most, and that's when we play the songs live.
I often get caught up in these discussions about how people have short attention spans now because of the Internet, and the music industry is a singles-driven market. What's interesting about this record is that it's an entire listening experience. All 4 sides piece together create one, cohesive listen where each song effects the next one. I don't think there's a hit single here but it's a visceral, album experience. If I'm going to listen to it, I kind of want to listen to the whole thing.
Well, we made the album for you, Chad. It sounds like you were there, listening to the conversations that we had. It was very deliberate decision to achieve that kind of thing. As a drummer I can't really call myself a songwriter, but I am a collaborator on the songwriting process. But it's foreign to me to try to write a single, and the band doesn't really want to do that. I think Interpol has the ability to do that and we've maybe even tried it in the past, consciously or subconsciously. But we wanted to make an album with an ebb and flow; something that's almost in book form where you have an introduction, then you get into the thick of it and the book wraps itself up.
You put yourself in a lofty position when you set out to write an album. Every song affects the others when you're not focusing on a lead track.
Was there pressure from higher up to write that one single for the record?
There's a little bit of pressure, but we don't let anyone in until we're done. We made an exception and let our manager come in and check out some of the songs while we were in the process. But it doesn't matter. We still made the record the way we wanted to make it. Thankfully Matador and our manager were happy with a couple of the tracks that they thought they could extract from the whole body of work and do their record label thing.
Even a label like Matador will look for a single, like the song "Barricade," which has a single quality to it, and it gets way more reaction when we play it. People go crazy. We put "Lights" on our website way before "Barricade." It's not a single in our minds, and you kind of have to listen to it. There are no vocals for a long time and it's a slow build. The drums don't kick in for a minute, which I love playing live because it's a built in break. But it's kind of funny and it makes you wonder, who is a single for? If our fans are on board, who is "Barricade" for if you want to define it as a single. But on the other side the video for "Barricade" got way more hits than "Lights." So I guess there is another side of the coin, and fortunately we have some appeal on both sides.
And that's a good position to be in, and it's what a lot of bands struggle to reach.
Yes, and I have a theory that you have to please yourself first. That breeds confidence, and that's what people really want to see. They want to be subconsciously convinced that you're a bad-ass and the song is great. If you're on stage and you're able to demonstrate that you believe in what you're doing, it speaks volumes. It almost surpasses the composition itself. It's kind of subliminal, but you don't want to deal with insecurity. I don't want to pay money to see a band up there second guessing itself, and it becomes very transparent when a band writes a song for its audience, or tries to guess at what's hot. It lacks conviction. Real music fans want honesty, no matter how pretentious or deep it may be on all levels. People love Nick Cave because he's really fucking honest. Even when he's getting really tongue-in-cheek, or on a grandiose concept, he's up there preaching it.
Yes, but Nick Cave also has the ability to ham it up like no one else and pull it off.
And that makes him a master.
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