Tokyo (AFP) – Once suffocated by their early success, New York indie rockers Interpol insist the shackles are off with a new record that sees them looking forward rather than casting furtive glances in the rear-view mirror.
After touching the hearts of a grieving city following the 2001 terror attacks with game-changing debut album “Turn on the Bright Lights”, Interpol have largely struggled to replicate that post-punk exuberance since follow-up “Antics”.
But with their tension-filled sixth album “Marauder”, the New York nihilists finally look to have broken free of the past.
“We’re evolving, we’re still moving forward,” guitarist Daniel Kessler told AFP in an interview before a rare Tokyo performance.
“Ultimately the reason why we’re still a band now is because ‘Marauder’ is as good as anything we’ve done.”
Known for their dark, guitar-stabbing sound, Interpol brought panache to a hedonistic New York music scene that included the likes of The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, shunning tight jeans and tatty Converse sneakers for dark suits and silk ties.
And 16 years after the release of “Bright Lights”, the brooding rockers are virtually the last men standing.
“Time has flown by,” sighed drummer Sam Fogarino. “I still think about me and Daniel sharing a hotel room after getting out of a tiny van in England back in the day.
“On the one hand that doesn’t seem that long ago,” he added. “But on the other hand I have two kids now and I’m not sharing a hotel room with anybody!”
Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann brings a fresh energy, and plenty of reverb, to Interpol’s latest work.
Singles “The Rover” and “Number 10” rock out as Kessler’s spiky guitar riffs race with Fogarino’s galloping drums, while the catchy “Flight of Fancy” sounds like The Killers on Valium.
In the doleful album-closer “It Probably Matters”, singer Paul Banks laments past failures, his voice trembling as he confesses: “I didn’t have the grace, or the brains.”
As relationships within the band fractured, Interpol were hit by bassist Carlos Dengler’s acrimonious departure in 2010 after he bizarrely blamed Brit-rockers Coldplay for turning him off music.
“It was a shame we lost a friend,” said Fogarino. “It was a big transition on a personal and emotional level.
“I’ll cry about it at home, but not in a rehearsal space — there’s music to write.”
– Legacy of 9/11 –
As New York reeled from the 2001 terror attacks, Interpol were forced to weigh up their priorities — questioning the point of playing music at all.
“It was weird just to think how trivial all this is,” said Fogarino, the eldest of the trio at 50.
“It was like ‘Are we still going to be a band? Are there still going to be bands, period?’
“As hokey as this sounds, the awful mayor of New York at the time (Rudy Giuliani) was the beacon of trust. It was: ‘Go about your daily, just do what you do.’ And everybody did.”
Kessler sought solace in making music after the collapse of the towers, his mournful strumming on the track “NYC”, with its chorus “New York cares”, a poignant highlight.
“There’s no real protocol or blueprint to follow in those situations,” he said.
“If you look back at history in difficult moments, art is what people clung to. We started recording the record shortly after 9/11. At that point it was one of the few things that kind of made sense.”
Elder statesmen they may have become, but in the best rock and roll tradition Interpol still managed to get kicked out of their rehearsal space while writing material for Marauder.
“The neighbours called the police on us,” shrugged Fogarino. “We were too loud. I felt like screaming ‘We’re not teenagers — can we work something out like mature adults!’”