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Interpol, a generation older, returns to sleek gloom

15 september 2014, 10:25
0
The US music group "Interpol" . ©AFP
The US music group "Interpol" . ©AFP

 When Interpol released its first album of dark but refined rock, the iPod had just been born, Facebook didn't exist and many fans still discovered bands at small, smoky clubs, AFP reports.

As the New Yorkers head on tour to promote their fifth album, "El Pintor," guitarist Daniel Kessler believes that Interpol came of age at just the right time -- when bands could hone a sound and craft a full record, to be bought in stores instead of instantly downloaded by the single.

"I feel like I'm very grateful that we came when we did. We came as the digital age was upon us but we didn't really benefit from it in the early days at all," Kessler told AFP in the lobby of a plush hotel in Manhattan's Bowery, still a dicey neighborhood when Interpol was starting in nearby clubs.

"The way the band came to be is closer to the old way of the music industry," he said. "Afterwards, it felt like Bastille Day a little bit in a way."

Kessler, who turns 40 this month, hastened to add that he sees positives to the new music environment -- fans in faraway places without record stores can readily discover artists, and labels have a tougher time padding out weak albums by seizing on one-off hits.

But for Kessler, Interpol is without doubt "an album band," saying: "On an artistic level, an album is kind of like a book and all of the songs support the overall picture."

On "El Pintor," Interpol sets the album's tone immediately with the aptly titled opening track, "All the Rage Back Home." The song starts gently with Paul Banks' melancholy voice, before a sudden thrust into slam-danceable post-punk as Sam Fogarino's drums bring the song to a furious finale.

The album harks back to Interpol's 2002 debut "Turn on the Bright Lights" and the 2004 follow-up "Antics," when the band's grand but gloomy sound brought frequent comparisons to Joy Division. But Interpol, who take the stage in dark suits, also pursued a sleeker aesthetic.

  'A pretty raw rock 'n' roll record' 

"El Pintor" -- an anagram for Interpol which means "the painter" in Spanish -- is the band's first album as a trio. Carlos Dengler, whose staccato bass lines drove early Interpol, left after recording the last, self-titled album in 2010, which the former bandmate led in a more experimental direction with greater use of keyboards.

For "El Pintor," singer Banks took over on bass. Kessler said that the band members never talked through their sound -- instead just letting songs come together naturally -- but realized that they didn't need much keyboard.

"We didn't make the songs more complicated than need be," he said. "It's a pretty raw rock 'n' roll record at the end of the day."

The band is starting an extensive tour, with dates already set through February. Kessler said that the band has been proud of its international popularity and cited, in particular, its success in Mexico, where Banks spent part of his childhood.

Mexican fans are "really open and passionate, and I think it's cultural in a way," Kessler said, recalling a 2005 show in Mexico City that had to be called off after fans' jumping nearly brought down the soundboards.

By contrast, Kessler said he was surprised Interpol hasn't developed a bigger following in Japan. Kessler said the band hoped to return to Asia and to play its first shows in Southeast Asia.

The new tour will include several older, more intimate venues including L'Olympia in Paris and The Roundhouse in London.

Interpol had one of its most unique shows days before the album release when the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to promote a new mobile app, had the band play its Egyptian Temple of Dendur.

For Kessler, the show was "one of the highlights of my 20-plus years as a New Yorker."

by Shaun TANDON


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