Influential post-punk revival band Interpol comes to Reno for the first time
Reno, NV 89501
With its 2002 debut album, Turn on the Bright Lights, Interpol emerged as the quintessential New York rock band of the new millennium—well, alongside the Strokes, but where the Strokes are scruffy and fun, Interpol are refined and serious. Interpol brought glistening, glimmering guitar sounds to the dour mood and shifting rhythms of ‘80s post-punk bands, like The Cure and Joy Division. (Comparisons to the latter band, though inevitable, are generally overstated.)
In the nearly 10 years since Turn on the Bright Lights, the band has released other critically acclaimed albums, like 2004’s Antics and last year’s Interpol. They’ve toured regularly and been praised for their great live shows. The band will play its first-ever show in Reno at the Knitting Factory on Wednesday, April 13.
Drummer Sam Fogarino took a few minutes during the band’s recent European tour to talk about writing songs, touring with U2, and the surprise departure of longtime bassist Carlos Dengler.
Where are you?
I’m in Leeds, England. … We have London tomorrow, then we go to Russia for Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Never been, so it’s kind of great, after touring for almost 10 years with Interpol, to see a new place.
And this is your first time coming to Reno.
Indeed! From coast to coast and continent to continent, every new place is fun. We haven’t been there yet, so it’s a little premature, but even after going to some place like Russia, it doesn’t matter, when you get back on home turf, touring, there’s just an extreme sense of comfort and security. And you still will find novelty in visiting a place like Reno, no matter if you’ve been to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
You’re touring with U2 this summer?
Yeah, the dates that got canceled last year, we’ll be making up this summer. … We did the European leg [last year], so we know what to expect.
Is the show different when you’re the opener rather than the headliner?
Yeah, because you have to build that set to have its peaks and valleys in a shorter amount of time. When we do our own headlining show, it’s 90 minutes. When we open for U2, it’s 45, so we’re trying to say a lot in a little bit of time. I think that’s the biggest part of it—the construction of the set. And you don’t have all your own bells and whistles. The stage show is nonexistent, really—though they let us use those massive screens, which adds to the whole experience, of course. But they were really cool with us. … letting us extend some sound checks and things like that. Purportedly, Bono cut U2’s sound check short so that we could have a sound check in Paris, and that was our first show of that tour.
So they’re pretty cool dudes?
Yeah, they are, in spite of everything that’s said and built up around them, I only encountered real people in my time with them.
How did the departure of [bassist] Carlos Dengler affect the band?
Well, sadly to say, it’s for the better, really, because he wasn’t into it anymore, to put it plainly. We’ve been graced with two people, first being David Pajo, and now Brad Truax, who want to be here. David couldn’t finish with us because of family problems, but Brad is an amazing guy who’s thankful for the opportunity. So that’s a pretty big contrast for the better. I think a little hyperbole was created around Carlos’ departure, but we were all pretty pragmatic about it, and just went on doing what we do. And I think we’re pretty lucky to have found the right guy to pull us through.
Where did you find Truax?
He’s been a friend of Daniel [Kessler, Interpol guitarist] and myself for, shit, over a decade, and he’s played in some New York bands that we were aware of—that we actually toured with. He was in a band called The Broke Review that was on In the Red Records that we took out on the road quite a few years ago, and he was in a band called Home that relocated from Tampa, Florida, to New York and put—God, I don’t even know how many records they put out. They were just one of those bands that was just very prolific, and only the musos knew who they were. And Brad also worked at a pretty popular record store in New York City [Mondo Kim’s]. He ran the place for years. So tons of people knew him. Just a really cool character.
Was there an audition process?
No, we’re not good with that audition thing. It’s got to be your brother or nothing. Daniel mentioned Brad, and I already knew Brad, and Paul [Banks, Interpol vocalist and guitarist] was like, “cool.” And Brandon Curtis, from Secret Machines, who’s been our keyboard player on this tour, was a big fan of Home, so he was excited … so it was kind of a no-brainer.
How does it affect you to play with a different bass player?
Well, it could have been awful, really, if they weren’t good bass players. Because Carlos and I—I think the best part of our relationship was between bass and drums. It was very much an unspoken process. We always kind of signaled each other through the parts themselves, with very little verbal interruption. If the person who’s filling Carlos’ shoes couldn’t fit into that role, then there would be a problem, because I don’t like talking about what needs to be done, I just want to do it. And the proof is in the parts, you know? I don’t want to debate anything or have these lengthy discussions of what could happen, and thankfully Brad and David kind of assumed the role and got the score right away. I think the true test will be if we do in fact work with Brad on new material. … I don’t know if that’s going to happen. I have no clue. We’re not even thinking about a new record yet, but that’s where the true test will be.
The songwriting starts with Daniel?
Typically, yeah. Historically, it’s been all derived from Daniel’s chord progressions or melodies or something and then, you know, it becomes a love-in. [Laughs.] Then, enter the band process, which sometimes is intimate, and we all kind of find the right voice individually, and sometimes it just takes forever. So, you know, without Carlos, the writing process is going to be a new thing, and I have no idea how we’ll attack it, which is pretty exciting.
The most recent record, Interpol, is still pretty new. Why do a self-titled record 10 years into the band?
Well, there are two answers to that. One, why not just take a piss, as the Brits say, why not just have some fucking fun? Especially coming from a band that’s viewed as being very hyper-serious or overly stoic or whatever, we do have a big sense of humor. The other, serious side to it, was Paul—who titles our records, by virtue of him being the lyricist—he just thought that it didn’t need a lofty, wordy title.
About that reputation of being a serious band, is that a burden or is it nice to have that respect?
I straddle the line. As a person, I go from being extremely serious to being the silliest person I know. I think I would rather have people take that face value, which is pretty serious, for lack of a better term, rather than assume some component of who we are. The fact that I know we’re all pretty lighthearted guys, at the end of the day, is enough. I like having the control over what people see behind that layer of how the band is perceived. I think it’s really important, because it is kind of a private side—the dynamic between the three of us, and the five of us at the moment. There are some things that you’ve got to kind of preserve, but to leak it out here and there is kind of fun, because it throws ’em off, like, “Oh, I wouldn’t expect that from them. They know how to laugh? Get out of here!” I had some kid, years ago, ask me, “You’re wearing a pink shirt? That’s not very Interpol.” And I was like, “Go have your mother wipe your ass, kid.” [Laughs] Who are you to tell me? I am one quarter of what you perceive as [Interpol], so if I say it’s pink today, it’s pink today.
I heard a rumor you once had an offer to join Marilyn Manson’s band. Is that true?
That is very true. This was back in 1994. I played in a band called the Holy Terrors. … We lived in the same part of South Florida. We once shared the same manager. I just received the phone call, had some small talk, and the question was popped. And, obviously, I said no, because it just wasn’t my flavor, with no disrespect to them. They were all friends of mine back at that time.
Anything else about the Reno show?
I can’t wait to go. I can’t wait to be there and compare it to Saint Petersburg.