By Stephen CarlickOn new solo album Banks, Interpol vocalist Paul Banks has stepped out from behind his Julian Plenti persona to embrace his given name. The results find Banks embracing a much lighter tone than his work with Interpol, but as the frontman points out, he's not the band's principal songwriter.
"I'm a collaborator in Interpol, which starts with Daniel [Kessler] and traditionally went through the filter of [ex-bassist] Carlos [Dengler]," Banks tells Exclaim! in a recent interview. "Then I'd do my vocal treatment. With my solo work, my vocal treatment starts the moment I come up with a guitar riff. It becomes a song very quickly. What you're seeing there is a different songwriter at the bottom of the compositions. There should definitely be some sort of notable distinctions. I guess that sunniness is one of them."
Banks has shed his Julian Plenti moniker, he says, as "a matter of moving forward." As he explains, "That was my identity as an artist when I was in college. That's what I was doing before Interpol, and then I joined Interpol and left that on the back burner for a number of years. Then I decided, 'This is going to make me fucking crazy if I don't put out my own solo work. In order to begin putting out my own solo work, I really think I need to offload my early work,' and so my first record was that offload, and it was composed when I was Julian Plenti.
"The songs that anchored that record, the ones that motivated me to make it, were Julian Plenti songs. Moving forward and doing a record like Banks, I didn't have any Julian Plenti material that I wanted to offload, with the exception of "Summertime Is Coming," which is why it was on the Julian Plenti EP."
Just because he was working behind a pseudonym, however, doesn't mean that Banks has ever written in a way that isn't personal or that doesn't reflect his own thoughts and feelings in some way.
"I think all my music is personal," he maintains. "Even if it's very abstract, even if I'm speaking in the third person, I'm addressing my own experiences. I might be characterizing it or presenting it as though it's from someone else's point of view, but it's my insight coming through some character I've created. I find pronouns to be totally interchangeable, so he, she, or I, it's all the same. It depends on how I'm composing the lyrics, but it's always coming from my own experience and my own sort of philosophy, or from my own thoughts on the philosophy I think someone else might hold.
"'I'll Sue You' is definitely not confessional or about me. That's me embodying the mindset of a covetous douche, whereas on 'Over My Shoulder' or 'Young Again,' that's me. But that doesn't mean that when I use he or she in song, that song isn't also as personal."
Come November, Banks and the rest of Interpol will reissue their now-classic 2002 debut Turn on the Bright Lights. While Banks isn't looking back and claims it hasn't affected the writing or recording for Banks, he is still proud of what the band accomplished on their first album.
"I mean, I'm a huge fan of Sam [Fogarino], Daniel and Carlos, so on a musical level I'll listen back and think, 'Fuck yeah, this is awesome.' I was so excited when we were doing it. I'm very proud to have made a record that we're even talking about 10 years later. I wouldn't change anything on that record. I really only have positive feelings about Bright Lights.
"If anything, sure, I might hear the vocals and think, 'Whoa, that's a bit pitchy,' but people responded to that, and that was very sincere from me at that moment. I feel kind of protective about my previous work, because I always am honest when I'm doing whatever I'm doing. I can't really look back and say, 'I shouldn't have been having that attitude, or this or that affectation,' because I was being entirely real at the time. I never really sweat any of my earlier shit because I know that was the best I could do at that moment."
Banks is out now on Matador, while the 10th anniversary reissue of Turn on the Bright Lights arrives November 20 via the label.