Interpol's Light-hearted Antics

Interpol's Light-hearted Antics
Interpol are not as dark as you think they are. Their 2002 debut, Turn On The Bright Lights may have presented the four GQ model-looking New Yorkers as brooding, emotionally isolated outsiders, but their demeanour is sophisticated, droll and anything but glum. "It makes you a little uncomfortable answering the same question all the time. ‘Are you really depressed?' Shit like that for the first 200 interviews," sighs singer/guitarist Paul Banks. "Actually, it was the first 252 interviews," jokes tall, dark and mysterious bassist Carlos Dengler.

When the band appeared two years ago, they were instantly praised for their evocation of morose early '80s post-punk of Echo & the Bunnymen, Joy Division and the Cure. Dead serious dramatics, dreamy echo-laden guitars and designer suits made them instant indie trendsetters. Their follow-up, Antics, hopes to build on their popularity, but this time the clouds have parted a smidge. From the organ that launches "Next Exit," Antics reveals a more confident band that has built on their trademark minor key infatuation and lyrics like "stabbing yourself in the neck" with genuine optimism, a feistier rhythm section and perpetual romance.

Even as the mood swing is distinguishable, Banks is quick to point out, "No one has ever said, ‘Guys, this just isn't sad enough.' If a song is working, it's working and we write it." Dengler agrees, adding, "I think some people have said, ‘C'mon, why isn't it dark?' Everyone's been saying this album is lighter and more optimistic." The two clearly know the general conception listeners gained from their debut, but the natural progression heard on Antics, Dengler acknowledges, stems from using the same routine they've always counted on. "We have a definite method and we use it every time we write a song. It's so spontaneous and organic that it precludes any intentionality," he says. "The album sounding optimistic could not have been intentional or a subconscious decision because we wrote those songs the same way we wrote Turn On The Bright Lights."

Upon mention of the album's livelier bass lines and dance-driven drum beats (courtesy of drummer Sam Fogarino), Banks summons a sarcastic rolling of the eyes with a playful disinterest in the change of subject. Dengler, on the other hand, jumps at the chance to share his wisdom. "We were both happily surprised that we could work in the rehearsal space and come up with some crazy ass rhythms. It worked sonically and everyone was into it," he recalls. This extra emphasis on the rhythm section has paid off for the band, as "Evil" and the first single "Slow Hands," show that they have a definite flair for it. "I'm happy that people are noticing it too because it really was one of the only conscious things on this new record — to work on the rhythm and also make the songs shorter."

Something else they decided to consciously explore was establishing an underlying theme with characters. An undeniable romantic presence dominates the foundation of songs like "Take You On A Cruise," "Public Pervert," and "Next Exit," which sounds like a Phil Spector composition envisioned through the lens of Kamir. Banks avidly confesses, "It's like an American romanticism of the U.S. highways and the classic American diner." Dengler interjects, "I think we are all in our own way intrigued and fascinated with Americana and the unique sense of culture that is often depicted in movies. David Lynch is our favourite director and he is all about that kind of thing — exploiting the Americana vision with this really dark surreal purpose, but he takes it and transposes it into these weird environments." Upon consideration that Antics is an "American record," Dengler momentarily pauses and begins chanting "U-S-A! U-S-A!" before quipping, "Actually we were thinking about calling the record U.S.A." See, they're not so dark.