Sam Fogarino of Interpol on new album Marauder
Sam Fogarino of New York post-punk icons Interpol talks us through the band's ups and downs and their return to form on new album Marauder
When Interpol released their seminal debut album Turn on the Bright Lights in 2002, indie rock was at its peak and everyone wanted to be one of The Strokes. But, in many ways, Interpol were the anti-indie rock band of their generation.
Lauded as post-punk revivalists, the band fought against the New York music scene’s newfound denim-clad, floppy-haired, not-giving-a-fuck attitude brought about by Julian Casablancas and co, instead opting for a more stylised approach; their monochrome aesthetic perfectly complementing the moodiness of their music. Like many long-serving bands though, Interpol have suffered the rise and fall.
After two critically-acclaimed albums, in the form of Turn on the Bright Lights and 2004's Antics, the band's contract at Matador Records – who had put out their first two albums – expired and they briefly signed with Capitol Records for the release of 2007’s Our Love to Admire. Although not badly received on the whole, the album felt flat in comparison and lacking in the same energy as their previous releases. "We were – maybe to the detriment of Our Love to Admire, one will never know – still very possessive of what was happening," says drummer Sam Fogarino, who joined the band in 2000 replacing original drummer Greg Drudy.
"[That] period was very fragile and insecure; we had shitty management and the big major label with staff changes, we spent a sick amount of money recording at Electric Lady day and night. It was a learning experience. It was definitely a crossroads of sorts." He continues: "I think we all felt a little greater than some individually and wanted way more autonomy than what a band requires. Thankfully we got our heads out of our asses at some point and realised that we could make good records again."
The band returned to Matador directly after and, following a two-album stint self-producing – on their self-titled 2010 album and 2014’s El Pintor – they chose to record their new, sixth album Marauder with revered, Grammy Award-winning producer Dave Fridmann at his Tarbox Road studio in upstate New York. As a frequent Flaming Lips collaborator, having co-produced most of their albums since 1990’s In a Priest Driven Ambulance (with Silver Sunshine Stares), and a founding member of Mercury Rev, Fridmann’s previous work has largely veered towards the psychedelic. "There's this inherent component that is kind of ethereal and dreamy in nature when it comes to certain Interpol songs," says Fogarino. "I personally thought it would be cool to see how [Fridmann] treats that, to see how he interprets that because he has a grip on space.
"I think a really good example goes way back to when I first joined Interpol and we had an association with Chemikal Underground – the Scottish label – and Fridmann had done The Great Eastern, The Delgados record, I guess around 2000-something," he continues. "I just thought it was an extraordinary marriage between a very autonomous band and what he did, and from there it was kind of revealed that he's not a one-trick pony; he does what he does and he doesn't change the band sonically or the band's intention, he just amplifies it and filters it with Dave Fridmann."
In a kind of old meets new fashion, the band chose to launch the album with a live-streamed press conference from Mexico City – "according to the label, it was like a live press kit," jokes Fogarino – all of which played into the story of Marauder. About halfway through the press conference, American actor Ebon Moss-Bachrach (Girls, The Punisher) walks on to the stage, grabs frontman Paul Banks' face and pulls it into his; at the time of streaming, none of this made any sense but all was revealed in the video for lead single The Rover. Filmed in Mexico City at the same time, the video follows Moss-Bachrach and the band’s day in the lead up to the press conference, culminating with the aforementioned scene. "Aside from just having a great backdrop with the looks of that venue we were in... down that way we have very adoring fans," says Fogarino. "So, for maximum impact, it just made sense to go where you just receive a certain type of attention, which is just very passionate."
During the recording of Marauder, the band took a short break to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Turn on the Bright Lights, embarking on a world tour which saw them play the album in its entirety in different cities over two months. "It really was good to step away from the recording schedule and go do something that's kind of familiar but in a new way, playing the record in its entirety," says Fogarino. "It was a good exercise regardless to go out and do something you're familiar with and have fun with it, presented in such a novel way that you won't revisit again... And what came back from the crowd was just so easy to apply to the recording process, just coming off such a great little jaunt. It just gave it a jolt, it gave it like a B12 shot, to something that was already exciting to begin with."
But the anniversary didn’t come along without controversy. Estranged bassist Carlos Dengler – who left the band after the making of Interpol – penned a rather scathing online-only essay entitled Stories of Excess for n+1 while the band were out on tour, in which he reflected on the making of the band’s debut album. Denger compared the making of the album to the making of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, stating: "...like Rumors [sic], the album needed to be saved from a certain abyss: an album can’t be produced on cocaine and vodka alone." He continues: "I now feel more like a confused participant, or a survivor of PTSD. I’ve lived to tell the story of a plane crash that almost took place."
Following Dengler’s departure, frontman Paul Banks took on bass duties, making him and guitarist Daniel Kessler the only two original members left in the band. But, on Marauder, the current line-up sound comfortable again, returning with their best album in years. Recorded directly on to two-inch tape, and with the interlude of the ...Bright Lights tour, the band have managed to capture the energy of their live shows on the album, ignited by the addition of Fridmann on production. Or, as Fogarino puts it, "He just lit the fire and we were burning." The result is a band who sound revived, invigorated and ready to prove why they’re just as relevant now as they were in the early 00s.
Interpol and Chemikal Underground
Back in the year 2000, prior to the release of Turn on the Bright Lights and before Interpol’s rapid ascent to global stardom, Scottish independent label Chemikal Underground were the first label to release their music in the UK. The band released their debut EP, Fukd ID #3, on Chemikal Underground’s newly-launched Fukd ID imprint, which featured some of Interpol’s very first recordings.
It included original versions of Bright Lights tracks PDA and Roland, with all the original members and Fogarino credited on it. Set up by The Delgados in 1994 to release their debut single Monica Webster / Brand New Car, the independent label continues to remain active and has released works by the likes of Aidan Moffat, Arab Strap, Emma Pollock and Mogwai over the years.
Marauder is released on 24 Aug via Matador