This year marks a major turning point for Interpol. The moody post-punk band from New York lost bassist Carlos Dengler (a.k.a. Carlos D.) in May. Armed with a new album, however, the remaining bandmates are determined to push ahead with an optimistic attitude and a fresh take on their catalog.
"We decided that we were going to move forward and he was going to go in a different direction," says drummer Sam Fogarino. "There was no drama involved. We had it sorted out within a month."
Interpol hit the road last month to showcase the new material on a forthcoming album — a self-titled studio collection due out on Sept. 7 on Matador Records.
Fogarino, singer/guitarist Paul Banks, and lead guitarist Daniel Kessler hit the Music Farm stage this week with two new musicians in tow. Bassist/guitarist David Pajo (of Slint, Papa M, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and keyboardist Brandon Curtis (of Secret Machines) hustled in to nail down their parts.
"Straightaway, we figured out who was going to go out and lay the record and the old material with us," says Fogarino. "We're very, very fortunate to have landed David and Brandon."
Interpol was initially scheduled to perform at the Music Farm on July 20, but they canceled their early-summer tour and made the lineup adjustments. The extra time seems to have paid off.
"The morale is really high right now, actually," says Fogarino. "As far as the Carlos thing is concerned, it's something we'd been aware of for quite a while. It wasn't like he just up and left. We were kind of dancing around the top for many months. It was amicable. He's just moved on to other goals in life."
Fogarino and his mates don't fault Dengler for adjusting his artistic priorities, and they wish him well in his new musical endeavors.
"He decided to make a shift in life, and that's it, basically," Fogarino says. "You just have to shake hands and wish each other luck. It's a lot better now, not having someone there who's not into it and wanting to be elsewhere."
Interpol first came together in 1997 in New York City. Fogarino jumped in around 2000, replacing original drummer Greg Drundy. Already popular in the Manhattan indie scene, the band signed to Matador Records in early 2002 and released their debut full-length Turn on the Bright Lights that year to great critical acclaim. Banks' slightly glum, low-toned singing style turned a lot of ears and garnered more than few comparisions to Bauhaus' Peter Murphy and Joy Division's Ian Curtis. Pitchfork named it one of the top 50 albums of the year.
They released their second album Antics in 2004, which took off in the U.S. and the U.K. with "Slow Hands," "Evil," and "C'mere." The album reached gold status.
In 2006, they stepped up to the majors, signing with Capitol and releasing the synth-heavy Our Love to Admire in mid '07. Last year, they started recording material at the famed Electric Lady Studios in New York.
"We were able to be the most deliberate that we ever have," Fogarino says. "It felt like we were in the most control writing this record. There's a phase where it gets written, a phase where it gets tweaked, and a phase where it's done. That's what helps keep these records sounding like a band."
This spring, upon the completion of the album's final mix, Dengler announced his intentions to leave the band. Interpol survived the bassist's exit and things quickly settled. There may actually be a deeper sense of confidence among the bandmates now than before.
"There are still the pre-show nerves, but a couple of songs in, you feel yourself kind of gliding," Fogarino says of their recent performances. "It's become easier not to over-think what you're doing and to get lost in the moment. You can't totally float off into your own head."
Interpol toured with Curtis' main band, Secret Machines, years ago. Both bands remained buddies within the same music community in New York. Pajo was a longtime acquaintance from the underground/indie scene who fit the bill nicely.
"Right now, we're kind of in the replication phase — we're just playing the songs live," Fogarino says. "Thankfully, we have a lot of time before we have to enter the studio to see what album number five will be. Right now, the priority is to go out and have a solid band. And we've found it."
After nearly a decade of playing together, adjusting to new players can be tricky for any band. Sometimes things click right away. For Interpol, the chemistry within the new lineup seems to be working quite well this summer.
"It's exiting because the inherent change of new blood makes everything feel new again," says Fogarino. "It feels fresh because we have two new faces on stage, and all of the material is new to them. It rubs off. The changes have been only positive."