Forever Punk

They no longer take flying dives into the mosh pit, but for Chuck Loose, Sam Fogarino, and Rob Coe the music is still the thing

With Fay Wray on hold and middle-schoolers busy shooting their teachers, Rob Coe took a sabbatical in the fall of 1998 and enrolled in Barry University's computer-education master's program. To cut expenses he became the caretaker of his sister's swank Pinecrest fixer-upper. Taking advantage of the acoustics in the oversize bathrooms, he wrote a new crop of songs.

Coe's Fay Wray bandmate, Jeff London, recruited Dan Bonebrake and Andre Serafini from Quit as a rhythm section, and the new chemistry worked better than a meth lab. The new Fay Wray entered Miami's Tapeworm Studios in late 1998 to bang out its second CD, I Love Everyone. Recorded during a weekend of drunken excess that would have made Mötley Crüe blush, I Love Everyone is a masterwork of sexual high jinks, Blue Velvet love letters, and damaged souls. Alas, geography went from challenge to deal-breaker for Fay Wray when London relocated to Colorado.

The Heatseekers include Owen McLean, Chuck Loose, Terra Marie, and Ryan Weinstein
photos by Colby Katz
The Heatseekers include Owen McLean, Chuck Loose, Terra Marie, and Ryan Weinstein
Fay Wray, including Rob Coe (far left in both photos), lays waste to Churchill's Hideaway
Fay Wray, including Rob Coe (far left in both photos), lays waste to Churchill's Hideaway

Bandless again, Coe completed his sabbatical and returned to teaching English. "I looked through my journal," he says, "and I realized that I was stuck in a rut." Coe, who had never owned a computer ("I have commitment issues," he cracks), grew obsessed with becoming a geek. "I didn't feel I had gotten the bang for my buck from Barry, so I got the Microsoft Systems Engineer books and I'd diagram systems on poster boards. That's all I did from when I got home until I went to sleep. There were poster boards strewn everywhere in that big empty house. During lunch I'd even work on the chalkboard."

Coe's labor earned him a job offer as a business analyst at Universal Music. At the end of the 1999-2000 school year he took early retirement, loaded his guitar and three hefty bags of clothes into his Honda Civic, and drove to Los Angeles. A month of interviews later, Coe made the transition from $35,000-a-year Miami-Dade County schoolteacher to $75,000-a-year L.A. major-label computer whiz.

With a happy marriage and a steady job at the turn of the millennium, Fogarino made the next obvious step: He became a rock star. His singer/guitarist friend Daniel Kessler from Interpol (then a smoldering NYC club act) suggested they hook up musically. "Finally I took him really seriously," Fogarino says. "We practiced once and they kept asking me to return. After the tenth practice I figured I was in the band."

Days after he joined, Interpol's demo was released by Scottish label Chemical Underground, which then brought the band to England for a handful of dates. "Tour manager, van, back line," Fogarino marvels, "all on the strength of a nonexclusive single!" Next the band recorded a Peel Session at the well-known and often career-making BBC Radio One. "[That] was a career highlight but I was so freaked out I didn't play that well. After we finished I asked, 'Where did Led Zeppelin and the Pixies play?' and they said, 'Right where you're standing.' I almost threw up after they told me that."

Interpol returned to New York just as the buzz of its British success hit continental Europe. "We were invited to play La Route Du Rock in Brittany, France, in front of 10,000 people," Fogarino recounts. "They treated us like royalty. We took the stage and it's total acceptance: lots of pogoing and screaming, and we're like, 'How do they know?'"

By now Interpol's buzz was deafening. Major-label A&R scouts and indie-label heads vied for space at Interpol's New York gigs. Friends spotted Matador Records label bosses Chris Lombardi and Gerard Colony lurking at the shows, and soon Interpol received an invitation to Matador's Manhattan offices. "It was surreal," Fogarino recalls. "They aren't business people, they're music nerds and party animals. They told us: 'Well, we like you guys, but we're not sure if we can sign you.'"

Big-league French imprint Labels had no such reservations. Champing at the bit to snag Interpol's European rights, they flew the band to Paris to perform with the White Stripes, Mercury Rev, and Pulp. Labels impressed Fogarino, who says, "They were really cool and they knew their music. They didn't try to take us to fancy restaurants and talk about 'moving units.'"

Still weighing Labels' offer and unwilling to wait for Matador's blessing, Interpol recorded on spec with Fogarino's friend Peter Katis at Brooklyn's Tarquin Studios. "We knew someone was going to put it out, and Peter had enough faith in us to front the studio bill," Fogarino explains. Halfway through the recording process, Interpol signed with both Matador and Labels. Its profile became astoundingly high for a U.S. band that had never toured the States.

Interpol released a self-titled, three-track EP in June 2002 to critical acclaim. Favorable comparisons to indie-rock sacred cows such as Joy Division and Television spread like wildfire across the globe. By the time the group's full-length debut, Turn on the Bright Lights, hit record stores in August, the American tour had sold out. Fogarino was stunned. "We expected maybe 50 to 100 people a night, something real modest. But every night we had 500 people and a line outside. It was amazing."

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