For the last nine months, New York City rock crew Interpol has been touring non-stop behind its 2010 self-titled fourth album, hustling back and forth across the country, jetsetting to foreign lands, and then doubling back for another set of shows.
Tomorrow, Interpol hits the Fillmore Miami Beach for the second time in less than a year and Crossfade spoke with Interpol guitarist Daniel Kessler about esthetics, the Internet, old and new albums, never-ending tours, and replacing ex-member Carlos Dengler.
Crossfade: There's always been a clearly defined esthetic running through Interpol's music, videos, album art. Do you think of it as just a band? Or a broader artistic project?
Daniel Kessler: The reason you begin a band and start writing music is for purely artistic purposes. Yeah, you might say, "I wanna be in a rock band and I wanna get on TV." But there are two different roads. If you're like, "I just really like playing and writing music," then it becomes a natural extension to care about esthetics and anything that's attached to the band like artwork and posters. I think it becomes as important as the music to you. It's an extension of your self. You want to do things that represent you right and feel good to you.
Do you think that a band needs to take an even more fully focused, broad role now? These days, so much of what people experience of music might not even be the music itself, especially with the Internet.
I'd rather focus on just keeping things kinda simple and just make decisions in ways that feel right. Not to decide something because you hope it has this sort of effect or it gives you these sorts of results.
I think a good example is the first song we put out there, "Lights" from our latest album. We put it out there weeks after we finished the album. And we didn't overthink it. We just said, "Cool. What's the first piece of transmission that we wanna put out there after a bit of hibernation?" And we were like, "Oh, let's put a track out there." And then we were like, "It'd be really cool to do a little film clip." Not even really a music video ... We looked at it as a film clip. And so that's how we ended up working with the great artist Charlie White.
In this day and age, you can have artists and bands directly communicating with an audience, versus waiting for all these middlemen and hoping that someone airs this thing. Consequently, we made a pretty conceptual film piece that doesn't have the band in it.
With the last album, fans and critics seemed split ... Some considered it a throwback to Turn on the Bright Lights. Others saw the record as a distinct departure from past Interpol stuff. How did you feel about it?
I don't think it's a return to Turn on the Bright Lights. Our first records have a certain kind of chemistry because they were written so close together and we were pretty mindful that we wanted to get our second record out pretty soon after the first one. We never really stopped writing, even between tours. We really hustled.
But I feel like, from that point onward, we've always tried to find new approaches and not just stay the same. It's inherent with the kind of people that we are. Artistically, we've never ever listened to a record and said, "Man, it'd be great to do something like this." It's never been part of the band and it just doesn't work with the way we write. And at the same time, we've never been like, "It'd be great to have a song like this one that we've already written." That's not who we are or why we do this.
Obviously, after the recording of your most recent album, Carlos Dengler left. Out on the road, you've replaced him with a rotating cast of players. But have you had to rethink and restrategize the live show?
I don't think we've approached the songs any differently. We try to be faithful to the parts that Carlos played on the recordings. We just want to play the songs as well as we can play them. Of course, there are little pieces of new energy put into the songs, which is only natural. And if we feel like it enhances the performance and the concert, then that's great.
Why haven't you found a permanent replacement for Dengler?
Well, Carlos left right before we mixed the record. And at that point, we had enough to finish the album and make sure that it came out to our satisfaction. Then we had to figure out who we were going to play with and all this mess.
I think when Interpol's on tour, it's really about touring. We learned pretty early on that it's too crazy on the road and that sound checks don't really do it for us as far as trying to write songs. So right now, it's really about touring and it will be about touring for most of this year.
Has Interpol made it into the studio recently? And when the band does start writing and recording, will you be exploring the three-man dynamic? Or adding other players?
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We've been touring for nine months solid. We haven't had much time. We're just on the road right now. And I think it's important to separate the two. There's the road and then there's creativity.
Interpol with School of Seven Bells. Friday, April 29. The Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. and tickets cost $33 plus fees via livenation.com. Call 305-673-7300 or visit fillmoremb.com.