There comes a time in the career of nearly every band when they officially stop listening to what critics have to say about them. For Interpol, you'd think that time is now.
See, recently, Britain's fabulously, er, bandwagon-leaping music publication, the New Musical Express, wrote a fawning review of a live performance by Editors, a band that could charitably be described as "Interpol-esque." And while the review itself wasn't exactly newsworthy, the fact that its author chose to kick it off by calling Interpol "the worst band on the planet, a tuneless, talentless shower of Joy Division copyist f---wits" is.
Not to mention that he describes frontman Paul Banks as a "whining, dreary, two-note-monotone singer" who sounds like "a cancerous baboon having his tonsils amputated," suggests that Banks' bandmates should be "dragged c--k-first into the nearest ditch, shot in the head with a bolt gun and have their entrails fed to diseased rats," and calls the band's upcoming album, Our Love to Admire, "unmitigated dogsh--."
So you'd think Banks would read that, throw his hands in the air, and let loose a similar fusillade of expletives (or maybe he'd have a good chuckle at the fact that some writer is losing his mind over a band like Editors).
But, in actuality, Banks says he's long ago given up reading — or caring — what the media has to say about his band, which is more of a survival mechanism than anything else, considering just how many people have so much to say about Interpol.
"With our band, there's always going to be something," he said. "I learned very quickly — almost from the first album — not to read that stuff, because it has nothing to do with what I do," he said. "If you need to do something creatively, you just do it. You don't worry what people are gonna think. I mean, I don't really put that much stock into what any jackass on the street tells me about anything, so why put much stock into something just because it's in print?"
And that mindset will undoubtedly serve Banks well in the coming months, as Interpol unveil Love (due July 10), a sonically spacious and lyrically amorous effort that takes everything the band has done on its previous two albums, rips it apart and airs it out on a clothesline over Big Sky country. It's a record that's by turns spookier ("Pioneer to the Falls"), spacier ("Mammoth") and more somber (the album-closing "The Lighthouse") than anything Interpol have done to date. It's a luminous, fully realized band album brimming with ideas and instrumentation, the kind that only comes when a group of musicians cut all ties from the outside world and go for broke. Which is exactly what Interpol did.
After wrapping a solid year of touring in support of 2004's Antics (see "More Interpol Tour Dates? Check; More Videos? Maybe Not") they returned home to New York and took a much-needed break ("I went out and got bombed," Banks laughed). Then they reconvened and, no longer signed to indie Matador Records, found themselves in a place both strangely familiar and, well, strange: free to be a band focused solely on the business of being a band.
"We just disappeared for three months, and then we were writing again," Banks said. "To the world we had disappeared, but we were together writing. Once the songs disappeared, we sort of derailed, but we started writing again, and it was like an evolution."
"The future wasn't totally unseen," drummer Sam Fogarino said, "but to have a moment where we didn't even worry about a record label, and to be able to exist as a band and just worry about the songs — period — and pushing our own envelope ... it wasn't something we hadn't been experienced since pre-[Turn on the Bright Lights, the band's 2002 debut]. And it's kind of amazing to be in this position after a couple of records, going to make the third, moving on to Capitol Records, and to feel that way — feeling brand new again — we're not supposed to feel that way."
Although you might not know if from Love's first single, "The Heinrich Maneuver" — which is about as classic a slab of Interpol as you can get — pretty much everything about the band is different these days.
And though the idea of change might frighten some of the band's fans and give critics yet another reason to sharpen their knives, Banks and Fogarino see Love as the best thing they've ever done, a record born out of creativity, necessity and ignoring the opinions of pretty much everyone not in Interpol.
"There's a certain alleviation of pressure that you can hear on this record," Fogarino said. "It's easier to please yourself first, and once you've done that, you're able to be way more honest with what you're trying to do."
"If there's a difference between these albums, it's that we're individually better musicians and as a band we're better songwriters. It's different in that it's an evolution for us," Banks added. "These songs couldn't have been written around Bright Lights because they're all, in my mind, better songs that we were incapable of writing back then."