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By Andy Argyrakis
Interpol scores the opening act slot of a lifetime with time on U2's 360 Tour
"One on One"
July 1, 2011
Scoring an opening act slot on the highest grossing tour of all time might seem like the perfect opportunity for mainstream domination, but in the case of Interpol riding alongside on U2's 360 juggernaut, it's just another natural step in the group's ascendance from indie obscurity. In fact, the post-punk revivalists never plot any of its career moves such as this highly coveted opportunity, instead focusing exclusively on creative concerns and letting the rest of the puzzle pieces fall as they may.
"You can't really plan anything like that and it's interesting because you can loosely project the trajectory- you can say you definitely want to move forward- but what exactly does that mean?" ponders drummer Sam Fogarino. "It's the music [business] and you don't have any control of it. We're not the kind of band that tries to write a hit song to propel us into the pop market or the upside of the charts and I don't even think we'd know how. It's funny because the songs that we write that I consider kind of poppy are the ones that might not have a chorus or have a really dark chord progression. The attitude we've all maintained is that if something happens [in terms of mainstream popularity], then fine, but it has to be on our own accord or without deliberate effort. We went out and played after Turn On The Bright Lights came out almost ten years ago and just built up a work ethic to go and play and not complain. Of course we did [complain], but it didn't impede any kind of forward movement."
The journey from tiny clubs (which in the case of Chicago included Metro as Interpol's early stomping grounds) soon expanded to major arenas and stadiums as the group opened for The Cure's Curiosa Festival behind the sophomore CD Antics in 2004. During that same album cycle, the guys scored a one off gig supporting U2 in Glasgow, and though they didn't get to meet Bono and the boys that night, the front man gushed about their set to his band mates and the tens of thousands of fans gathered.
"We met him about two years later and reminisced about that show and thanked him for it," Fogarino recalls. "I even asked 'maybe we could do it again sometime?' and he said 'oh we will' and low and behold we did ten shows in Europe and now we're coming through the States. We just came out being the band that we are and the whole band liked us, Bono especially. They're really genuine, and in terms of our experience throughout Europe, they never pulled that 'you can't look at us or hang out with us' weird rock star attitude. They were very gracious and even cut their sound check short so we'd get one."
Given that boot camp on the road and a four album-spanning catalogue (with 2010's self-titled disc serving as the latest), the group is sounding surprisingly tight, even if the line-up shifted somewhat unexpectedly prior to this outing. These days, official Interpol members include front man/guitarist Paul Banks, guitarist Daniel Kessler and Fogarino as beat keeper, alongside touring musicians Brandon Curtis (keyboards) and Brad Truax (bass).
"It would appear we're hard to get along with [given the member changes]," jokes Fogarino. "It's just been an unfortunate situation stating with departure of [bassist] Carlos [Dengler after the last album was recorded] because he needed a directional change in life and we wanted to keep doing what we were doing. Enter David Pajo [Slint, Tortoise, Zwan], who signed on for over a year of touring, but unfortunately not even midway through, had to exit due to not being able to be away from his family, which was very understood and absolutely nothing went wrong. Brad's been a real champion and I can't sing that guy's praises enough. He had the good bit of a month with the catalogue and just three days of rehearsal before his first show. It was good enough for presentation then, but I think it's really gotten there now. It's been a blast and a breath of fresh air."
Speaking of changes, Interpol marks a return to the group's longtime label home Matador after side stepping towards ill-fated major label life with 2007's Our Love To Admire (Capitol). The newest disc also marks one of the band's most experimental to date, opening with the aggression-fueled frolic "Success," winding towards the more familiar turf of the ominous "Memory Serves," adapting one of the group's most melodic twists to date come "Summer Well" and turning towards a tongue-in-cheek tone throughout the escalating "Always Malaise (The Man I Am)." It's all wrapped up with a three piece suite of interspersed atmospheres that includes the brooding "Try It On," the contemplative "All Of The Ways" and the icy electronics of "The Undoing."
"I find the record to be very bi-polar with a darker side as per usual and a slightly more rock-driven side with big drum beats and loud guitars," explains Fogarino. "One thing we did that we've never done before was sequence the record before we recorded it, which is how we decided to segue the last three songs tightly into each other on what would be the second side of the album. It was kind of scary and such a self-contradicting thing to do, but when it came down to the actual notes, we tried not to get too far ahead of ourselves."
In considering Interpol's next step, Fogarino once again doesn't dive too far into the future, other than a promise to keep releasing records inspired by members' personal interests in art, films and photography. And whether it's a sweaty and intimate solo headlining show or a football field with one of the world's most famous bands, the road will always be the main priority for these players.
We basically went from wanting to play music 24 hours a day to having it actually happen," he reflects of the journey thus. Bright Lights and Antics kind of blurred together because we recorded them so close together and there was so much touring. After that, Our Love To Admire was a hard period when we were really tired and a little confused about what just happened. Though that wasn't my favorite period, I think the songs are very good and we still toured our assess off. And that led us to record number four, which we've been touring behind since it was released last year. I think it all comes down to Interpol being a band that writes songs to get on the road. We've always been very much a live band and always will be."
Interpol opens for U2 at Chicago's Soldier Field on Tuesday, July 5 with additional details at www.ticketmaster.com.