In 2002, Sam Forgarino, Paul Banks, Carlos Dengler, and Daniel Kessler — collectively known as Interpol — became the kings of Lower East Side indie rock with the release of their debut album, Turn on the Bright Lights. Two years later, they released the critically lauded Antics. With their third album — the loftier, more ambitious Our Love to Admire — the band seemed to have hit the wall, and even their stalwart champions at Pitchfork.com turned on them. But their latest effort, Interpol, marks a return to the heaviness of the previous two albums that their many fans so adored. Vulture spoke with the band’s drummer, Sam Forgarino, about the band's current tour, secret sense of humor, and new look after the departure of bassist Carlos D.
What happens on the Interpol tour bus?
Lots of male bonding. A lot of movies. A lot of smoking of illegal substances.
When you’re on tour this long, does the material get old?
It ebbs and it flows. There are certain parts of the set where you’re like, “Eh ... ” It greatly depends on the audience. Some nights everything becomes new all over again. But anything you do over and over again, you do have a moment where you say, “Oh God ... This again.” You try to find ways to keep it fresh.
You toured with U2 over the summer. Did you learn anything from them?
They've been doing this for 30 years and every night they delivered with the same intensity. They have this massive stage show, but at the center it’s four guys sweating it out. They really believe in what they do. There’s a lot of flair, a lot of video screens, but there’s a lot of honesty at the root of it all. If that’s not inspiring, then what could be?
You guys lost your bass player, Carlos, in March, and it was a big deal. Did you have a Bonham moment where you thought, We can’t go on with out him. Maybe we should break up?
It had the potential for that to happen, but Carlos was the one who was unhappy and we weren’t. Initially, after the bomb dropped, we collectively said, "No. We’ve got to keep going." That was all him. He lost his identification with what we do. We were very excited about the new record, so we had to pull it together. We lucked out with nailing [journeyman bassist] David Pajo and [Secret Machines keyboard-vocalist] Brandon Curtis for coming out on this tour; they’ve really rejuvenated the band. I don’t know if we ever really hit it at this level, playing-wise, because Carlos was very unhappy throughout the last tour, which ended three years ago. On one hand, you lose a very pivotal member, but so much was gained. There’s really no use in looking back — these guys have given us the ability to move forward, which is all we ever wanted.
Carlos had the reputation of being a world-class Lothario. Is it easier to pick up girls now that he’s gone?
[Laughs.] I think we’ve all done pretty well in the past. There’s always something for everybody.
Is the new album achieving what you guys wanted it to?
It treads the line between something that’s just a fictional kind of happening and a deeper reflection. With an Interpol record, there’s always emotions on the sleeve. Lyrically there’s something a lot more playful, too, that gets buried in the heaviness of the mood of the music.
I always imagined that heaviness was a reflection of New York's Lower East Side.
I think once upon a time, New York was responsible. But we’ve toured the world so much now that we could write an album that is just as emotionally heavy in Tahiti at this point. It really has nothing to do with New York at this point.
One of the criticisms that the new album received is that you guys seem so focused on questions about disillusionment: What happens when you have what you want but you don’t want it anymore? It seems like you're still searching for those answers.
Yeah. I believe that’s true. You get to a point where you think the grass is neon green, but it’s just as brown as it was ten years ago. Those questions, the search for that thing — the answer — is just as elusive as it was when we were all slinging coffee. All of us are really different people and have separate lives, but I think we all feel like that.
Are there any super-happy songs in the Interpol catalogue?
A couple I think they all have this tone that may camouflage the happiness, but songs like “Slow Hands” and “Evil” and “Barricade” all have a very positive undertone to them. I don’t think there will ever be anything overtly happy because, I don’t think anybody in the band is ignorantly happy. On the other hand, we can be the silliest, most absurd people, but it’s hard to convey that because of the impression that the music makes.
You’ve got three days at home before you take off for Lisbon. What are you going to do?
I’m going to play with my daughter. That’s it. It’s all about my little girl. She’s a year and a half. That’s not so rock and roll, not so Lower East Side anymore.
Everybody grows up a little bit.
Everybody grows up. But yeah, there’s still a lifetime of heavy questions to explore.