Interpol had almost completed writing their sixth album, Marauder, when they did a very unusual thing. The New Yorkers went out on tour to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of their debut LP, Turn Out The Bright Lights, playing the seminal album in full. It was an unusual step to make whilst moving forward.
“It was a bizarre thing to do, to interrupt a creative process when we were 95 per cent finished writing the new record,” says vocalist/guitarist, Daniel Kessler, down the line from Rome. “It really was a challenge to us, ‘okay you’re invested in this batch of songs; you’re almost ready to record them and have a plan to do so in December, but now you’re gonna put them away for four months and tour a record that you wrote 15 years ago?’
“But it felt like the thing to do. Leave those songs alone, and go and do this tour which was really exciting and fun. We didn’t over-think it and it was great seeing people’s expectations and reactions, some who hadn’t been born in 2002. It was a very humbling place to be as a band.”
The band completed the tour and later that November picked up the songs from the shelf and convened for a week in their Manhattan rehearsal space. Being on the road with old songs had paid dividends on the new.
“By the time we picked up those songs again they came running back to us and it was like, ‘yeah, this is what we wanted to say, and we’re ready to embark on the next chapter forward’,” Kessler recalls. “Strangely, by playing Bright Lights we were very comfortable and tight as a performing band and we were able to enter the studio with that sort of ease playing together, but with performing all-new material from the tour. Strangely enough, doing that tour created something of a new process for us.
“Being in the room playing these songs together you could really feel this rawness, this live-ness, this urgency coming out of this music and it became something I really wanted to bottle up and capture.”
Acclaimed producer Dave Fridmann wanted to do pretty much the same. The Mercury Rev bassist/founding member welcomed Interpol into his upstate New York studio for the band’s first time in a decade with an external producer. Working with an outsider again required some re-orientation, but was made easier by the fact that… well, it was Dave Fridmann.
“It definitely was,” Kessler says, “because we’re quite a DIY band and we produce most of our records. There’s something to be said for controlling everything, like how something’s gonna go from point-A to point-B, you’re hoping for something that you mightn’t get working with a third party. But we wanted to be open, we were making great headway with these songs and wanted to see if we could incorporate someone who could find a way to help make them better, be it simple production or a manner of recording songs or what have you.
“We were big fans of Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs (1997), we’d never heard a record that sounded like that. Then you go over his catalogue – ‘oh, he’s done most of The Flaming Lips records, MGMT, Spoon, he’s mixed a good portion of the Tame Impala records’. With all the bands there’s not one particular sound or approach, but they’re all great-sounding records and great bands. It seemed like he could make a great partner… and he really did.”
Fridmann’s studio is an hour out of Buffalo, with Interpol recording there during an unforgiving and occasionally snowed-in winter. How’s the serenity?
“It’s like the harshest winter in the United States,” Kessler notes. “It snows every day, and a lot. And it’s quite cold. So as a New Yorker who likes to walk around a lot that might seem like the right kind of place, but Dave is a jewel of a human being. You’re there to really do one thing and the way he works is different – we went there four times for two weeks each and that’s how he does it, while he rotates other bands in between. It was a really different approach for us to work with, but it also stopped us from getting crazy and cabin feverish.
“But when you’re there, you’re there to get it done and the main thing about Dave is that he’s worked on these records that are incredibly detailed and pristine and so forth, but the way he worked with us was somewhat punk rock. He’s not overly-precious about stuff. If something sounds good he just wants to go do it; it’s just him with his son sitting over microphones; he moves really fast. And we did the whole record to tape, so we had our limits, in a good way. You couldn’t record a thousand guitar solos, you had to perhaps go over the one you just did on the tape. And some of those parts we played so often in rehearsals that it was like, ‘yeah, that just works’.
“From hearing our rehearsal tapes he could see that we were really prepared so from that we were able to create this really lively, raw, urgent record. It’s really quite minimal, but the songs just jump off at you at times.”
Marauder is out now through Remote Control Records. Interpol will return to Australia as part of the Falls Festival.
Lorne VIC: December 28-31 (18+ event)
Marion Bay TAS: December 29-31 (all-ages)
Byron Bay NSW: Dec 31-Jan 2 (18+ event)
Fremantle WA: January 5-6 (18+ event)
Tickets and full details via www.fallsfestival.com