Before Interpol goes onstage for their sold-out show at Fox Theater Pomona tonight, Daniel Kessler, the band's intrepid guitarist, answers a few questions. It's interesting that Kessler is more verbose than his stage persona lets on. But whether talking about Interpol's self-titled fourth album, U2 fandom or the departure of bassist Carlos D., there is no straying from the polished and dapper demeanor.
OC Weekly: Now that bassist Carlos D. has left, is Interpol really just singer Paul Banks, drummer Sam Fogarino and you? How does this all work?
Daniel Kessler: After Carlos left and finished his recording contributions, Paul and I mixed the record in London. The first thing we had to do to replace Carlos was get a band together. We've always had a keyboardist and backing vocals live, so those were the first two people we thought of. And Dave Pajo (Slint) and Brandon Curtis (Secret Machines) were the first people we thought of. We never plan things too far in advance, we're still essentially taking things one at a time.
With Carlos leaving were there distinct changes in the band dynamic?
David Pajo is an extraordinary musician; he's the only person we spoke to as far as filling this role. We were all great admirers of all his work, from Slint to Tortoise. The Tortoise albums he played on were some of my favorites of the '90s for sure...it's a privilege to be playing with him.
From the first practice he was really scary because he was playing the bass lines really, really well. He's so consistent as a bass player. Carlos is an extraordinary musician too, and Dave is doing his bass lines justice. Fans are responding to that night after night; we're playing really well together and we're really comfortable. Then we have the added element of having Brandon Curtis on backing vocals and keys, who is a lead singer in his own right, is like we have two lead singers playing off each other, which we've never had. It feels like an incredible band now.
Have you tried writing new songs together?
No, the new thing that we try to do is we're trying to get our new songs that we've never played live stage ready. We're just concentrating on that.
You guys were supposed to open for U2 this summer before Bono's back injury meant cancelling a slew of dates. How did that affect you?
The U2 dates that were postponed was due to someone's injury so there was nothing we could do about that, and we had to shuffle our schedules and toured around the East Coast...in hindsight it was a great way to prepare for our new record.
But we just finished a few dates with U2 in Europe--and they were great. Their fans were really receptive and enthusiastic. You never know what it's like when you open for someone else's audience, and we'd seldomly done that in our career. So at the same time it was exciting and new--keeping us on our toes. It was a lot of fun.
Were you big U2 fans growing up?
That band has been a consistent mark in modern music for over 30 years; it's extraordinary what they've got going on. Night after night they've had stadiums of people all over the place going bananas.
I'd seldom been to a stadium show but I have to say, seeing these ones where there were an upward of 70 to 90 thousand people going crazy for four people on stage is pretty exciting to be around. That energy is amazing to be around. And yeah, Unforgettable Fire was one of the first records I bought on my own, when I was eight. I've been around U2 music for the best part of my life.
Why is your fourth album self-titled?
It just felt right. We were three-quarters of the way through the writing process, shooting shit and throwing album titles out there. And Paul suggested a self-titled one, and we thought, why not?
We've had some titles that were sentences, and this felt like bringing the music back down and letting the music speak for itself. This album--there's a lot to take in song per song. It's an album where the first listen is totally different from the fifth listen, and maybe it's not the best thing to do in an age when people have super short attention spans. But we're still album fans and we write that way--there's a beginning and an end to the album.
Typically bands self-title their first albums, when they want their band name out there. But at this point, for our fourth album, we just thought--the record should just speak for itself. Titles are really funny things; I really loved Turn On the Bright Lights because it's a lyric--I really enjoyed because it's a reference. But music sometimes just happens without words and that makes the most sense to me. That's the way it should be.
What influences did you guys take in when making this record?
We never listen to music as a group effort. And I've made a conscious effort not to listen to music when working on an album. It's been a long time since I've listened to something while making an album--have six to seven months without listening to anything. I just try to work on music rather than listen to it.
You write the music and Paul writes lyrics, and then you all arrange it together. Was it the same for this album?
Something like that. The songs begin with me, and then we'll get together and work on them as a group. About half of these songs Carlos and I worked on together, and then we'd take them to Paul and Sam and start moving them around.
Do you miss Carlos as a writing partner?
I love Carlos, he's one of a kind and I've a very special bond with him, I'll always think of him as a brother and I have all the respect for him in the world as an artist and as a dude--and at the same time it's hard to say you miss someone, because I knew it was something he had to do. He needed to not be in a rock band and be on his own schedule. I'm very happy he did what he had to do with his life. It's totally understandable.