Interpol's new, surprising album is an antidote to the times

Rick Olivares

Posted at Aug 04 2022 05:35 AM

Interpol  Atiba Jefferson
Interpol are Sam Fogarino (from left), Paul Banks, and Daniel Kessler. Courtesy of Atiba Jefferson

Twenty years after a world-changing event influenced the music and recording on Interpol’s debut album, "Turn On the Bright Lights" — that is one of the best debuts ever — history repeated itself.

In the September 11, 2001 attacks clothed "Turn On the Bright Lights" with a gloom and moodiness that sparked the post-punk revival, the COVID-19 pandemic and the political upheaval in the United States lent a new coat to Interpol and their seventh and new album, "The Other Side of Make-Believe."

Written entirely during lockdown, "The Other Side of Make-Believe", released last month, finds the trio of vocalist and bassist Paul Banks, guitarist Daniel Kessler, and drummer Sam Fogarino on the departure platform of dark introspection for – gasp – sunnier climes.

Even the videos are different. Dancing people and a couple hand-in-hand against the world the first single, “Toni”. Sunshine.

So different from the accompanying videos to the first album that had the feel of The Matrix (“PDA”) and Japanese horror films (“Obstacle 1”).

“Toni,” the lead-off single from the new album features a couple hand-in-hand against a horde of folks with the choreography of the opening scene of "La La Land". Oh, there’s sunshine, too!

Fear not. Interpol has not gone the way of Phil Collins. The minimalist Interpol sound with the rumbling and moody bass lines, the cynical guitars, and the energetic drums are still there.

The times just call for a different approach.

“Everything was so negative and dour with politics, the social climate, and the pandemic and it made everything feel pre-dystopian and paranoid,” bared Fogarino to this writer. “So it ('The Other Side of Make-Believe') is an answer to all that. It would be easy to write a political album but this was a response to the negative and to go down a different path.”

And a part of that path was the songwriting.

“It was challenging to record as the writing process was isolated (Banks was in Edinburgh, Scotland while Kessler was in Spain, and Fogarino at his new home in Athens, Georgia when the lockdown hit).”

“It was nerve-wracking at first, but we realized all the impatience and bickering in person was not there. From my perspective, it allowed me to hone my art before I shared it instead of sharing something off the cuff.”

When the band was able to put the songs together, they all went to London to record the album with English producer, Flood (aka Mark Ellis who has famously worked with U2, Depeche Mode, New Order, PJ Harvey, and one of Interpol’s inspirations, New Order among others).

“We all loved working with Flood,” pronounced Fogarino, “He’s wise beyond his years but he has this youthful spirit. What you’re hearing is magic. He was challenging us without being an imposing personality. He ingratiated himself and became part of the band instead of us figuring him out.”

“He’s a funny guy and there was a lot of laughter. And the album didn't suffer even if we were in a jovial mood.”

Or even light as in the case of “Something Changed” that is perhaps the closest Interpol will record a ballad.

“Gran Hotel” has a breeziness while “Renegade Hearts” is uplifting.

Now, you get the drift.

Like other albums recorded under lockdown, "The Other Side of Make-Believe" is a welcome change of pace. In the case of Interpol, the gloom and even hedonistic tone that marked the previous albums was what the band extracted from that particular point in time.

Right here and right now is what they are feeling and thinking. And it is in these quiet moments of introspection and isolation at the height of the pandemic that have led to this. But you know it’s the hush before the next storm.

“It would be a poor mirror image if we sounded like our old selves,” summed up Fogarino. “It’s kind of ideal that we are changing the sonics, songwriting, and content and arriving with open arms. We aren’t throwing out the kitchen sink but redecorating.”

And where this leads Interpol at the start of their third decade as a band is anyone’s guess. That’s a long way from now. For now, let’s enjoy the other side.

Interpol’s "The Other Side of Make-Believe" is now available on all streaming and video platforms as well as compact disc and vinyl.