Interpol's Paul Banks on the new album, his solo effort, and fashion

Chris Wasser

Sitting in the hot seat of a trendy tattoo parlour in New York City's East Village, Interpol front man Paul Banks doesn't appear to be in the mood for talking. Which is understandable, considering the large needle device currently penetrating the skin on his left bicep.

Still, whether he's "double booked" or not, there are at least two men here with a job to do, so let's keep things moving on then, shall we? After all, it's not like Banks spends most of his time sitting on his ass having his body decorated for fun.

This is a busy man we're talking about; a puzzling yet hipper-than-thou character who many consider the perfect indie idol ... or thereabouts. What's more, he's quite the workaholic, too -- a self-confessed lover of the arts who enjoys writing, painting, and pretending to be someone else for what turned out to be quite a nifty solo project (more of which later).

But what we're here to discuss is his band -- NYC favourites Interpol -- and the small matter of a long-awaited, self-titled fourth LP. It's big, it's dark, and it's not quite as accessible, or interesting, as some might have hoped for. What's more, the fact that bassist Carlos Andres Dengler announced his departure from the band several months back ensured a bundle of attention before any of us had heard a note. But wait -- hasn't Interpol always been a "democracy"? Haven't we always been led to believe that this is one of the coolest bands in the world to write and perform music within?

Ah lads, what the hell happened, like?

"It wasn't a surprise," he tells me, discussing that moment when Carlos called it a day. "It was something that we could sense for a long time. I think it was much more about his own life and what he wants to get out of life, and this just wasn't it any more."

I see. But we've nothing to worry about, it seems -- the separation is "amicable"; they've wished him the best, etc, etc. You're still going to remain friends, right?

"Ehhhhhh nooooo," he replies. Okay Paul, level with me dude -- was there a bust-up near the end?

"You know, nothing that I wanna go into, but I think, as I said, I wish him the best, he's an incredibly gifted artist -- I'll leave it at that."

Spoilsport. Anyway, Carlos' departure has only made room for two new live additions to the Interpol universe -- American guitarist and bassist Dave Pajo and Secret Machines front man Brandon Curtis on keys. "It's like a super group, the way I see it," offers Paul.

Of course, this is a guy who likes to mix things up a bit; add a little twist to proceedings. Which might explain the 32-year-old English-born musician's quirky alter ego ('Julian Plenti') and a surprisingly decent solo offering about some tall building. Or something like that.

"Those are songs that I'd been working on for 10 years that had no outlet," he explains, discussing the origins of his debut solo record, Julian Plenti is . . . Skyscraper.

"I couldn't force them into the band, you know, everybody's gotta be on board, so the only way for anyone to hear those songs was for me to do that. And I had to."


Okay then, and what about this seemingly classy image that the band portray both in videos and on the road?

I assume that fashion is important to these guys, yes?

"Yeah!" he says, sounding slightly shocked that I'd even ask such a thing in the first place. "I mean, we've always sort of tried to avoid the question a little but just because we didn't want it to become more of an issue than it should be, but, you know, every band ever has had an image and so even if the image is like, 'we're gonna wear shorts and ripped T-shirts', that's a f**kin' statement, you know?

Interpol's album is available in shops and online. They play live at the Olympia Theatre November 29, 30, and December 1