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Temporary Interpol

Aug. 11, 2010
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The stark cover of Interpol’s upcoming self-titled record illustrates the letters in the band’s name pulling away from each other and crumbling apart, an image it’s easy to read as symbolic of the state of the band, given how longtime bassist Carlos Dengler left the group shortly after they finished cutting the album.

In lieu of announcing a permanent replacement for Dengler, the band’s remaining three members elected to hire a temporary touring bassist. It only made sense that they would land on one of indie-rock’s go-to free agents, David Pajo.

Since his days as a co-founder of the seminal math-rock band Slint, Pajo has played with acts as disparate as Tortoise, Stereolab, Early Man, Royal Trux, Dead Child and Will Oldham. When Billy Corgan needed a bassist to lend credibility to his post-Smashing Pumpkins group Zwan, he hired David Pajo.

Pajo came recommended to Interpol through the band’s sound man, who had worked with Pajo when he was a fill-in bassist for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs during their 2009 tour. 

“I’d met David a couple times over the years, and we were all tremendous admirers of his work, especially that Tortoise record he played on [1996’s Millions Now Living Will Never Die],” says Interpol guitarist Daniel Kessler. “That was my favorite record of that year. It was really such a turning point for independent music, this incredible bridge between so many genres of music, including electronic, a rock album that had the sensibilities of jazz. David’s played on so many great projects since; he’s just an amazing musician.”

So why doesn’t the group make Pajo a member of the band so they can record with him?

“That notion is certainly one we’re open to; I mean, how could we not be?” Kessler says. “But it’s hard for any of us to go there yet. We’ve only played like 10 shows together, so it’s early on, and right now we’re focused on playing our new record live, which is a whole other beast. We’ve never been a band that mapped everything out; we’ve never been a career-oriented band. We don’t look too far down the road.”

Joining Pajo as a temporary touring member of Interpol (with potential, perhaps, for something more permanent) is keyboardist Brandon Curtis, of the space-rock band The Secret Machines. His role is important, given the newfound prominence the new Interpol album places on keys.

“For the last Interpol albums, the orchestrations and pianos and keyboards were final touches, something we incorporated after I had starting writing the songs,” Kessler says. “But for this album, from the beginning we were open to the idea of using instrumentation to provide melody and harmony, so piano really influenced where we were going with these songs.”

Despite that approach, the self-titled Interpol album, out Sept. 7, is a leaner, less-cluttered listen than the band’s last effort, 2007’s Our Love to Admire. That disc was Interpol’s most expansive, layering brass, strings and other bells and whistles over the band’s signature post-punk. Critics posited that its fuller sound resulted from the band’s move to the major label Capitol, a suggestion the band denies.

“We never changed anything to grow our audience,” Kessler says. “We did nothing different because we were on Capitol; we just made the same record we would have made anyway. The only difference was different people put it out and promoted it.”

Even with the major-label support, Our Love to Admire sold about the same as Interpol’s previous albums, and the band returned to their original label, Matador Records, to release the new record, which Kessler calls the group’s best yet.

“Artistically, it feels like our most complete, cohesive record,” Kessler says. “We’re not the type of band that writes 25 songs and only keeps 10 or 11. We really decide in advance what kind of record we’re making, and make sure the songs say what we want them to say. We want them all to have a cohesive feel and be like chapters of a book. Making a record is definitely less of a traditional rock-band process for us and more of an artistic one.”

Interpol plays the Rave on Friday, Aug. 13, at 8 p.m. with opener Twin Tigers.


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