Paul Banks, Carlos Dengler, Daniel Kessler and Sam Fogarino have little in common with each other, let alone with the rest of the world. In New York in the early 2000s, The Strokes, The Rapture, Radio 4, The Walkmen, Liars, LCD Soundsystem and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were just emerging. Elsewhere, we find the raw blues of The White Stripes, the punk garage of The Hives and the oil rock of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Rock was everywhere, multicoloured and sugary. And then there's Interpol… Their emotional depth is profound. Their guitars are clean but painful. They have an intellectual urgency. In 2002, the quartet brought out their debut album, Turn On The Bright Lights. It was a post-punk epiphany with words cut like their suits, which immediately received praise and impressive comparisons; Joy Division comes to mind, whose classic style often inspired Interpol.
It’s New York, 1997 and Daniel Kessler has finally managed to form a group. He spots the eccentric Carlos Dengler, a former guitarist, on the philosophy benches of NYU and invites him along to his amateur rehearsals where Greg Drudy, his dorm mate, is on drums. Carlos picked up what was available: a bass. Paul Banks, who he met earlier on a language course in France and then again in the New York jungle, accepted the second guitar after having heard the first draft of one of their early songs, PDA. The introverted blond shared Kessler's passion for cinema – that of the filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville - and literature - Henry Miller and Bukowski. From a musical point of view, there wasn’t much crossover. Kessler was a Smiths fan, Dengler swore by post-punk, Banks listened to a lot of hip-hop, Dire Straits, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. It was Carlos who would give energy to Interpol, no doubt. At first, they were finding their feet. Banks didn't know what to do with his voice, looking for inspiration from Simon & Garfunkel and Neil Young, while Drudy played too loud. In Brooklyn, the quartet, who had not yet found fame, were playing in seedy joints. And after a few questionable names, the group settled with "Interpol".
Maybe it’s because Paul has always travelled. Born in Clacton-on-Sea, a seaside resort with a pretty name but a somewhat boring town in the South East of England, he left very early, tossed around by his parents from country to country. Without any ties, he grew used to the temporary. This forced (then chosen) solitude gave him the material to compose songs about anguish, travels and love, through a relatively incomprehensible language. He seemed present and absent at the same time, the paradoxically smooth flow of his cracked baritone tone voice overflowing with malaise: Banks had embodied Interpol.
Many people spoke of a depressive band, carried by a broken man and a guitarist/composer. Yet Interpol lives in a democracy. Neither Banks nor Kessler are leaders. "I don't know where you heard Daniel was the only composer. It has always been a collaboration. Daniel generates the raw material for the group to work with. Over time, it becomes part of the Interpol process", Dengler told an angry journalist. A first EP, Fuck I.D. #3, was released by Chemikal Underground, a penniless Scottish label that managed to win them the BBC Peel Sessions in 2001. By then, Sam Fogarino had already taken Drudy's place, with ten years of experience already under his belt. This is when the real rise of Interpol began, an organization with strong or buried egos that was driven by a quest for beauty.