Interpol finds hope on ‘The Other Side of Make Believe’

The indie rock darlings make a stop at Detroit’s Fillmore on Saturday

click to enlarge Interpol. - ATIBA JEFFERSON
Atiba Jefferson

In recent music history, one American rock band has stood out from the crowd, acting as one of the tastemakers and darlings of turn-of-the-century rock ’n’ roll. Interpol’s blend of garage rock, punk, and elements of indie and country formulated a unique sound, helping to reignite a passion for rock music among young people. The impossibly cool Manhattan band also helped usher in a new era of not only music but music journalism as one of the original blog-era bands, finding itself at the top of the alternative food chain thanks to internet buzz.

After some time away, the band has returned with two new singles and an album, The Other Side of Make Believe, due July 15. Interpol makes a stop at Detroit’s Fillmore on Saturday, May 7.

Drummer Sam Fogarino tells Metro Times that the record was created during the pandemic. While the band would normally hole up in a studio for months, this time they had to use a new method.

“We had to write remotely,” Fogarino says. “We had to kind of alter our process, which, up until this point, was dependent on being a band being together in a room and fleshing everything out from top to bottom.”

The band teamed up with iconic producers Flood (Mark Ellis) and Alan Moulder on this new release. “Those men are very accessible,” Fogarino says. “It’s not like they’re floating five feet above the ground rather, you know? They were just very normal people that had a great sense of humor, and had the right qualities to lead a project without infringing on anybody’s ideas or sensibilities… There was no inspiration through intimidation.”

Fogarino describes the experience as “the beautiful side of the paternal form.”

According to Fogarino, the experience of working together was transformative to Interpol’s sound.

Interpol frontman Paul Banks has never been one to wax poetic on happiness in his lyrics, but The Other Side of Make Believe takes a new approach that seems like a natural progression for the band as it explores the world again.

“I think, at the crux of everything, it’s based on hope,” Fogarino says of the band’s new music. “It may sound dour, but it’s all about getting on the other side of something. … Nobody felt safe around the world. For this one moment, I think the beautiful thing — and of suddenly it’s really ugly and frightening — was like, everybody was pretty much in the same boat.”

He adds, “You know, and that really makes you look at like your existential self, and where you’re going. You have hope, or you falter, you kind of just take yourself into a deeper hole. And I think [the] overarching premise to this record, lyrically, is just a big amount of hope, and it doesn’t always sound happy. You know, we’re seeing positive, but that’s what it is. And it’s kind of nice to hear that come out of Paul.”

The maturation of the band, as Fogarino describes it, comes from a natural place, as the men were individually working on their experiences with the height of the pandemic, and the sudden desire to write about hope was the logical response.

“The song ‘Fables,’ it’s just the whole premise of, you know, everybody needs stability,” Fogarino says. “If we don’t have stability, we can’t do anything. … If there’s no stability, what are we standing on? You can’t do anything. You can’t help anybody. You can’t help yourself. When it’s dark, it’s really dark.”

Around 20 years ago, Interpol was lifted to almost mythic status seemingly overnight, with major music publications praising the band in reviews. In 2002, Interpol released its critically acclaimed debut Turn on the Bright Lights, which received a 9.5 rating from Pitchfork. Interpol’s legacy is a product of the earliest days of digital media, where the band reigned as radio and indie blog kings. Its influence as part of the cultural zeitgeist is undeniable.

After a hiatus and the pandemic stopping the ability to tour, Fogarino finds joy in returning to the stage.

“There’s the layer of newness,” he says. “It’s like, wow, I’ve been doing this for a big portion of my life. And there’s this element to it that there are these nerves that I don’t recall. It is nervous excitement, but it just hasn’t felt so intense. It’s funny, because I think at a certain point of the day, it hits this time where, like, I just want to play the show now.”

Fogarino adds, “You have to be on point. You can’t just utterly lose yourself. You gotta ride this balance between abandon and like, total scrutiny of what you’re doing.”

Beyond the return to the stage is the newfound sense of responsibility Fogarnio says he feels to keep the fires burning for young people. As Interpol re-engages with the world, there so are many young people who haven’t yet experienced their first big show. Fogarino says he aims to give himself to the audience as an artist and a human being.

“I would just want to tell all these younger kids, the hes, the shes, and the in-betweens, that you are safe with me,” he says. “Forget all the fucking assholes in the world and every bad thing that’s going on. If I could do anything to make you feel safer and valid, that’s what I want to do, in any way that I can. It just so happens that this 53-year-old guy is sitting on a drum kit. So that’s my contribution.”

While maintaining the band’s TikTok account, moving through the North American tour, and preparing for the release of a new record, Fogarino is attentive and focused, enjoying the history of the band and looking forward to a bright future. “That’s good, because I’m here still doing it, and it doesn’t feel any less vital,” he says. “It’s just, its importance is changed, you know. I feel different as a person, but I’m still here showing up, still signed on.”

Interpol performs with Tycho and Matthew Dear on Saturday, May 7 at the Fillmore; 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-5451; Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $36.50.

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About The Author

Konstantina Buhalis

Romanian import and Greek school dropout Konstantina Buhalis was born in Bucharest, Romania, and came to Detroit in December 1995, where her first few years of life were enjoyed on the east side and Greektown. Buhalis spent her early years reading the Detroit Free Press, Teen Vogue, and Rolling Stone and began...
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