Interpol’s Paul Banks Explains ‘Marauder’ Track By Track
By Bob Boilen
For their sixth album, Marauder, Interpol come out swinging. English-American singer and bassist Paul Banks, lead guitarist Daniel Kessler and drummer Sam Fogarino have been playing together now for 21-years, about the age they each were when the band formed back in 1997. The recording for this record began in 2016 with a 15th anniversary tour of the band’s first and classic album Turn On The Bright Lights sandwiched in between the recording session. The band took on famed producer Dave Fridmann, known for his band Mercury Rev but also for producing music by Flaming Lips, Weezer, Sleater-Kinney and many more, just to give an idea of his visceral aesthetic.
For a sense of Marauder, Paul Banks here dives into detail and unveils some of the thoughts that went into this record.
1. “If You Really Love Nothing”
One of the swing jams. Sam is rocking a shuffle and the rhythmic poise is uncommon for us.
The song has some of my favorite lyrics: “If you really love nothing, everybody’s made up, everybody’s losing.” It’s a similar sentiment as expressed by “Stella.” “The building fronts are just fronts.” Both songs, I suppose, center around a narrator who is perplexed by a woman with unwieldy psychological pathologies involving paranoia and dissociation. This song, like “Stella,” suggests the narrator gives up on this woman ultimately. The choruses feature the best guitar interplay on the record.
2. “The Rover”
“The Rover” was one of the first songs we got cooking. Daniel introduced the riff and the rest came very quickly — bass, drums and vocals.
I wanted to keep the bass and guitar simple in the verses. I felt that the counterpoint of a drone against Daniel’s poppy, sharp progression would provide a bottled-up energy that we release when the chorus arrives and the bass and guitars diverge.
The lyrics are about a seductive, charismatic cult leader who has no trouble amassing young followers. His message is one of inclusion, obedience, hedonism, and salvation. The end is nigh, so come and see me.
Another swinger. Sam really stretching out and having fun. One of my favorite songs. I feel that the “The Rover” and “Complications” exist in the same world — in the same movie. If “The Rover” were walking through the desert on an acid trip, then “Complications” is the song playing in the jukebox of the dive bar where he winds up — the come-down at sundown.
4. “Flight of Fancy”
This song has a very strange chord progression from Daniel. I think in my mind it begins on the 5th chord of the melody and then plays out like: 5, 1, 2, 3, 4. But if you ask Daniel, the order of the chords is as you hear them: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Basically I think he’s starting his melody in the “wrong” place. And he thinks I’m nuts. We are probably both right.
But that difference of orientation lent itself to a fun and fluid arrangement between bass and two guitars. I think it would be difficult for someone else to learn the song because it doesn’t really seem to follow any rules. To play it correctly, I first had to memorize my bass pattern before I could feel it.
Lyrically the song begins as a lover’s lament — much like “NYSMAW” — the idea is, why can’t I know you?
Then the chorus opens into a defiant assertion. A claiming of agency. My thoughts are my own. And I am my thoughts. It suggests in the feel and tone (and in my mind) that one day we will not just be defending our right to privacy and free-speech. But we may some day find ourselves defending our freedom of thought. It’s another song, like “Surveillance,” that thematically is akin to an episode of Black Mirror. I just like the idea of reclaiming the right to free thought.
5. “Stay In Touch”
Our gothic jam. Daniel loved the simple ominous descending bassline and never let me change it. 🙂 His riff has always struck us — it has a beautiful hollow, woody timber — hooky but vague. Moody and distant, but sticky and inviting. Producer Dave Fridmann loved it immediately for how it invited his ear. It’s amorphous. We slaved to make it hold together as a song while maintaining the nebulous quality of Daniel’s languid shifts. The third verse features a cool Eastern or African sounding guitar part from Daniel. Very sparse but filled with kinetic energy. It inspired my second best riff on the record, lovingly referred to as “Cuban Bill Gates.”
Sam brought the flavor on this one.
6. “Mountain Child”
In my mind the narrator is perhaps the same character from the “Rover” — a dusty man. Here, he’s in love with a girl who is in love with nature. She is a social outcast by choice. She prefers the wild. But the narrator can see her — knows the ilk of her spirit and chooses to follow her.
In the third verse he is bitten by a venomous snake. And as the song proceeds, his consciousness breaks down as the toxin invades his senses. He becomes nonsensical, fevered: “My mountain child is strange and I’m a kind of hero. We used to rule back then. What did we used to rule back then?” [These] are his last thoughts before he perishes.
The outro features my fourth favorite riff, but it’s really just an inversion of what Daniel is playing.
Just an easy breezy pop rocker. Dancing, punchy energy. Daniel coordinated the snare accents to emphasize his stabbing, off-kilter guitar hits. Lyrically the song is about wanting to understand more of one’s partner. It’s the frustration that we cannot know all and the frustration that she in fact may know all of me.
Sam and Daniel often championed this song’s disco beat and high-energy propulsion. Harmonically it’s a strange journey. Daniel’s chord pattern begins as a four-chord pattern, then he adds a chord to his sequence, making it five-chords. Then he adds a sixth chord. It’s like a round that acquires a new facet with each pass. It gives an illusion that there is no clear anchor to the verses, but there is always the four-chord nested pattern. [It] never rests.
Sam brings a special energy on this track. Signature Sam dance style. The bass and drum interplay here was something we worked on diligently. If it came out correctly we should be flamming. This song features my third best guitar riff, nicknamed “Bill Gates.”
(It appears in the outro.)
9. “Number 10”
This song was destined to be a B-side. I had written a fun surfy baseline that jived well with the drums but I was never super stoked on the song. In the studio we just recorded it because we had some time. But there was no second guitar and no vocals.
When we tracked it, it came out really explosive and fun. The additional guitars and vocals were written in a few hours over two afternoons. No fuss no muss.
The lyrics are about an office drama. The narrator is tired of his supervisor, Ella breathing down his neck. She’s a tough boss. But there is also a love there, a secret attraction. A mutual secret attraction. But alas, business is business and their desire is never sated. I think that feeling of frustration and desire suits the temperment of the music. The flighty intensity. Pent up lust.
I love this song. It’s the loosest, most spontaneous and unpolished track on the record, and I’m proud of its garage feel and grit.
10. “Party’s Over”
Popping pills and masturbating to Instagram. (Fiction!) Also an anarchist call to arms.
11. “Probably Matters”
It’s like an impressionist/surrealist film about a defunct relationship — the remorse, guilt, and shame that can nag us through the haze of afterthought.