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The Eastern Echo Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Print Archive
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The origins of Interpol: an interview with Paul Banks

Every band has their own origin story, and Interpol is no different

On September 6th, Smashing Pumpkins came to Pine Knob Music Theatre in Clarkston. They were accompanied by Interpol, an NYC indie rock band who is known for songs such as ‘Evil’ and ‘C’mere.’ This is a band that is a household name in the rock scene, but, in asking people, not many people know that much about them. 

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Pictured: Interviewer and Paul Banks

Band Name

In an interview backstage with Paul Banks, the lead vocalist, he says that the band name comes from The International Police Association, also known as Interpol. He describes it as being sleek and mysterious sounding, and it especially worked when they were figuring out their footing with their sound. Banks says, 

“...a big part of it in the beginning, we used to say, in a lot of bands it’s kind of like one guy at the front; but we always felt like a band where it was all the members forward, which kind of evokes that Men in Black, anonymous but shared mission kind of thing.”

Where Interpol Originates from 

While Banks lived in southeast Michigan from ages three to eleven, the band itself had formed in New York City. Banks says, “We met going to NYU, the guitar player, the original bassist, and myself, and our original drummer who then left us in the 90s.”

Influences

The band’s sound takes some inspiration from each member’s favored artists. According to Banks, “Our original bassist was a big Joy Division fan…our drummer and myself are big Pixies fans…I’m a big Nirvana fan, the other guys are big The Jam fans. We’re all Sonic Youth fans. It all comes through in some ways.” 

The band takes influence from some alternative rock bands from the 80s and early 90s, but all in all their sound is unique. 

What sets them apart from other bands 

Banks does not think of it in the way of competitiveness with other bands, but rather self expression and enjoying creating music. “It’s what makes a band a band.” 

“It’s hard to say. Like we have distinct attributes but I often find it like I wouldn’t want to say them.” In a way, he is saying that he does not want to compare themselves to another band since it is not competitive in his eyes. Each band has something special about them in one way or another. 

What to take away from Interpol’s music 

Banks prides himself in being able to write lyrics that don’t feel empty. He talks about how some of the more popular songs tend to stay in these safe guidelines, and how his goal as a lyricist is to write something “f*cking weird.” He wants to take the ‘top forty’ template and flip it on its head. 

As for the music, 

“The other guitar player writes the chord progressions historically that become our songs, and he puts a lot of emotion in the chord progressions. I feel that, our music, when you’re not even listening to vocals, I think it delivers a big emotional punch to a lot of people.”

He describes the music as something that can stand on its own and still have a lasting impact. A lot of work goes on both musically and lyrically that lets the band have their own sound.

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Source: Interview with Paul Banks (Interpol). Interviewer: Kasper Mielke

Interpol’s recent record: