Our Love to Admire is not short on spectacle—it’s the band’s most narratively dramatic album yet, crawling with tales of breakups, betrayals, challenging-to-impossible women, physical destruction, and mental corruption. There are more than a few lyrical references to drug use and burnout. The track “All Fired Up” is pretty obviously all about heroin, with mentions of sweating, shaking, and “dealers on the take”; “Rest My Chemistry” finds its exhausted narrator sleepless and “bathed in nothing but sweat,” while his “friends they come and the lines they go by.” He’s contemplating a night off.
“I think every rock band has its phases of indulgence,” says Banks, who writes the lyrics but is discreet in interviews. “As a band you go out on tour, and it’s kids in a candy store. Every band lives out that cliché. But we’re past our, um, starlet phase. We’ve never partied so hard we fucked up any gigs. We’ve always been very professional, and at this point we’re more professional than we’ve ever been.”
Back to the starlet phase: What to make of the relationship advice provided in “No I in Threesome”? “I’m autobiographical, but I’m not that autobiographical,” he says. “I would have more sensitivity than to suggest that”—a three-way—“for a failing relationship.”
The leadoff single, “The Heinrich Maneuver,” returns to one of the band’s primary concerns: its New York identity, with Banks snarling at a lover who decamped to L.A. “No one over there can tolerate getting as dirty as a New York band,” he explains. “You see a guy in a New York band versus someone over there who wants to look like that, and the guy in L.A. will have his jeans pressed.”
There’s meaning in that for Banks; Interpol is nearly puritanical in the policing of its style and tone. But Banks doesn’t think that severity makes them gothy throwbacks to some pre-Wellbutrin sensibility. “We’re not miserablists,” says Banks. “Our interaction as a band is more humorous than anything. There’s nothing about fetishizing sadness or doing it as a concept. We’re just making the sort of music that speaks to us. I’ve heard people say it’s uplifting. But it’s not easy music, because this is not an easy city to live in.”
And, in fact, he doesn’t even live in the city anymore. Seeking a “fortress of solitude,” Banks moved from the East Village to Jersey City a year ago. (Drummer Fogarino lives there also.) “But I’m coming back,” he says. “I hate it when I’m on the road and people say, ‘Are you from New York?’ and fuck, I’m from Jersey. And the path train sucks on a Friday night. It’s like amateur hour for alcoholics.”
When they’re in town, you can often see Carlos D tromping around the East Village, squeezed into outfits that defy even the most joyous of summer weather. Kessler lives in the Lower East Side apartment he’s had for fourteen years and has the rhetoric of the city’s decline from raffishness to bourgeoisification down pat. “They used to put on concerts in a vacant lot in South Williamsburg,” he remembers. “The deli next door owned it and they would rent it out; I’m pretty sure there would be chickens running around. There was this ‘Let’s have an impromptu concert’ feeling during the summer that’s rapidly disappearing.”
Earlier this month, during a break in their touring schedule, Interpol decided to put on a “secret show” at the Bowery Ballroom. A dozen lightbulbs hung over the stage, glowing a sickly purple. The crowd was surprisingly heavy on the ungothy and the unhipster: Baseball caps floated throughout the crowd; three guys in cargo shorts pumped their fists and demanded “PDA,” a track from the first album. The usual contingent of rock-critic tastemakers from Rolling Stone and the Times were in attendance bobbing their heads in approval, like attendees at an adult-contemporary rave.
It sounded like a funeral, but no one’s dead yet. “I do think about trends changing,” says Banks laconically. “And I’m aware of how scenes change and how things develop into a trend. There seems to be a wiseass thing that’s sort of new—two dudes who make really crazy shit from home. That seems to be that niche. But bands will never go away. You’ll never beat the spectacle of seeing someone beat the shit out of a drum kit.”