BY NICOLAS GRIZZLE | FROM THE WINTER 2018 ISSUE OF DRUM!
“From a drummer’s perspective, when you’re not really bringing melodies into the fold, it comes down to, ‘How do I want this band to start walking?’” says Interpol drummer Sam Fogarino. “Even before I hear music, what am I feeling, attitude-wise?”
For Interpol’s sixth album, Marauder, released in August, he reached back into the past and channeled one of his favorite drummers, legendary soul sticksman Al Jackson Jr. “When you have what can be perceived as very cold and dark music, or, if it’s on the upside, very post-punk and frenetic,” he says, describing Interpol’s sound, “how would swinging in this fold change that?”
How does one incorporate a light, funky feel to music that is decidedly cold and dark? Bring on the ’80s. “You know who doesn’t get a lot of love? Martin Chambers from the Pretenders,” he says. “That kind of swinging rock groove, swinging the double-time thing, like on ‘Tattooed Love Boys,’ which has all that swing and such a fierce rock and roll attitude to it.”
The result is a decidedly Interpol album that forces you to move beyond just contemplative head nodding. Case in point: The quarter-note-driven, kick-snare-kick-snare pattern on the uptempo, hook-laden “The Rover.” It has a bounce to it that transforms the song from toe-tapper into booty shaker, but it still keeps its cool. Thanks to Fogarino’s tom- and ghost-note-driven groove, even the ennui-soaked “If You Really Love Nothing” gets a subtle swing.
Another change for Fogarino on this record was working with frontman Paul Banks as the band’s primary bassist. Banks went from “fill-in” bassist on 2014’s El Pintor to certified low-end driver on Marauder.
“When Carlos [Dengler, former bassist] left the band, we were about to work on new music, and [Banks] was like, ‘I’ll just dial in some bass lines, and we can place-mark them and get somebody to come and play them.’ By the time we were halfway through that album, me and Daniel [Kessler, guitarist] were like, ‘We’re not getting anybody else; you’re stuck, man. You’ve got this. You’re doing it.’”
It was a fresh challenge for Banks, one that pushed him to strive for the perfect bass line for every moment.
“He’s still feeling himself out as a bass player. Having all his knowledge as a guitar player and the attitude of a student was brilliant, because he wasn’t afraid to say that it could be better,” says Fogarino.
“Paul has a very good understanding of rhythm, as well,” he adds. “He’s a big hip-hop fan, so we can talk beats for days. He has a very good vocabulary for expressing what he likes.”
On “Stay In Touch,” Fogarino begins with Interpol-style, straight-ahead quarter-note bass drum hits, but then surprises us by combining it with a funky, syncopated sixteenth-note pattern on the hi-hats. That touch of soul continues with funky little ghost notes on the snare during the choruses and verses. It’s especially fitting when Banks sings, “That’s how you make a ghost. Watch how you break things, you learn the most.”
That word painting is no coincidence. “Two elements of a song that anybody can understand are the groove and the lyrics,” says Fogarino. “Any listener can hear the voice and know that a beat is happening. And so I’ve always been very focused on what the singer’s doing, and what he’s saying.”