It’s a steamy June night when I meet Paul Banks at a Brooklyn café, but the Interpol frontman is pin-sharp in a suave black suit, seemingly unfettered by the heat. We’re here to discuss the evolution of Interpol’s fifth album, El Pintor, but first, Banks wants to know if I’ve ever been surfing.
“Well,” he says slowly, when I confess that I haven’t. “There’s a Zen thing that does happen. You get this feeling of ‘If some shark wants to fucking eat me, then he’s the asshole; I’m just out here trying to enjoy the ocean.’ You lose the fear, and you don’t have that panic you have as a kid, you know?”
Banks could easily be talking about the process of making El Pintor, Interpol’s first record in four years. A fearless collection of cinematic rock songs imbued with energetic, layered guitars, taut melodies, and Banks’s exquisite baritone, El Pintor (Spanish for“the painter” and an Interpol anagram that Banks jokes “won out over Proltien”) saw the frontman take over bass duties for the first time, after Carlos Dengler quit in 2010.
In the years since Dengler’s departure, Banks and bandmates Daniel Kessler (guitar) and Sam Fogarino (drums) toured extensively, released solo material, and in Kessler’s case, opened a Brooklyn restaurant, Bergen Hill.
Despite their genuine affection for one another, Interpol conducts all of their interviews separately, because, as Fogarino puts it later while sipping a martini in the café’s courtyard: “We’re horrifying. We’ve done it in the past, and we talked over each other, we’d get angry. Even if you’re trying to be complimentary about another person, it’s hard to be honest if they’re sitting right there.”