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Since their emergence in the early 2000s, Interpol have occupied a unique space within indie rock. Not only did they — along with the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs — lead New York City’s turn-of-the-century rock revival, they also helped kick-start the post-punk revival that endured well into the 2010s. On Interpol’s instant-classic 2002 debut album, Turn on the Bright Lights, angular guitars and Paul Banks’ glamorous, ominous baritone owed as much to the legacy of the Chameleons, the Smiths, and the oft-mentioned Joy Division as they did to the energy sweeping through their hometown after 9/11. Over the years, their remarkable consistency on albums such as 2004′s Antics and 2014′s El Pintor helped them weather changing lineups and fashions, while 2018′s Marauder found them embracing their veteran status with newfound vigor.
Interpol’s roots date back to the late ’90s, when guitarist Daniel Kessler and drummer Greg Drudy (also a member of the screamo band Saetia), struck up a musical partnership while attending New York University. They added another NYU student, bassist Carlos Dengler, to the fold after Kessler met him in a philosophy class. The guitarist found the band’s frontman in Paul Banks, a guitarist/vocalist into rap and grunge whom Kessler had previously spent time with in France.
Having settled on an initial lineup, Interpol became a fully active band in 1998 and issued a series of self-released EPs. Following the release of 2000′s Fukd I.D. #3 EP, Drudy left the band. His replacement was Sam Fogarino, a drummer with a decade’s worth of experience playing with punk bands who was thinking of quitting music when Kessler asked him to join Interpol. Regular appearances at New York venues like Brownie’s and the Mercury Lounge endeared Interpol to local audiences, while a brief 2001 U.K. tour included a session for John Peel’s BBC Radio program, expanding the band’s audience overseas. The year 2001 also saw the band release their third EP, Precipitate, and appear on This Is Next Year, a double-disc compilation of Brooklyn-area acts.
In 2002, Interpol signed with Matador Records, which released a three-song self-titled EP from the band that June, and their debut album, Turn on the Bright Lights, that August. Recorded at Bridgeport, Connecticut’s Tarquin Studios, the album’s churning update on post-punk earned comparisons to Joy Division and the Smiths. It also earned Interpol a strong cult following; extensive touring followed, including international dates and television appearances. Late in 2003, Interpol returned to Tarquin Studios to record their second album, 2004′s Antics. The album eventually went gold in the U.S. and the U.K., where three songs entered the Top 40 charts. The band embarked on a lengthy tour in support of the album, playing dates around the world for nearly a year and a half. During this time, they contributed the track “Direction” to Six Feet Under, Vol. 2: Everything Ends, the 2005 soundtrack to the HBO TV series Six Feet Under. By 2006, Interpol were back in the studio. Their third album, 2007′s Our Love to Admire, marked the first time the band recorded in New York City, as well as their major-label debut on Capitol Records.
Along with their Interpol duties, the band’s members kept busy with other projects: Fogarino joined forces with Swervedriver’s Adam Franklin as Magnetic Morning, while Banks embarked on a solo career as Julian Plenti, releasing the 2009 album Julian Plenti Is Skyscraper. Dengler ventured into writing film scores. The bandmembers began recording their fourth album in early 2009. The following May, Dengler left the band, and Dave Pajo was announced as the touring bassist for the group’s shows with U2 in Europe. He was later replaced by Brad Truax. The band returned to Matador for Interpol, which arrived in September 2010. Following the tour for that album, the bandmembers took an extended hiatus, during which they concentrated on their solo projects. These included Banks’ material under the Julian Plenti moniker (2012′s Julian Plenti Lives... EP) and his own name (his second album, Banks, also from 2012), and Fogarino’s EmptyMansions project, a collaboration with the Jesus Lizard’s Duane Denison and Interpol touring member Brandon Curtis (also of Secret Machines) that issued 2013′s snakes/vultures/sulfate. During this time, a deluxe edition of Turn on the Bright Lights celebrating the album’s ten-year anniversary was released.
For 2014′s back-to-basics fifth album, El Pintor (an anagram of Interpol), Banks took over bass duties while Curtis played keyboards. A remix album featuring contributions by Factory Floor and Panda Bear arrived soon after. Meanwhile, the other projects from Interpol’s members continued to grow: Kessler collaborated with Datach'i’s Joseph Fraioli as Big Noble, which issued 2015′s First Light. The following year, Banks worked with Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA as Banks & Steelz on the album Anything But Words.
In 2017, Interpol embarked on a tour commemorating the 15th anniversary of Turn on the Bright Lights and began work on their sixth album late that year. Working with producer Dave Fridmann at his Tarbox Studios in upstate New York, the band eschewed digital recording for tape, making for a direct, punchy sound. The results were Marauder, a more intimate set of songs that arrived in August 2018. The following May, Interpol issued A Fine Mess, an EP of material recorded during the Marauder sessions. ~ Heather Phares & Andrew Leahey