BEING THERE: Interpol @ Union Transfer



If it’s intimidating to open a sold out show for a band as influential as Interpol, any trepidation was well-hidden by Brooklyn punk outfit Honduras. They banged through a set that seemed like a Joy Division impression, conjuring images of studded leather jackets and quadruple-pierced earlobes. This may explain why they were tapped for this tour, satiating nostalgic cravings for 80’s post-punk revival. Interpol drew a diverse crowd— I was squeezed between someone’s mom squinting through horn rimmed glasses and a scraggly-bearded barista in denim.

Interpol emerged in somber funeral attire, shadows stalking across the stage, frontman Paul Banks holding a black Gibson guitar. They opened with “Number 10,” one of the singles off their sixth studio album, Marauder, which dropped today via Matador. Setting a precedent for the rest of the evening, they followed up with a classic off El Pintor, “All The Rage Back Home.” The set rotated between new and old tracks, pulling hits from their expansive repertoire and unveiling fresh material.

Banks maintained a deadpan stare, his voice flat and nasally. His brooding demeanor created an air of detachment, so that it felt the band was separated from the audience by a thick pane of glass. The sea of iPhone screens recording every minute contributed to the sense of dysphoria. A flashing disco ball chopped through the watery blue glow of the stage lights, blinding to the point of disorientation. Sunbursts exploded behind my closed eyelids like paparazzi flash. It was as if Interpol was self-consciously trying to distract from themselves, hiding behind the shield of a light show.

Shrouded in their nocturnal shell, the band churned through crowd favorites. “NYC” trudged desolately, echoey with suspended, shoegaze instrumentals. “Evil” received the most love, the crowd erupting at the first thrumming bass notes. With Banks’ rapid delivery, the lyrics tumbled over each other, an avalanche of words, the final chorus pleading with a heroine called Rosemary: “Why can’t we just look the other way?”

If last night was any indication, Interpol has reached their thematic climax as towering legends of the alt-rock genre. Marauder spins the threads of poetic narrative, each song another chapter in a longer story. Interpol digs up the roots of their debut album while planting the seeds of a new sound. On this album they claim their space, they take up room to grow. — MARIAH HALL



I’m an unapologetic Strokes superfan, so when Lizzy Goodman’s oral history Meet Me in the Bathroom came out last year, I hung on every word like it was my new Bible. Emblazoned on the jacket were names of bands I knew or heard of except for one: Interpol. So after their first chapter, I plugged in to listen to “Obstacle 1” for the first time, and it ripped me to shreds. I had never heard a love song so demented and hypnotizing and I couldn’t get enough of it. But like everyone else who came late to the party, I found out that Interpol had followed the pattern of its fellow New York rockers in taking a hiatus to work on solo projects, so I begrudgingly accepted to listen them through headphones and lowered my hopes of seeing them live any time soon.

But last night I stood in the middle of a sold out Union Transfer on the eve of the release of Interpol’s sixth album, Marauder. Opening the night of post-punk revival were Brooklyn-based Honduras, who channeled their CBGB ancestors with ever-accelerating drumbeats and punchy call and response vocals. Handpicked by Interpol to open the Philly and New York shows, the currently unsigned four-piece won’t stay that way for long if they keep pounding out high-octane sets like last night’s. Lead singer Pat Philips spat the verses in an agitated twang, his guitar slung low over a muscle tank with a New York Times “Obama” headline printed across the chest.

Despite all the markings of vicious punk rockers – the shaggy hair, the taut tatted biceps, the almost spastic headbanging – Honduras defied expectations by infusing shimmering guitar chords at the exact right moment, almost like basement punk cum dream pop. That may sound like an unlikely combination on paper, but adding a touch of haze to the punk rock crunch makes the music’s sense of rebellion all the more freeing.

This shoegaze version of classic NYC rock was the perfect primer for Interpol’s hypnotizing, room-filling power. On the eve of Marauder‘s release, Interpol, who are now a trio after the 2010 departure of bassist Carlos Dengler, couldn’t help but shake and smile with their music. With a light show worthy of their more recent major label sound, the black suited band towered over audience in clean dark silhouettes like omniscient idols of the lo-fi post-punk that is their namesake.

Despite a set list that emphasized the hits over the new album, a new and yet unreleased song called “Flight of Fancy” elicited the same volume of applause and cheers from the sold out crowd as songs like “NYC” and “Evil,” leaving both frontman Paul Banks and guitarist Daniel Kessler in face-splitting smiles at the song’s conclusion.

Looking at the largely middle-aged crowd around me, it was more than obvious that, as Goodman put it in her book, that “something had ended.” Though I was only a toddler when Interpol got their start, there are few songs I love more than “PDA” or “Obstacle 1.” But seeing them live gave me a distinct feeling that the rocking power behind them was never originally meant for me.

Instead, they are an intangible symbol and force of the early aughts indie scene when, for a brief and shining moment, it seemed like rock would rule the world again, a notion that feels further and further away in the glossy pop mainstream of today. On their new album, Interpol reaches 16 years back and channels their debut with that same gritty lo-fi distortion and echoing vocals that match the plundering attitude of its title. The way they roam through and attack each song on Marauders with thundering drums and knife-like guitar hooks mirrors meaning of the album title, that the listeners as much as the band members are the marauders of modern rock, searching and scraping through every inch of music in the hopes of finding the next great treasure. — SOPHIE BURKHOLDER