A Poll for Interpol

On the Beat With the Band’s Drummer Sam Fogarino

It’s not often that a band’s drummer gets to be its mouthpiece, but Interpol’s Sam Fogarino is an honorable exception to the rule. At odds with his band’s ice-cold exterior and their swathes of somber, occasionally aloof sounds, he’s a friendly and forthcoming interviewee. It’s not difficult to see why he tends to the majority of Interpol’s press duties. We spoke to him about the not-so-hidden messages of his new album’s cover art, the importance of fashion to the band, and the difficulties of smoking onstage in your 40s.

REM’s Michael Stipe once said that the most exciting time to be in a band was the night before a record was released. Is there still that sense of anticipation in an era when albums inevitably leak prematurely?

These days the preamble to releasing a record is much wider and longer, so the excitement happened for us when we started doing shows again earlier this summer. We had new material to unveil and a couple of new guys onstage, David Pajo on bass and The Secret Machines’s Brandon Curtis on keyboard.
How much work did you put into rehearsing when you added the two new members?

Theoretically it should take a long time, but with the high level of musicianship that Pajo and Curtis have it didn’t take long at all. It was almost freakish, almost slick. Pajo nailed the bass breakdown in our song “PDA” the first time we played it. It’s not rocket science to play that song, but it was so seamless that we were amazed. It didn’t just break the ice—it melted it.

In your early days you used to get up from the drums and take a cigarette break during that section of “PDA”...

The lungs were a little stronger back then. There’s not too much cigarette smoking onstage these days. I’m trying to be a little smart about it. I read that Nick Cave quit smoking when he turned 50. Nick Cave is the physical embodiment of cool, and if he can pull off his thing without a cigarette in his hand then I surely can do the same thing.

When you started out, did you strive for a certain look or did you and the other band members just happen to like similar styles?

We get asked that a lot and the answer’s often been a little defensive. The truth is that the band is a collection of like-minded people but what we wore wasn’t the be-all end-all to us. If I didn’t wear a tie to the gig, the gig was still going to happen. It’s not going to be a group decision if I get a haircut. With punk and post-punk there was always an ethos, an idea of wearing some kind of badge of honor to represent what you were about. So in those early days, fuck yeah I wanted to wear a tie around the city! It was saying who I was and it was in direct relation to Interpol. We were separating ourselves from our surroundings.
Have you had worried reactions from fans over the word “Interpol” breaking up on the cover design for the new album?

Yes. I appreciate that people want to perceive something literally, and I think it’s great that in this day and age when concentration spans are at a minimum people want to read into something. But no, it’s safe, we’re not breaking up. It just looks good graphically. It’s a pure artistic statement. We’re not trying to give anybody a passive/aggressive message.

Daniel wears shirt and tie by Prada, his own suit
Sam wears shirt and suit by Prada
Paul wears shirt Prada

Photo by Ryan Pfluger, Brooklyn, New York, 2010
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