Daniel Kessler on How Interpol Continue to Push Themselves Sonically on New EP A Fine Mess

Owen Murphy

On last year's album Marauder, the New York band Interpol worked with veteran producer Dave Fridmann to create a sixth album with a rawer sound than their usual dark post-punk. On this Friday, May 17th, they share the EP A Fine Mess. KEXP's Morning Show Producer Owen Murphy spoke with founding member/guitarist Daniel Kessler about the new release and how the band stays inspired after all these years. 

KEXP: When you started out, you exploded in terms of pushing yourselves sonically. Out of the gate, you had a sound like nobody else. How do you still push yourselves?

Daniel Kessler: I think it's more of a need. Fortunately it's not really something we have to think too much about. It's just more of like a deep need to do this. I think we still feel like we have a strong chemistry and once we're in the room, we're sort of thinking, "Okay, let's try to write some new material." We've never been too short of ideas. We've never had too many walls. Usually when we tour, we don't find much opportunity to write. Then after touring for quite a while, taking a little break, you know, we get a room. Usually in that time period, I've been writing quite a bit by myself, and then I'll put something on the table to see how Paul and Sam feel about it. If there's a bit of a reaction to it, then we're off to the races. It's never been laborious.  It's always felt very fresh and it's also very exciting. Hopefully with time and experience, you're getting better and a bit more efficient and proficient as far as capturing ideas in your head, sounds in the studio. It's a deep need to keep moving forward really. 

So these five songs — are these from the previous recording sessions and writing sessions you had that just didn't fit with this last record? Tell me about them please. 

Sure. The E.P. that we're releasing is just these new songs. Essentially, when we were writing Maruader, we also had the idea that we wanted to do something in addition to the record. It's its own entity, not leftover material, not stuff that didn't make it to Marauder, but something that was as vital and tracks as worthy as Marauder, just separate. Something that we wanted to release several months after Maraduer that's like another chapter in the story. I think they're very separate from Marauder. They're songs that probably could not have been on Marauder but ultimately they're written during the same period and then know production was finalized so most of them more to at least some of them until beginning of this year. So you know in that sense, I would say it's like the latest installment of what we've been up to. 

Where would you like to take your sound next? 

You know, one of the secrets for our band is that we never really talk too much about the future. We never really spoken, "it would be great if we did this or that; You know what I really like? I like this sound." Since the early days, those things never worked well for us. I think we only really operate, like what I was saying, when we're in the room and we start playing music and things are just kind of moving like a Ouija board just sort of, kind of moves on itself. But it's not done by design so much; it's done by more like chemistry, a reaction to each other and ideas, and somehow I think it really works for us. I think whatever comes out is like the sum of all of our inspirations probably subconsciously. I think that's what makes for an interesting recipe. 

I know you guys have an organic way of doing things that create something new that is uniquely yours. Exactly. You're currently on tour for those who haven't seen this tour or this version of the band live. What is unique different special exciting about these shows? 

Well, there's no pyrotechnics or anything like that going on but I feel like the shows have been really fun. We have all these six records to pull from, so each show is trying to find a little bit of representation from all of our records. And of course, you want to showcase the new record, but you know, I really enjoy playing songs from our first record. I never want to be one of those bands that sort of separate themselves or distance themselves from something that they've done. I didn't like hearing that when I was a kid when you really like a band. Yeah, I don't know. I feel good that I still really enjoy playing songs from all of our records and they all feel kind of relevant to us now in that sense. 

So there's that. I really still love playing live. I'm really grateful that we saw an audience changing demographic and people who were probably too young, maybe they're like little kids when our first record came out, and now they're super into our band. And then you see people who might have been there in their 20s when the first record came out. I really like the fact that we've arranged a diverse crowd of that. 

My last question is, Why does music matter to you?

That's a complicated one. That's probably the everlasting last question. I'm not sure. Well, my first memories of life is just music. I had two older brothers and I was born in England. I lived there 'til age six and my oldest brother was — I don't know how he got it but he was just really serious about music and had very good taste in music and very particular taste in music. And not necessarily music that had things that were popular at the time but ultimately I was searching for things a little bit more underground. And so you know it's really something like, this is a path to follow and to be influenced by. So my first memories were like his wall — he was in The Jam fan club and had all these cut-outs of The Jam on his wall and just seeing this stuff and it's all a bit like a religion. Certain people are  born this way and music put me on that path and so it became very serious and passionate. And then I think in certain moments — as it does for many people during moments of your life when you're a kid — you put your headphones on and you're able to escape and it sort of transforms you and it comforts you and empowers you. 

And I still feel that way when I listen to certain types of music or records that really do it for me — essentially not certain types music, it can be any kind of music that just sort of it taps into a special vessel in my heart or whatever. It just sort of gets a hold of me. It's a familiar feeling much like the one I had as a teenager and so forth, but I still have that.

And then for me, it's complicated too, just because writing music was like the next level of that feeling where I was able to actually sort of put it out there myself and it was able to still be a very cathartic thing and then it became like a deep need. To this day when I write something new — cause I'm not like a prolific writer, I don't write like 100 songs a year, but I try to write most days especially when I'm at home... but when I do get something that really catches my attention, that I'm like "Oh my God I really like this. I'm really excited," it sort of puts a little bit of a calm and a little bit of Zen and the world's a little bit of an easier place and a better place and it's... I don't know, it's something that I still hold very dear and I'm always kind of chasing. It's very addictive and it makes everything in life a little better. So it's there's two sides for me: it's like the listener and then there's the player, but they both have a connection that gives you comfort and escapism and I think it really helps in life. 

A Fine Mess EP is out today via Matador Records. The band return to Seattle on Tuesday, October 1st at WaMu Theatre, opening for Morrissey. 

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