Backlash can happen to the nicest people. Case in point: Interpol’s most recent album, Our Love to Admire, is the New York band’s highest-charting and biggest-selling effort to date, but its release last July was given the cold shoulder by certain hipper-than-thou blogs and on-line arbiters of indie cool.
Stylus gave the record a grade of D, while Pitchfork’s review characterized the disc as bloated and self-indulgent. Reached at a tour stop in Barcelona, Spain, Interpol bassist Carlos Dengler laughs off the latter critique.
“They’ve always been on our side, as well,” he says with a gasp of mock-horror. “They defected! We were so hurt!”
The unerringly charming Dengler continues: “It is exceptionally elementary for me to filter out all that sort of noise. When you really try to do something from a place that is based on love and artistic integrity, these questions of whether this is good enough or not, of whether this meets this expectation or that—these questions become so shallow and so hollow.
"Because what you’re really connected to is something that those questions are not even tapping into, which is the expression of your artistic self, and the fact that that is being honestly portrayed.”
In any case, Our Love to Admire—Interpol’s Capitol Records debut after two albums and three EPs with Matador—speaks for itself. Where 2002’s Turn on the Bright Lights burned with spare, edgy post-postpunk, and 2004’s Antics upped the ante with mammoth choruses and indelible hooks, the latest disc finds the group at its most lush.
Produced by Rich Costey (whose previous clients include Franz Ferdinand, Muse, and Mew), Our Love to Admire boasts a clean but layered sound, with songs such as the opening “Pioneer to the Falls” brimming with carefully orchestrated keyboard parts.
That would be Dengler’s doing. On tour, he leaves the keyboard duties to Frederic Blasco, but in the studio the bassist does it all himself. Usually, the addition of keyboards to an Interpol record is something of an afterthought, but this time around, Dengler’s compositional contributions were conceived as an integral part of the album’s sound.
“I guess I found myself exploring avenues that I didn’t really foresee myself exploring when I joined the group,” he says. “There was some apprehension on my part in terms of introducing these new influences, but they seemed to work really well right off the bat when I introduced them in the rehearsal space when writing the songs for Our Love to Admire. That was really reassuring to me, so I kept going with it and have not stopped since then.”
Dengler, who says he listens only to classical music and has been taking composition classes, sees a future for himself in creating film scores. He cites other rockers-turned-composers such as Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, and James Newton Howard as inspirations. On his Web site (www.carlosdengler.com/), the musician has posted some of his works to date, including an orchestral mix of “Pioneer to the Falls” and a short film called “Golgotha”, which he scored and created with director Daniel Ryan.
“It’s me in front of a computer,” Dengler says of his compositional setup. “Actually, I have a huge guilt complex about using orchestral samples as opposed to the real thing. Unfortunately, I’m in no position to request the usage of a full symphony orchestra.”
Well, not yet, anyway. That should give the man something to strive toward. In the immediate future, Interpol has a date with the Pemberton Festival, which will mark the official closure of the Our Love to Admire tour. Local fans heading up the Sea-to-Sky Highway for that will probably want an update about Dengler’s current look.
After all, the guy is known for always sporting a characteristic image. When Interpol first came to prominence, the bassist—then known as Carlos D.—often rocked a sleek gothic storm-trooper style, complete with Hitler bangs and a none-more-black wardrobe. Last year, he set off a newly grown mustache-and-soul-patch combo with a bolo tie, for an effect that was part classics prof and part Col. Sanders. In a cool way.
So what, pray tell, is Dengler’s look for the current tour? He’s surprisingly reticent to say. “For me to really answer that question would be, in a way, sort of validating the notion that I am planning these things in advance,” he says, cautiously. “And I’m not so comfortable with validating that notion.”
After a little prodding, the indie icon admits that he has given a lot of thought to his appearance and how it shapes the public’s perception of him as an artist.
“Just for the record, I realize that the pop genre specifically, with its preoccupation with celebrity-obsession culture and fame, and idolization of the hero on the stage that is supposed to be somehow all-powerful and communicate the musical message—this is obviously an addiction that is cultivated and fed by the industry, which itself is commodity-driven,” he says.
“It’s built into this genre that there is a style that needs to be expressed visually, and on your actual physical person. I’ve always known that and I’ve always exploited it. I feel that it is part of my artistic process, actually, to do that. And it’s also part of my artistic right, if you will, to fluctuate and do whatever I want with it whenever I want—and to not have to account for it ever.”
That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t tell us what he’s going to be wearing, which is what enquiring minds want to know. Pretty please?
“Because you’re being so insistent,” Dengler says, “let’s just say that I think right now, especially since it’s the end of the tour and I’ve got my sights set on things that are happening after, a certain distinct or robustly communicable image is not exactly on the highest rung of the ladder of priorities.”
Rest assured, though, that the alt-rock sex symbol will look way cooler than you—even if he’s not trying.
Interpol plays Pemberton Festival on Friday (July 25).