Up to new ‘Antics’

Interpol aims for the top of the pops

Something happens to a band when it goes from van to bus. Bands in vans get lost on the way to the club. Each member takes a turn at the wheel. They take side roads on whims. The van sometimes breaks down. There is always tension in the group, because two bench seats don’t give people space when they need time apart.

Once an act upgrades to a bus, however, none of the members have to drive. The trips between gigs are shorter because the hired drivers know the best routes. The bus comes with new gadgets like TVs and video game stations, sometimes even little studio equipment. And if members need time away, they can lock themselves in cocoon- like sleepers.

Interpol’s breakthrough debut Turn on the Bright Lights is a van album. It’s driven by tension. It twists and winds through unmapped, dark roads, still somehow ending at forceful, resounding conclusions.

These sonic detours are prominent throughout the album, providing moments for each member to shine. There’s singer Paul Banks’ detached wails on “Stella,” bassist Carlos D.’s intro on the epic “The New,” drummer Sam Fogarino’s lead-in to the churning single “PDA” and the clean ring of Interpol founder Daniel Kessler’s twinkling guitar during the frenetic, protracted outro of “Obstacle 1.”

Interpol’s follow-up, Antics, is a bus record. The tension of Bright Lights is largely replaced by a more confident sound. The album’s effect is more immediate, and the band is tighter. Banks’ vocals are clear and upfront. Fogarino and Carlos D. have benefited greatly from two straight years of touring, and their synergy is off the charts. Still, despite the sharper musicianship, there are less extended breakdowns than on the previous sets.

“We wanted to make sure that our songs would be more concise this time around,” says Carlos D. “We toured so much, and that sort of gave us some insight into why we wrote the songs in the way that we do, and we started noticing, ‘Oh yeah, we always kind of go to this outro thing because that’s kind of what just feels natural to us.’ And so we were like, ‘We don’t need to do that.’”

What resulted from this new approach were songs like “Slow Hands,” the first single from the new album. It’s Interpol’s most successful foray into traditional pop-rock sound structure.

The band also unveils some other new elements on Antics, but they never stray too far from the Interpol aesthetic. There is a bright organ part at the onset of album opener “Next Exit” and slide guitar throughout “Take You On a Cruise.” “Slow Hands” and “Length of Love” prove that this summer’s pairing of the Rapture and Interpol at the Curiosa festival made sense after all, as Fogarino and Carlos D. engage in lockstep, pogo rhythms.

“We wanted to make sure that we didn’t consider ourselves to be locked into a category,” says Carlos D. “But consistency has always been a very important component of our identity as a band. So kind of balancing the line between consistency and trying to incorporate new elements. That is where we can get away with throwing the slide guitar in there for the very first time. But then, you’ll hear the next song and you’ll be like, ‘Oh, OK, they still kind of have the Interpol style.’”

With a Billboard 200 debut at No. 15 — amazing for an indie band — it seems as though they know what they are doing.

Wonder what their charter jet album will sound like?