This article was produced for and originally appeared in the Metro Herald.
Paul Banks, 34, is the lead singer and guitarist with New York Indie outfit Interpol. He also has a burgeoning solo career, with second album Banks released last October.
You’ve dropped the pseudonym in favour of your real name, why the change?
Julian Plenti was my artist name when I was in college. I had these songs from my college years that I needed to put on a record. Rather than trying to assimilate my early work into the new material I wanted to document a snapshot of my early years. Now, I’m not putting out songs I wrote in college anymore.
Does it herald a fresh start of sorts?
In a small way. It probably looks more significant on paper than it feels for me. This is just a continuation of the first album. The name change is to communicate to people that there’s no shtick about an alter-ego.
How does touring as a solo artist differ to being with a conventional band?
The upside is the total freedom, the downside is that unique collaborations are inimitable and you just can’t recreate what a band does when you work alone. When you’re having conflicting energies with other artists that you admire the end result is a song that is more than the sum of its parts. What you have when you work alone is total control and you can explore whatever whacky idea you have, you don’t have to put it to a committee.
What’s your song writing process like?
I write a guitar line, put it into my computer and build up the arrangements – the bass lines, drum beats and the strings. I write all the music and then any piece of music that I can’t perform myself I get somebody else to play it.
So, music trumps lyrics then?
Early on in the Interpol days I realised I was going to write melody first and build the lyrics out of this. Sometimes they happen simultaneously and those are the really nice ones. Melody is king. This isn’t poetry, it’s not literature, it’s rock music.
You’re of English descent but were raised in America – to which do you feel closer?
It’s really hard to say, I was raised in America by Brits. It didn’t feel that funny to me, I felt American but my parents felt like foreigners.
Did this change of environment influence your song writing?
If anything I think living abroad in foreign countries now influences my song writing. With learning a new language, playing with odd idioms and listening to the way people create puns and slang in Spanish. It all informs your wordplay and I’d say that’s been an influence.
It’s ten years since Interpol’s debut, Turn On The Bright Lights, was released. How does it feel looking back?
It’s a real honour that it gets so much consideration and attention. It doesn’t feel like ten years to me but so much has gone on since then. It really makes you feel that we are an established band.
What does the future hold for the band?
There are plans for a new Interpol album and a tour after that. I don’t want to give a concrete timeframe because I have no idea but between the solo thing we’re writing and that’s the next priority.
And will there be more solo stuff thereafter?
Yes. From day one I’ve always been a solo artist even before I joined Interpol, it’s just that I became known in the band. I will always write solo records, it’s a part of my life to write music so I will certainly continue to do so.
Does ‘Interpol front-man’ tag annoy you as a solo artist?
No, that’s fine. I love Interpol and I’m very, very proud to be referred to as that.
You’re a massive hip-hop fan, why have we not seen this explicitly represented in your music?
Lyrically, I would say it has. I think I’ve always taken a playful influence from hip-hop in my lyrics. In Interpol I have some input into the drum beats and I certainly like it when Sam (Fogarino, Interpol drummer) veers towards soul or hip-hop on his style of beat. There is something that is more concretely associated with hip-hop in the pipeline.
Should Snoop Dogg be worried?
No, I won’t be rapping but I listen to a lot of instrumental hip-hop so it would be more in that vein.
Banks is out now