Question 1: What makes Interpol’s music so addictive?

Greetings to all. As I wrote in my last entry, my purpose for this blog is primarily for the discussion of questions you all may have about Interpol’s music.As a music theorist, I hope to offer you cogent ways of understanding and describing your experiences with their highly compelling pieces. To that end, let’s look at Question #1:

“What do you think makes Interpol’s music so addictive?”

~ This is an important question that deserves far deeper consideration than I can give it here; for now, I’d like to focus on how Interpol’s music influences a fusion of intellect and sensuality in us as listeners, something which I think many of us strive for in our lives, and therefore something that would cause us to desire to experience Interpol’s music over and over again.

~ As you may have noticed, Paul Bank’s lyrics tend to lean heavily on the side of physicality, that is, a preoccupation with the body, physical needs, and appetites. For example, “touch your thighs, I’m the lonely one” from “NARC”; “I haven’t slept for two days/I’ve bathed in nothing but sweat” from “Rest My Chemistry”; and “we have 200 couches where you can sleep tonight” from “PDA.”Even when singing about the non-corporeal soul in “All Fired Up,” Banks invokes physical sensation: “I’ve got this soul/it’s all fired up.”

~ So how does Interpol’s music influence a fusion of intellect and sensuality in listeners?The music itself is highly orchestrated and “contrapuntal” (referring to independent lines that sound harmonious together), and if you’ve ever seen them perform you’ve probably noticed the intense amount of concentration that is required of them by the music.Each musician has his own unique part that must be performed perfectly for the song to sound complete.

~ This precision is uniquely combined with cyclical harmonic and melodic motion—much of Interpol’s music could feasibly continue to repeat ad infinitum.That is, it doesn’t demand an ending, and it doesn’t command expectations from the listener, rather leaving us free to exist within the song as we please.And all of this is executed within a rich texture that is highly satisfying, as both the low end (e.g., the bass) and the high end (e.g., many of the guitar riffs) generally receive equal weighting in both the construction of the song and in its production.

~ This precise, cyclical, and rich music is paired with lyrics that are wide open to interpretation; lyrics that in a way tease us with possible narratives or meanings, but which require us to engage our intellect to come up with a meaning that speaks to us individually.

~ That’s all for now. Maybe I’ll pick this topic back up in a later entry, as I feel we’ve only scratched the surface of why Interpol’s music is so compelling.

Love from,


P.S.Many thanks to those of you who have submitted questions. I’d like to encourage any and all of you to send in questions and also to comment on the answers that I give – let me (and the other fans) know what you think about these entries.


Extra bits:

~ You also may have noticed that during interviews the band often discuss their collective compositional process, and it is my general impression that Paul creates his vocal line and lyrics toward the end of this process, so that his lyrics are woven into—and reflect the content of—an almost-completely formed musical communication (rather than the music communicating the content of the lyrics).Therefore, we could say that Paul is receiving (as well as creating with his guitar line) some sort of musical communication about physicality that inspires the writing of his lyrics.

~ The concept that music can communicate to us without words is an old one (Plato even talked about this), and theorists love to argue about how this is actually achieved.I personally believe that much of the communication we receive from music is contingent upon our culture; this is what makes Interpol a particularly extraordinary band, as their fan base extends far beyond their native USA.


~ by megwilhoite on October 30, 2007.

5 Responses to “Question 1: What makes Interpol’s music so addictive?”

  1. Hi!!
    My name is Cristina and i am a member from Interpol NYC.
    is great to see questions like these especially when this is from a specialist of the category, thus cleary and very well written.
    i had trying to up this kind of discussion because is pertinent!
    i will link this blog into brazilian Interpol forum.

  2. What role do vocals play in creating Interpol’s aesthetic / cinematic sound in terms of pitch, etc?
    Am I right in noticing also the vocal tracks are mostly no more prominent that any other instrument.
    I can follow one instrument quite easily through a song and this might change according to input (mood, attention, etc), and other times perceive being surrounded or enveloped by all facets of the song schema….at the risk of sounding overprofound!

    I’m glad to see someone has the interest and the analytical skills to dissect the music we all love. I’d like to do the same albeit from a psychological standpoint but frankly, I’m fearful of breaking the inherent mystery that’s so attractive to this medium.

    Cheers, Karen

  3. Hi,
    I’ve found your question very appropriate, I was just wondering what makes this music so addictive, even if you don’t speak english as a mother tongue…. Actually I’ve started to listen to Interpol, from a very short time, but I can’t stop so far. I think that besides all the technical considerations they’ve reached as musicians a unique and extraordinary gift. Their songs, pull out from our souls the pain of living in a primary way, just like a mom singing a lullaby….You won’t ever stop.
    Sorry for my written english, I hope you don’t find my considerations silly, is not that easy to explain my feelings in a foreign language!
    cheers, Barbara

  4. Thanks for reading, Barbara! I, too, feel like Interpol’s music touches a primal place inside my heart (just like a mother’s lullaby). I believe the way their music *truly* affects us can never be explained, but I like exploring how their songs make me feel with my little analyses in this blog 🙂

    All the best,

  5. I think you should go on Meg! Try to analyse The Undoing for example.
    In order to explain the addiction Interpol’s music gives, I think I must say that once you start to listen to their songs you can’t come back.
    Once I can listen to Wagner and then Daft Punk, but now I feel extremely bored when I give up my interpol playlist. I think it’s because of their poliphonic way to play.
    btw thank you Meg for giving us a technical explaination of this weird magic!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: