Karen’s questions: #1 Vocals and cinema

“1) 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?

2) 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.

3) 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 (coma~rose)”

Thanks, Karen, for very provocative questions/observations—so thought provoking, in fact, that I’d like to divide my comments into three shorter blogs according to the numbers I’ve added into your text. So, to the questions about vocals:

~ To address the second part of the question first, I agree that the vocal tracks sound fairly equally weighted with the other instruments in the mix (though I admit I am not an expert in music production; any readers knowledgeable in this area?), and I think this has a lot to do with an idea I’ve toyed with before in this blog and in my NARC paper: that most often in Interpol’s music all of the instruments work together independently, “contrapuntally,” if you will, to create the song. Whereas a lot of music out there involves a situation where the singer, and therefore the melody, is at the forefront and the instruments back the melody up, I believe Daniel’s repetitive hooks, Carlos’ often melodic bass lines, and Sam’s dynamic drum parts work together equally with Paul’s vocal line to create their own particular music; take one of the instruments away, and the song will probably sound as naked as if you took the vocals away. Thus it would stand to reason that during production the vocal track would be blended evenly in with the other instruments.

~ As for the first part of the question, the observation that Interpol’s aesthetic is perhaps cinematic is one to which I think many of us can relate, as I’m sure I’m not the only listener for whom Interpol’s music has evoked cinematic scenes, and indeed Daniel has often remarked in interviews of the inspiration he derives from film when composing. I think the role that the vocals play in creating this cinematic sound can be considered in terms of not only the storytelling nature of the lyrics (stories about Roland, Stella, spies, and a fired-up soul, etc.), but, as Karen writes, in terms of pitch. When singing to us the bulk of the story in a song, Paul utilizes a vocal range that sits right around his speaking voice, never lingering too long in the extreme highs or lows of his voice. This means that the words are fairly easy to discern as he sings (even if the lyrics are somewhat cryptic!). Beyond this is again the production of the vocal track—in any particular song, does Paul sound close-by, or perhaps far-away in an expansive landscape? The answers to these questions probably contribute to the nature of your inner Interpol cinema.

Looking forward to getting to numbers 2 and 3 very soon!

Much love from,


P.S. Happy New Year!


~ by megwilhoite on December 28, 2007.

One Response to “Karen’s questions: #1 Vocals and cinema”

  1. Regarding your point 2) I see Paul’s vocals -in the first album mainly- are quite unique in the sense that

    – Vocal line is independent than any other instrument melody
    – Voice pitch is quite stable in every song, although every song is unique, with little tone differences.
    – As you said, voice volume is quite balanced with other instruments.

    Last record -Interpol- has different voice style… too much chorus and also vocal notes are very loooong compared to previous records.

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