Paul Banks on Turn On The Bright Lights' 10th anniversary

Paul Banks Main.jpg
Photo By Helena Christensen

Paul Banks has been performing and recording under the Julian Plenti moniker since before his main band, Interpol, even formed. And, after releasing a full-length album and an EP as Julian Plenti over the last few years, Paul has retired his playful sobriquet and is instead using his given name on his new solo album, Banks.

The new songs certainly contain threads of Interpol's dark, brooding sound, and are guided along by Banks' rich, familiar baritone and typically inscrutable lyrics, but the tracks also have an elegant, textured pulse which gives them an adventurous sonic edge that proves to be both intoxicating and enthralling.

Banks is bringing his stirring solo songs (and a talented touring band) with him to the Varsity Theater for a show on Sunday night, and we were able to catch up with him while he was on the road to a recent show in Washington, D.C. Paul opened up to us about how long he's been working on these new songs, why he's done away with the Julian Plenti moniker, and how he feels about the 10th Anniversary of Interpol's Turn On The Bright Lights.

See Also:
Interpol at First Avenue, 8/14/10
The Band Who Wasn't There: Interpol take a cipher of meaning and fill it up with sound

Gimme Noise: How long have you been working on the songs that make up Banks?

Paul Banks: For the most part, it's been the last two years or so. But some of the songs are based off of riffs that I had six years ago, and one of the songs ("Summertime is Coming") is from the original Julian Plenti era when I was in college, but basically they were all worked out and demoed within the past two years.

Did you ever consider bringing any of these songs to your Interpol bandmates, or were they always destined to be solo songs for you?

Well, Interpol has a certain specific writing process that begins with Daniel's songs and we kind of go from there, that's sort of how the band works. If they [solo songs] were going to come out, than this was how they would have to come out.

On your previous EP, you declared that Julian Plenti Lives...but on the full-length you switch to your real name. What motivated you to finally release a solo record under your own name?

The first record and the EP were anchored in songs that I wrote years ago when I was playing out as Julian Plenti. They are kind of like my first efforts, really, when I first started to focus on songwriting, but then I just sat on those songs for like nine years and didn't put them on a record or anything. So when I first got around to doing my first solo record, the main motivator was so that I could offload that really early work, and treat it as a retrospective in a way, and basically fulfill the original idea that I had.

So, after having offloaded all of that early shit, and sort of appeasing my earlier idea of what I was going to do and paying tribute to that first vision, I'm done with it. So, moving forward I don't really feel that compelled to use my alter ego because none of the songs on the record, other than "Summertime," date back to the time when I was actually doing it that way.

So, what's the story behind the Julian Plenti moniker anyway?

It's my middle name and my porn name. And I switched it to an "i" from a "y" so that you might think I was an Italian-American (laughs).

Who played with you on the songs that make up Banks, or was that all you in the studio?

I had Charles Burst, who is my touring drummer, play the drum beat on "Over My Shoulder," and then Sebastian Thompson, the drummer from Trans Am, played drums on "Paid For That" and "No Mistakes," and then I had string players come in, but then the rest is me.

Who is in your band on this tour?

Damian Paris is on guitar, he's from a band called the Giraffes and he's a dude I've known for a long time in New York. Brandon Curtis (The Secret Machines) is on bass/keyboards/vocals, and he also has a new project called Cosmicide now. He's a real powerhouse dude. And Charlie Burst on drums. I've known all three of these guys for over a decade now.

Is there a type of double-meaning behind the Banks title, given the shaky financial state of this country and the people's genuine distrust of banks and corporations as of late?

Yeah, I definitely like things that can be looked at two different ways. And I like doing things that are a little obtuse and that you can't necessarily figure out. I like wordplay, and I like the idea very much that the title can either be a topical plural noun or just my last name. And I think the artwork kind of moves it in the direction away from being about my name too, so I like that.

Who did the album art? That's really striking.

Thanks. It's a photo I shot. I shot all the photos for the album.

Paul Banks album art.jpg

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