Although Interpol is often mistaken for a British band, the group is actually from NYC, having emerged from the same turn-of-the-century post-punk primeval stew as the Strokes and the National. But while the band shares some of the former’s spiky guitar esthetic and the latter’s hypnotic depth, its music tends to stake out territory darker and more oblique than either of those bands—especially on its recent eponymous release. TOB spoke to guitarist and co-founder of the group Daniel Kessler and pestered him about his six-string prowess.
TOB: Have you ever had the urge to break into a screaming guitar solo in one of your songs?
Daniel Kessler: No, I think I hung up my guitar-soloing ways a long time ago. I used to be able to solo pretty well in high school and I kind of lost all my ability. So I wouldn’t be able to, even if I had the strange notion to do it. I just think my aesthetics have changed. When you’re a kid and you’re learning to play guitar you think “I want to solo. I want to get good,” and as you get older you make different choices.
Were you self-taught?
I took lessons for like three days, and it wasn’t really for me. It’s only recently that I’ve started paying attention to what the actual names of the notes are on the guitar.
Well, you’re a horrible role model.
I’m all about feel and not over-thinking what you’re doing. Suddenly you’re writing something interesting and it’s your instincts that took you there, rather than your knowledge of music.
So are you more of a songwriter then? You give the impression that your songs came out of jam sessions, because they’re always credited to the band.
We’re not a jam band. We’re not like, “Let’s play on this for five hours and do it in G minor.”
So what’s your process?
Usually it begins with me just writing at home and then I’ll take it to the guys and we’ll pull songs together. This last record we started to do keyboards and orchestrations even before guitar parts or vocals or bass. It kind of put us on a new path.
You latest record is definitely more atmospheric, there’s something Pink Floyd about it.
Hmm. That’s not a bad thing, right?
Not really. Does it have anything to do with the big echoey sound you get now that you’re playing these huge cavernous stadiums instead of small clubs?
No, I think it’s just that we’re artists and we want to grow. We don’t want to just say we’re a rock band and only exist between those lines.
So much for that theory. Do you listen to other music before you go to write, or do you block yourself off in order to find your own thing?
Oh yeah, I’m pretty good at not listening to stuff. When we’re making a record—and I think this goes for all of us—we don’t want to listen to anything that could sort of creep into your subconscious.
Interpol is at the House of Blues  on Saturday, Feb. 19.