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A lot has changed in Sam Fogarino's world over the past 14 months. Last August, the former Victoria Park resident turned Brooklynite was embarking on his first U.S. tour as the drummer of Interpol, a NYC-based quartet of sharply dressed, moody post-punks riding a gigantic wave of overseas hype. For Fogarino, the expedition was the culmination of more than 16 years spent pounding the skins for a string of bands, most notably Fort Lauderdale's Holy Terrors. Would Interpol wind up like the Terrors -- a massively talented but doomed local legend that completed only one half-assed tour?
In case you've been living under a bridge for the past year, be advised that didn't happen. The hype was enough to sell out the first club tour in advance, and Interpol's brilliant debut, Turn On the Bright Lights,has kept Fogarino and his bandmates (guitarist Daniel Kessler, bassist Carlos Dengler, singer/guitarist Paul Banks) in sharp duds and sold-out theaters. To date, sales of the retro-hued record have topped 200,000, an impressive number for any debut -- and an astounding one considering it was released on über-hip NYC indie label Matador Records.
Bright Lights' sophisticated drone evokes the Psychedelic Furs, Joy Division, and the Smiths, with Banks dropping engaging but half-heard couplets that conjured up enough forgotten '80s ghosts to seal the mystique. The media have jumped on the dapper indie darlings and plastered them all over the glossies and the boob tube. Interpol has hosted video shows on MTV and appeared on every wee-hours chat show, including The Tonight Show with Jay Lenoand The Late Show with David Letterman. After the group finished its Late Show tune, the darkly stylish "NYC," Letterman made his way to the stage to shake hands with the group. A star-struck Fogarino bounded over to him, grabbed him by the shoulders, spun him around, and gushed: "I just wanted to say thanks for having us on. I'm a big fan! I've been watching your show since I was 14!" Letterman shot back, "Maybe it's time you reevaluate your life."
"I used to watch the guy every night," Fogarino laughs via cell phone from his apartment in New York. "All those teenage nights spent alone in front of the TV -- I had to say something to him." Shortly thereafter, Fogarino did reevaluate his life, but to hear him tell it, the gapped-tooth hero had little to do with the musician's recent divorce from his wife, Cindy. Are rock 'n' roll and marriage incompatible? "No, there were other issues," he explains. "It was all personal stuff. But when you go away and there are issues, it doesn't help."
After his marriage hit the rocks, Fogarino took full advantage of his newly minted rock-star status. Alas, a gentleman like Fogarino doesn't fully divulge stories from behind the backstage door -- but professes that he doesn't much care for Kiss-style hedonism. "I can do the rock-star week of decadence," he begins, "but then I get really bored and lonely. It's always the same: new city, different faces, wanting the same thing -- something that doesn't really exist. They do drugs with you and have sex with you, so they have a trophy. It's not like that all the time. You do meet people that you stay in touch with -- but with true debauchery, it's the same grind."
What hasn't gotten old for Fogarino is taking advantage of his opportunities to fraternize with his musical heroes and contemporaries. As Interpol continues to tour and begin work on Bright Lights' follow-up, he's been busy networking. "We've stayed at the (Los Angeles) Hyatt House [a.k.a. "The Riot House"] a few times," Fogarino tells. "Little Richard lives there, and we keep running into him. The last time we stayed there, we were next door to him. He opened the door for a delivery, we made eye contact, and he says, 'Hey, baby.' Meeting Michael Stipe was nice; he was really pleasant to be around. No entourage, no rock-star this or that. People like that are great. There's such a large body of work that there's no need to pull an attitude."
It's a far cry from Fogarino's South Florida days, full of being spurned by would-be rock stars. "As much as I try, I just can't be a dick," he jokes. "There are times where I'm really tired and I have nothing to say and some 15-year-old wants to interview me. But there are ways to get out of it without being a dick. The people who are real assholes are at this weird level of success -- not exactly a household name and not totally obscure. I've found the obscure and the really famous ones are the easiest to get along with. They just seem to be the most secure with what they are doing. It's people like Interpol you have to watch for.
"Oh wait," he laughs, "I'm in that band!"