By Leah Greenblatt
August 22, 2018 at 10:00 AM EDT
Jamie James Medina

Fresh off the 15th-anniversary world tour of their seminal debut, Turn on the Bright Lights, indie rock’s dark lords are back with a new album, their sixth full studio release. Backstage in July at London’s Hyde Park — where the group held the penultimate slot at a day-long festival capped by the Cure’s epic 40th-anniversary performance — frontman Paul Banks sat down to speak with EW about the long and possibly misdemeanor-laden path to Marauders, due Aug. 24.

While black-clad concertgoers tried their best to melt gracefully in temperatures that soared past a cruelly un-gothic 90 degrees, Banks sprawled out unbothered on an outdoor bench, stopping only to discreetly silence the Drake ringtone on his phone (“Sorry, I’m his biggest fan”) before settling into a wide-ranging conversation on criminal noise complaints, snow-banking in upstate New York, and why the band that cooks together, stays together. Here is his album how-to, in seven easy(ish) steps:

1. Try not to get arrested

“We were in the basement of a residential building on the Bowery that probably wasn’t adequately soundproofed for our drummer, Sam [Fogarino],” Banks admits, of the band’s early Marauder sessions in Manhattan. “There were a few noise complaints reaching us, and then eventually it was a cop knocking on the door, and I answered it with a guitar around my neck like ‘It wasn’t me!’” he laughs. “But once that happened we stopped. We didn’t want to mess with the NYPD. And I really do feel bad, because it was kind of an awesome [space], and we blew it.”

2. Get back to the future

“We were pretty deep into writing this record when started rehearsing for the Bright Lights tour,” he says, “And I think if we weren’t deep into a new project, just playing an old record wouldn’t have felt is fulfilling. So it was nice being so steeped in the future, but also to get on a stage and remember what it is to play in front of our audience, and then bring that feeling back into the studio. I would actually recommend it to any band — to interrupt writing a record to play some live shows. It’s a good way to keep it loose.”

3. Head north, young man

“This is the most we’ve ever worked with a producer in a traditional sense,” Banks says of recording with studio legend Dave Fridmann (MGMT, Sleater-Kinney, The Flaming Lips) at his home in upstate New York. “It was winter, and snowing f—loads the whole time. And I think the fact that we decided to submit ourselves to that kind of isolation was a sign that we were just up for something new and willing to sacrifice and explore and get out of our comfort zone. There was a two-week maximum though,” he adds, laughing. “I think if you went past that, it would have been fully The Shining by day 15.”

4. Let it marinate

Outside Buffalo, Banks recalls, “There’s nowhere to go, so you’re microwaving food in the kitchen next to each other.” Not that all dinners were necessarily created equally, he clarifies: “I mean, Chef Fogarino, he’s making these delicious, elaborate Italian meals that require tons of food prep — like the ragu is marinating overnight. So I’m there taking a Stouffer’s microwavable thing out of the freezer, and he’s making his own raviol like Goodfellas, slicing the garlic with a razorblade.”

5. Grow up, get honest

“I feel like before I definitely wound up with songs where I was bummed that I didn’t get a better lyric,” he admits. “And this record, I feel like I came prepared, so I really feel good about 98 percent of the things said. The language is more direct, and the stories are closer to my life experience. I’ve always been pretty honest, but that honesty was more through a prism of my type of abstraction. It could just be a matter of age and perspective, where your own experiences now have that weight that I maybe used to look for by inventing characters.”

6. BYO Soundtrack

In and out of the studio, he says, “I don’t listen to indie rock when I’m working on music. I kind of don’t do that anyway though — I listen to hip-hop, so on this it was a lot of 21 Savages and Migos, mostly.”

7. Find your circle of trust

“I really feel like we still have a good chemistry,” Banks says of his longtime friends and bandmates. “And because I’m not the principle songwriter, I’m the principle vocalist — Daniel [Kessler] introduces the songs, and Sam has the back — there’s a lot of contribution that can come from the combination of three individuals, so I feel like there’s not a sense of staleness there. It seems like there’s so much as of yet undiscovered and undone between us. Because I think longevity is really just a matter of how much can you stay sharp creatively, and I feel like what benefits us is the fact that one person doesn’t have all the burden of defining what our sound is; we kind of discover it with each other. You know,” he adds with a grin, slipping into his best Joe Pesci, “somebody slices the garlic, somebody stirs the sauce….”

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