Paul Banks and Daniel Kessler met in Paris twenty-six years ago, during a summer abroad program at NYU. Back in New York that fall, Kessler invited Banks to join a rock band he was starting, which they eventually named Interpol, and which became one of the biggest bands to emerge from the New York scene. in the early 2000s. They’re still there – a recording career longer than Elvis Presley’s. Banks is the lead singer. Kessler plays the guitar. They write most of the material together.
In “Meet Me in the Bathroom,” Lizzy Goodman’s oral history of the time, Kessler says of Banks, who was only eighteen that summer in Paris, hanging out near the Pompidou, “He took himself seriously, and the others took him seriously.” Kessler also remembers Banks always being late for French class. Inevitably, he had “a crazy story about why.”
Banks was late again last month when they met for sushi on Sullivan Street. “What’s up dude?” he said as he slipped into the cabin. He apologized and said he had been on the phone with his girlfriend’s father, then her mother, asking for their blessing to marry their daughter.
“Wow! said Kessler.
“She comes from a family of strong women, so I couldn’t just call her dad. The patriarchy is present in a way that has become clearer to me because of my girlfriend. Anyway , I was going to pop the question tonight. We’re having dinner at Per Se. But now I’m undecided. The person who gave me the ring said, “I don’t know if I’d like to be proposed in a restaurant. crowded.” We’re going to Storm King on Thursday, so maybe that’s better.
“Have you checked the weather forecast?” said Kessler.
“It’s supposed to be perfect.”
“I feel like I’m there, in that place – plus you kinda feel the moment while you’re there.”
“Also, we’re waiting,” Banks said. “Five months pregnant.” He and his girlfriend, Juliet Seger, had recently visited the Youth Welfare Office in Berlin, where they live, to obtain official documentation of his paternity. “It’s just a statement that ‘this guy is the dude.’ Adult stuff!”
Banks and Kessler, who lives mainly in Barcelona, were briefly in town before traveling to South America to play arenas and festivals. They each still have an apartment in Manhattan, downtown. They were both dressed in black and knew how to hold their own in the room. “I’ll make the sardine for sushi,” Kessler said. “I’ll do the lucky shot in sashimi. i will do it nodoguro like sushi. i will do it o toro like sushi.
Kessler has two older brothers: a literary agent in Paris and a music journalist in London, who wrote about his embarrassment in the early days of Interpol at having a younger brother in a budding rock band.
Banks said, “He was coming to a show and not really giving you positive feedback or anything. It was heartbreaking.
“It was before ‘Bright Lights,'” Kessler said, referring to the band’s debut album, which turned the brother into a fan. “He had had a very high self-esteem at a very young age. As children we shared a threesome room and had bunk beds. His wall was covered with clippings from Jam magazines, of how people might have religious artifacts. I had the idea that music is so important, it’s a lifesaver.
“My older brother is the biggest Phish fan in the world,” Banks said. “I get three messages a week from him about Phish. But I like rock music that takes itself seriously. I have a problem if the person themselves doesn’t take it seriously.” (Banks mostly listens to hip-hop.)
The ring Banks had purchased was recycled gold, with a century-old diamond. He was pretty sure he had sized it right. “She had been wearing a ring on her wedding finger for a few days. Any. She left it in the bathroom. So I squeezed it into a bar of soap.
Days later, Banks at the upstate Storm King Sculpture Park got down on one knee and proposed. She said yes.
“Marriage is the problem for me,” he said. “I don’t want to have to do that shit. It’s against my personality, the idea that everyone should take time out of their day to celebrate something that has no bearing on their life. Get a tuxedo, get a nice dress, come to this place – for me?”
He continued, “I can get on stage and perform. But I can’t toast a dinner party, or give a speech, or even tell a joke to, like, four people. I have my theories as to why. I don’t need to be relatable when I’m on stage. I don’t need to crack anyone, I don’t need to have timing that works on a universal level. It’s just me who is me. That’s how authentic it is. I mean, it’s as real as a child having a fit. ♦