Sam Fogarino literally take’s the back seat in Interpol — such is a drummer’s lot. Having held down the beat for Interpol since 2010, it’s easy to overlook Fogarino, but he’s doing his damnedest to carve out his own niche outside of his full-time gig’s sizable shadow.
Working under the guise EmptyMansions, Fogarino, with the assistance of guitarist Duane Dennison (The Jesus Lizard) and multi-instrumentalist Brandon Curtis (Secret Machines), crafts a solid slate of eerie indie rock, something his tenure with Interpol has afforded him a firm stronghold on. Though his full-time gig tends to drown in comparisons to Joy Division, EmptyMansions’ eight-song debut, snakes/vultures/sulfate, pulls from other sides of his vinyl collection. There’s the artful cacophony of Sonic Youth (“Lyra”), the space-tainted dementia of late-era Pixies (“FTC”), and an appreciative tribute to Neil Young (“Down on the River”).
Lyrically, Fogarino has fun brooding over cryptic, literate imagery (“You’ve been hiding for so long, with the windows blacked out and the curtain tightly drawn,” he muses lowly on album opener “Led To Measure”). Hell, he even throws in some noticeable sonic nods to his Interpol bros on “Up In The Holler”. So while Fogarino might be up to some new musical tricks, he still remembers his way back home.
Ok, so what of it? Nothing on snakes/vultures/sulfate will upend Fogarino’s well-regarded reputation with Interpol. But listening to the record, it’s hard to think that was ever the point. Instead, EmptyMansions plays like a well-crafted diversion, an artist’s escape to play in his own corner of the musical playground, if just for a short spell. By that measure, the record lifts the veil some to reveal a musician of many talents, and Fogarino deserves credit for taking some interesting steps out from behind the kick drum.
Essential Tracks: “Lyra”, “FTC”