For more than a decade, Sam Fogarino thought about giving up. He'd walk around with melodies in his head, or he'd record demos in a private corner of the Interpol tour bus before heading onstage to play the part of the stoic drummer in the New York post-post-punk band. He knew he had something. He just didn't know what was missing, or, more accurately, who was missing.
“You're looking for someone with that strength, but usually that person just wants to work on their own material,” recalls Fogarino on the phone from chilly New York. “After joining Interpol, I just kind of put it to rest. But I couldn't stop collecting the ideas. I always tried to find a home for it, but it just never worked out.”
Little did Fogarino know, but that person, that strength, was also looking for him. Adam Franklin had admired Interpol after hearing their song “NYC” at a friend's party after moving to the States from England in late 2001. So the former frontman of legendary shoegaze band Swervedriver was pleasantly astonished when one day he read an interview with Interpol and found that Fogarino, when asked who he would love to collaborate with outside of his band, immediately answered, “Adam Franklin. What's that guy doing these days?”
What Franklin would eventually be doing was looking for a fill-in drummer for his band, Toshack Highway. After meeting through a mutual acquaintance, Fogarino reluctantly had to decline, as he was busy recording Interpol's 2007 album, Our Love to Admire. However, the two got along so well that they became friends and eventually collaborated on a song to be played during a photo exhibit.
But soon enough, Fogarino would be heading out on tour again, while Franklin would be recording his solo album and reuniting Swervedriver. They persisted, though, sending mp3s back and forth via e-mail, adding and subtracting parts in Fogarino's melody with Franklin also adding vocals. Franklin says he'd been down similar collaborative roads before, but this one was less treacherous.
“When I was still in London, I was really warming to the task of helping arrange other people's songs,” Franklin says from his room at the Chelsea Hotel. “But then you give it back to them and it becomes their song. But with this, it seemed like both of ours.”
Soon, with time off from their regular gigs, the duo locked themselves in Electric Ladyland Studios. When they came out a few days later, things were serious. They were suddenly a band, and with a name, no less: The Setting Suns, which would later morph into Magnetic Morning.
“In theory, it could have been awful,” concedes Fogarino when discussing how the duo's admiration for each other's work could have unforeseeably tainted the resulting music. “But we became friends first. There were many dinners and many drinks before I exchanged a piece of music with him. There was a comfort that was built first.”
It sounds almost like he's describing not the beginnings of a musical collaboration, but, rather, how a couple might describe their courting process.
Fogarino laughs but embraces the analogy: “It's true! It's like this experimental affair. It's all the stuff I can't get away with with my wife in Interpol. She [Interpol] doesn't like that sexual position, and Magnetic Morning does.”
All that musical boot-knocking must have been good—the self-titled 2007 EP garnered immediate buzz. After playing a few shows, the duo headed down to Fogarino's Athens, Ga., studio to record an album with a who's-who band that included bassist Josh Stoddard (The Still Out), guitarist Frederic Blasco (Slow Whitey and Interpol's touring keyboardist) and San Diego's own Jimmy LaValle (The Album Leaf).
Released a week ago, the result, A.M., might have a penchant for minor chords, laconic atmospherics and Franklin singing in a lower register than ever before, but songs like “At the Crossroads, Passive” and the single “No Direction” are much more suitable for an indie make-out session than morbid moments. It's epic, yet reserved. Dark, yet hopeful. Sure, Interpol and Swervedriver might be easy reference points, but the comparison is rendered lazy once you hear the music.
“I think people get caught up on the two pedigrees getting together,” says Fogarino, who actually contributes zero melody to Interpol. “I don't really care about people's perception, just as long as they enjoy it.”
And it's also clear from the music that they're enjoying themselves. Both Fogarino and Franklin see the band not as a side-project, but as a proper band.
“I'm not going to quit Interpol, but with that said, it's great to have something to retreat to that's maybe a little more light in terms,” Fogarino says. “I feel like it's a second chance to build something and have it take its time.” Fogarino may have been searching for that retreat all these years, and while he agrees the band's genesis was almost eerily fateful, his individual longing in the past seems all but gone when he finally adds, “I think we found something special.”
Magnetic Morning play with Drew Andrews, Musée Mechanique and John Meeks on Tuesday, Nov. 4, at The Casbah. 619-232-HELL. www.myspace.com/magneticmorning.