PAUL BANKS – INTERPOL = JULIAN PLENTI Camila Beaumord I bet you know Allen Stewart Koninsberg, Carlos Irwin Estevez and Ehrich Weiss. You don’t? What if I told you that the first one is a renowned movie director, the second one is the star of one of the most popular sitcoms of the last few years and the last one is a notorious magician? That’s right; these are the true names of Woody Allen, Charlie Sheen and Harry Houdini and are only some examples of pseudonyms in the entertainment industry. In the music world, artists adopt screen names for different reasons. David Jones changed his last name to Bowie in order to avoid comparisons with the Monkee’s lead singer, Davy Jones. Brian Warner chose a pseudonym to cause impact: he combined the names of his favorite actress Marilyn Monroe (screen name of Norma Jean Baker, by the way) and a feared serial killer form the 60’s. That’s how Marilyn Manson, the controversial American singer, was born. Bono Vox, Pink and Joss Stone all went with shorter names, leaving behind Paul Hewson, Alecia Moore and Joscelyn Eve Stoker. Today’s subject, however, is about a specific artist and the mystery around his musical project that caused a lot of buzz on the Internet this year. Paul Banks, lead singer of the New York band Interpol, launched his first solo album on August 4. So far so good. Yet there seemed to be some confusion regarding the sudden appearance of his alter-ego in this project. Instead of making use of his fame as Interpol’s front man, Banks signed his debut record as Julian Plenti. He didn’t count with big publicity stunts – quite the contrary, a simple teaser with a picture of the musician sitting on a red couch in front of a banner that had the album’s title on it was the only form of advertisement. Musical critics and fans recognized artist, even though he looked differently then when he appears alongside his band mates and was wearing glasses, and the question marks started to pop. What was Julian Plenti is... skyscraper? Oh, right, it’s the title of the record. But why did he change his name? Why was he shedding away from Interpol? Releases on Billboard and NME weren’t very helpful and only commented that he had used this codename before to sign songs for the band and in preInterpol performances. The album’s tracks were released one at a time at Julian’s official website (the one with the teaser). The pieces of the puzzle started coming together then. Julian Plenti is... skyscraper shows a more adult and introspective side of Banks. Interpol fans are probably asking themselves how that’s possible. Trust me, it is. The experimental arrangements and the use of synthesizers allow the songs to get away from that “rock band” pattern and take a more alternative and personal route. The lyrics, written during the last ten years, illustrate the author’s thoughts in a few words, differently than the ones on Interpol records. Julian may be able to produce a completely different album than Paul’s, but there are still some similarities that link together the two phases of the artist. The characteristic somber mood remains. Bank’s/Plenti’s melancholic voice is
unmistakable and never let’s the listener forget that this “guy with two names” started out as Interpol’s front man. Finally, the quality of the work is impeccable, since Julian is just as dedicated to his art as Paul. Some great songs are Fun That We Have, available on the site since May, and Skyscraper. Most musicians today don’t use a pseudonym when they work on parallel projects. Alex Turner, Jarvis Cocker, Graham Coxon, and the guys from The Strokes all sign their own names in special appearances and solo albums. Paul Banks decided to be different. And not for the same reason as the artists mentioned in the beginning of this article. Paul Banks wasn’t looking for impact or a shorter name; he wanted to make his hidden personality come to life. Banks is like Superman, who flies straight to the top of the charts. Plenti is Clark Kent, his shy (but just as important) alter-ego. After ten years being on the sidelines as a “secret identity”, it was about time for Julian Plenti to show up and reach for the stars (or the skyscrapers). But don’t worry, Interpol fans! Julian will soon remove his glasses and come back as Paul Banks on Interpol’s fourth album.