Front and Center: Sam Fogarino and EmptyMansions


by E. A. Poorman

Sam Fogarino is known mostly as the drummer and metronomic time keeper for New York City’s Interpol.  To say Interpol has been successful since their 2002 debut Turn on the Bright Lights would be an understatement. Their equal parts early 80s New York sleaze and slick with late 70s Manchester goth and angularity has earned them a place in the top of the rock ‘n roll revival graduating class of 2002, along with The Strokes and the White Stripes. Besides Paul Banks Ian Curtis-isms, the thing that set Interpol apart from their musical peers was the rhythm section of Carlos D and Sam Fogarino. Whether a song may have flailed a bit, the bass and drums kept the song moving right along.

With the departure of Carlos D a few years ago and Paul Banks’ aspirations as a solo artist, Fogarino took the opportunity to makes some music of his own. So Fogarino grabbed a some musical cohorts -including Secret Machines singer/bassist/keyboardist Brandon Curtis- and decided to take his long-gestating songs and give them real life. EmptyMansions was born. On May 2nd Fogarino will be coming to Fort Wayne to play at CS3 along with Indianapolis band We Are Hex and Fort Wayne’s own Heaven’s Gateway Drugs. I was fortunate enough to get to ask Sam a few questions.

EAP: How did EmptyMansions come about?  Is it a project that’s long been gestating in your head and heart, or something that just came about recently?

Sam Fogarino:  I think it’s been there for a rather long time. But first, I had to stop over-conceptualizing everything that I’d try to do, musically. That took quite some time…. To simply let go and just play the ‘E’ chord…. Rock music.

EAP:  When I’d read you were working with Brandon Curtis on this record, I was thrilled to say the least.  I’m a huge fan of Secret Machines, so what was it like working with Brandon on this record?

SF:  I’ve been in awe of Brandon since the early 2000’s — When Interpol and Secret Machines were still playing at places like The Mercury Lounge, in NYC… He’s a rare sort, as a human being, as well as a musician. He has the right sort of temperament for being a producer, because he’s very even.  There’s no false praise, but he’s not an a**hole who will have a fit when you f**k up for the 80th time. He knew what I was going for, ultimately, and he made sure it happened.

EAP:  ‘Snakes/Vultures/Sulfate’ is a record with a lot of aural texture.  Analog  Synths seem to be a big part of that texture.  Did you go into this album wanting to create a certain mood, or was the overall sound created as you hit the studio and hit record?

SF:  Actually, there’s not much synth on the record, as compared to guitar.  However, I am into texture, and atmosphere…. I think those elements are built-in to what I do. That said, a lot of the record was a result of capturing the moment, in the studio. There was an idea, overall… But room was left for ‘Let’s see what transpires’.

EAP:  So many musicians that go from being in a well known band to on their own suffer from the comparison game by fans and critics alike.  I am stating for the record that EmptyMansions doesn’t remind in the least of Interpol.  It’s its own beast.  Who are some artists that have inspired the sound of EmptyMansions and ‘Snakes/Vultures/Sulfate’?

SF:  Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, filtered by Pixies, Sonic Youth; postmodern fiction, inner city blight; transgressive behavior, and the depths one will sink to, intentionally for self-satisfaction.

EAP:  There are songs on this album that sound both precise and well planned, and others that sound very loose and fleshed out in the studio. How do you write songs?  Do you start with an acoustic guitar on the tour bus or the couch?  Or do you write on a keyboard first and go from there?

SF:  Always an electric guitar, and sometimes a keyboard, synth, etc.  It varies, in terms of how “finished” any given song is. I enjoyed, letting the studio, as a tool, decide, on this record.

EAP:  I think your cover of Neil Young’s ‘Down By The River’ was great.  As one of my absolute favorite Young songs I’m pretty particular about that tune, so nice job.  How did you come to the decision to cover that track?

SF:  Thank you. I first heard that song as a young child. It was my Mother’s favorite track.  She’d blast the volume, and sing along to the chorus….. That song is a part of why I do what I do, period.

EAP:  How did you get hooked up with Riot House Records?

SF:  I reached out via email after reading about the label on their distributors website. Within the description was the term “Rock and Roll”. That was that.

EAP:  You’re hitting the road to show off this amazing album and one of your stops is CS3 in Fort Wayne, IN on May 2nd.  This should be a great show as Fort Wayne is a pretty great rock ‘n roll town.  Who’s your band for this tour?  Are you familiar with the other bands playing that night with EmptyMansions?

SF:  The EM line up is as follows: Duane Denison, Brandon Curtis, Chris Colley (School Of Seven Bells’ touring drummer), and Tim Conley, who’s an excellent Athens based musician.  No, I’m not familiar with the other bands, but I like what I’ve heard.

EAP:  So what’s the future hold for EmptyMansions?  Hopefully this is a first of many future albums.

SF:  We share the same hope!

Come on out to CS3 on May 2nd and check out Sam Fogarino and EmptyMansions, as well as We Are Hex and Heaven’s Gateway Drugs.  And be sure to grab a copy of EmptyMansions Snakes/Vultures/Sulfate.  First 500 copies are on delicious gold vinyl.  Check out EmptyMansions at

Tickets for the CS3 show are being sold at Neat Neat Neat Records, Wooden Nickel, and  Tickets are $7 advance and each pre-sale purchase receives a free screen-printed poster by Michael Jenkins and Bob Storey at the door.

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