For years, the National were one of a thousand little-engine-that-could indie bands, living in Brooklyn and (barely) getting by on small-room tours and local gigs.
Until 2007, when the indelible piano anthem “Fake Empire” helped make their fifth album, Boxer, a critical and popular smash. Letterman came calling, and so did the Obama campaign, which used the song as one of its musical signatures.
Now, with a new album, Trouble Will Find Me, their biggest tour yet, and a new documentary that was the toast of the Tribeca Film Festival, the National is poised to make another leap — this time to a level of fame that actually cements the name, while subverting the original intention of a band that actually chose its name because it had no real meaning. This is the year the National becomes The National.
Ask frontman Matt Berninger, and he’ll tell you that the group’s rise has been built on a foundation of failure. A literal band of brothers — the lineup includes twins Bryce and Aaron Dessner on guitar, and Bryan and Scott Devendorf on drums and bass, respectively (we’ll get to Berninger’s own brother later) — the quintet has struggled, bickered, and come thisclose to breaking up since teaming up in the late 1990s. Success hasn’t mellowed them, exactly, but there is a confidence that comes from winning on their own terms, and from knowing that when they step on the stage, they’re one of the best live bands in the business. “You’re not a real band unless you go out and play shows, for whoever, whenever,” says Berninger.
With Trouble Will Find Me out this week (they’ll play The Colbert Report tonight to celebrate), the band is already booked on the road through November. Berninger spoke to EW about the sound of the new album, being a “Brooklyn band,” and how the rock doc Mistaken For Strangers morphed into something not at all standard issue. READ FULL STORY