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They’ve been hailed heirs to REM’s alternative crown and are particularly deeply loved in Ireland. With a first ever Electric Picnic slot on the way, The National talk about their extraordinary rise from obscurity and how they’ve managed to keep sibling rivalries in check to become the band of the moment.
Olaf Tyaransen, 02 Sep 2010
While many hard touring all-male rock acts often refer to themselves as ‘a band of brothers’, in the case of Brooklyn-based indie darlings The National it’s actually a statement of fact. The acclaimed five-piece band is composed of two pairs of brothers – Aaron and Bryce Dessner, and Scott and Bryan Devendorf – and vocalist Matt Berninger. Not to be outnumbered, Berninger’s own brother has just recently joined the fold.
“Yeah, Matt’s brother has started to work with us,” guitarist Scott Devendorf laughs. “He’s not a musician, he’s a filmmaker, and he’s now working as a kind of production assistant for the band. So he’s now working and travelling with us. It’s a little like a pirate ship sometimes.”
With three sets of brothers on board, presumably sibling rivalry can be an occasional problem?
“It definitely has its advantages – and it definitely causes some problems,” he says. “We’re all kind of opinionated people anyway, and when you combine that with the fact that we’re in the endeavour of artistic and business stuff together, it makes an interesting stew of possibilities as far as relationships go. But there’s also that thing of you’ll fight with your brother but you’ll always make up. So it keeps us together. If we were just five random guys, it’d be a lot worse.”
First formed in their native Cincinnati in 1999, The National’s career to date has been a long slow burn. Following two relatively unnoticed albums, they first tasted critical success with 2005’s Alligator. The next record Boxer came two years later, and shifted more than 350,000 copies worldwide. Earlier this year, they released the masterful High Violet, easily their best album to date, and one they’ll be touring the hell out of for the foreseeable. Having truly gone the distance with Boxer, the band are well up to it.
“We toured basically all of 2007 and 2008, part of 2009 but then we started working on the new record,” Scott explains. “We’ll probably tour for a year-and-a-half with High Violet, but we’re already starting to work on some new stuff. Hopefully it won’t take us another three years to make the next record. We’re kind of slow workers. But you know, we’re happy that people are into it and ultimately we’re happy with the records.”