Mojo (UK)

THE NA­TIONAL

- Tom Doyle Music · Linkin Park · New York County, NY · East Berlin · Berlin · Venezuela · Brooklyn · United States of America · Europe · European Union · Austria · Belgium · Belarus · Laura Pergolizzi · Brooklyn College · The National · Aaron Dessner · Bon Iver · Justin Vernon · Lisa Hannigan · Lisa Hannigan · Mouse on Mars · Matt Berninger

For LP seven, in­die arena-kings get loose and strained in New York and East Ber­lin. “WE’VE PUSHED INTO ANOTHER DI­MEN­SION.”

Long based in Brook­lyn, The Na­tional’s mem­bers are now scat­tered in lo­ca­tions across Amer­ica and Europe. Forced to re­think their ap­proach ahead of their sev­enth al­bum, the so­lu­tion was to build a new stu­dio-cum-club house, Long Pond, in the grounds of gui­tarist/chief pro­ducer Aaron Dess­ner’s ru­ral Hud­son Val­ley home in up­state New York. The barn-like struc­ture that serves as their new HQ also fea­tures on the cover of Sleep Well Beast. “I think of it as like a com­bi­na­tion of a church and a garage,” says Dess­ner. “It’s look­ing out at this very tran­quil scene where there’s a long, thin spring-fed pond, and just beau­ti­ful na­ture. Moun­tains and for­est and lots of wildlife. I think we all re­laxed and al­lowed our­selves a lot of lat­i­tude. It wasn’t a very for­mal process.” This rus­tic en­vi­ron­ment’s in­flu­ence can be heard on Sleep Well Beast, an over­all more med­i­ta­tive and at­mo­spher­i­cally ex­per­i­men­tal record than the band’s pre­vi­ous of­fer­ings, with lay­ers of treated sounds and elec­tron­ics. “Gen­uinely it’s quite dif­fer­ent in some crit­i­cal ways,” says Dess­ner. “We didn’t clean any­thing up. There are rough edges and ac­ci­dents.” Away from Long Pond, Dess­ner and his twin brother, band­mate Bryce, took song files with them to Ber­lin’s Funkhaus Stu­dios, where they in­vited con­tri­bu­tions from ran­dom col­lab­o­ra­tors as part of their week-long Septem­ber 2016 Michel­berger Mu­sic fes­ti­val res­i­dency, staged in ca­hoots with Bon Iver. “We just had these pieces of mu­sic play­ing with no vo­cals,” Dess­ner says. “Mu­si­cians from many dif­fer­ent back­grounds would wan­der through the room and im­pro­vise and try things. I think you can hear that in the fab­ric of the record.” Guests on Sleep Well Beast in­clude Justin Ver­non, Lisa Han­ni­gan, Mouse On Mars and New York’s So Per­cus­sion quar­tet. Two con­trib­u­tors whose names Dess­ner chooses not to re­veal, how­ever, are the fe­male and male voices heard in Walk It Back quot­ing an in­ter­view rant by hard-line US po­lit­i­cal strate­gist Karl Rove (“We’re his­tory’s ac­tors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do”). But Dess­ner in­sists this isn’t a Po­lit­i­cal Record – singer Matt Berninger sounds more lyri­cally pre­oc­cu­pied with the strains of long-term mar­riage, not least in Guilty Party (“We got noth­ing left to say/Another year gets away”). “A lot of the songs are about re­la­tion­ships,” Dess­ner ad­mits. “Specif­i­cally be­tween a man and wife.” That’s not to say record­ing the al­bum was all heavy emo­tional weather. Down­time pur­suits at Long Pond in­volved “al­co­hol and other things”, such as fish­ing, boat­ing and build­ing swings. The air of re­laxed cre­ativ­ity has led to per­haps The Na­tional’s most al­lur­ing and ad­ven­tur­ous record to date. “There’s a cer­tain con­fi­dence and it’s not so in­tro­verted son­i­cally,” Dess­ner states. “I feel like we’ve pushed into another di­men­sion.”

 ??  ?? Talk to the an­i­mal: The Na­tional in Long Pond (from left) Scott Deven­dorf, Aaron Dess­ner, Bryce Dess­ner; (in­set) voice Matt Berninger with band­mates.
Talk to the an­i­mal: The Na­tional in Long Pond (from left) Scott Deven­dorf, Aaron Dess­ner, Bryce Dess­ner; (in­set) voice Matt Berninger with band­mates.

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