Your browser is not supported. For the best experience, use any of these supported browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge.
Skip to main content

Rock/Pop

The National

Events

5 Upcoming Events

United Kingdom

3 Events

International Events

2 Events

Gallery

About

Brooding Brooklyn quintet who merge ornate, dynamic indie rock with opaque tales of suburban ennui

The National that currently exists – with its anthemic, orchestral sweep and darkly majestic soundscapes – is a very different beast to the one that first came out of Brooklyn in the last gasp of the ’90s.

The first traces of the band can be traced back to Cincinnati, where frontman Matt Berninger and bassist Scott Devendorf played together in local punk band Nancy. A move to New York saw the duo link up with Scott’s brother Bryan (drums) and fellow Ohioan Aaron Dessner (guitar).

On their 2001 self-titled debut, The National showed traces of the imposing, urbane, late night angst that would become their calling card, but it was pushed further down in the mix by a sombre alt-country and Americana twist not dissimilar from the likes of the Tindersticks. The album was released on Brassland, a label run by Dessner’s identical twin brother Bryce. Shortly after, he joined the band as their second guitarist.

Two years later, the quintet returned with Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers, an album that introduced Padma Newsome, a multi-instrumentalist who would become an almost permanent auxiliary member of the band.

A small following was building, one that grew exponentially with the 2005 release of Alligator, the band’s first for the revered UK label Beggars Banquet. The country flourishes were gone and in their place were dynamic, anthemic soundscapes ebbing and flowing beneath Berninger’s brooding baritone and dark-night-of-the-soul musings.

The band’s most significant breakthrough came with 2007’s Boxer, featuring the band’s strongest set of songs yet. Fake Empire, the album’s spine-tingling rolling stone of an opening track, would go on to be used in a campaign video for Barack Obama.

With a bigger audience waiting, The National showed no sign of abating. They released the critically acclaimed High Violet in 2010, demonstrating their far-reaching influence with a list of collaborators that included Sufjan Stevens and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. The album would become their highest-charting so far in both the US and the UK.

The band returned in 2012 with Trouble Will Find Me, an album that was sonically similar to its predecessor but more subdued and morose, Berninger cast as the lost soul at closing time, searching for answers at the bottom of a cut-glass tumbler of scotch.

The National were quiet for a period while the members of the band indulged in various extra-curricular activities (EL VY, LNZNDRF, Pfarmers, etc.). They reconvened in Aaron Dessner’s studio in an 18th century barn to record their seventh album. Released in 2017, Sleep Well Beast became the band’s first UK No.1 album.

Berninger teamed up with director Mike Mills to collaborate on an undefined project that would eventually yield a short film starring Alicia Vikander and a new album from The National. I Am Easy To Find featured a cast of supporting vocalists, including Sharon Van Etten, Gail Ann Dorsey, Eve Owen, Lisa Hannigan and Kate Stables (This Is The Kit).

Following the release of I Am Easy To Find, Aaron Dessner teamed up with Taylor Swift to co-produce and co-write her two 2020 records Folklore and Evermore, while Berninger released his first solo album Serpentine Prison that same year.