Monday, April 13, 2015
The National built a fire and went the dull and wicked ordinary way to find something to cry for and something to hunt in the playful pathos of a common fetish. The members of the band include two sets of brothers (Aaron & Bryce Dessner; and Bryan & Scott Devendorf) and lead singer Matt Berninger. They all grew up in Ohio and relocated to Brooklyn when their bands Nancy and Project Nim fell apart. They formed their own record label Brassland Records with Alec Hanley Bemis in order to release their albums The National and Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers as well as the Cherry Tree EP before signing to Beggars Banquet.
'Alligator' was produced by Peter Katis and Paul Mahajan at Tarquin Studios; Drummerman Studios; Jess and Ole's House; and Headgear Studios. The sessions featured Matt Berninger on vocals; Aaron Dessner on lead & rhythm guitar, bass, piano, keyboards, and vocals; Bryce Dessner on rhythm & lead guitar; Bryan Devendorf on drums and percussion; and Scott Devendorf on bass, rhythm guitar, and vocals; with Padma Newsome on viola, violin, piano, organ, and orchestration; An-Lin Bardin on cello; Rachael Elliott on bassoon; Nick Lloyd on piano, organ, and keyboards; Nate Martinez providing additional guitar; Sara Phillips on clarinet; and Carin Besser, Nathalie Dessner, and Peter Katis on backing vocals.
Aaron Dessner would reveal: “Matt (Berninger) writes all the words, and he takes a lot of care to be not overly literate but to leave a lot open to interpretation. There are personal things, surreal fantasies, and he likes to write about human weaknesses, using lines stolen from conversations or character studies – there’s some desperate but beautiful people on the album. He’s got a lot out of his system writing it! ... Well, we can safely say we’re not alcoholics, but alcohol does play a part in our music, it’s a kind of euphoric mix of whisky and adrenalin. Maybe some of it was recorded when we were drunk, which is why it sounds a bit off kilter! ... My brother and me play guitar, and I write the finger patterns all over the album, with Bryan Devendorf drumming all around them – it’s an urgent drum sound. To get everything the way we wanted it we used a really old one-inch tape machine, we didn’t want a studio sound. That means the album is just the sound of a band in the studio, nothing more – we didn’t want the velvet box’ sound.”
Berninger confesses: "Sometimes I worry about exposing unattractive details but the awkward, ugly little moments are more tangible and compelling than sounding cool. Some of it is autobiographical, but a lot is just storytelling. The woman in red socks pissing in the sink in "City Middle" is only partly true. Its interesting to shine a light on the unsavory things we do but it's never intended as a joke. I don't mean to humiliate the people in the songs. I try to have respect and empathy for them, especially when they are me...We didn't go into making Alligator with any plan. We didn't know what kind of record we were making. We wanted to set up at home and work casually as opposed to spending a month in a studio but that was the extent of the planning. We didn't think about the label or worry much. We had fun noodling around and doing it at our own pace. A lot of it was written at night and it definitely has that feel to it, whatever that is...Most of it was recorded at our homes or practice space with Paul Mahajan. He engineered the remote recordings. We then took everything to Peter and spent two weeks mixing and more recording. It was a good way for us to work. There's an interesting mixture of low and high fidelity. We'll probably do something similar next time."
'Alligator' broke the band around the world, putting them on many critics lists and selling over two hundred thousand copies worldwide.
"Looking for Astronauts"
"Daughters of the SoHo Riots"
"All the Wine"
The National "All the Wine" from Cortes Marc on Vimeo.
All songs written and composed by Matt Berninger and Aaron Dessner, except where noted.
1. "Secret Meeting" (Berninger, A. Dessner, Scott Devendorf) 3:44
2. "Karen" (Berninger, Bryce Dessner) 3:59
3. "Lit Up" 2:55
4. "Looking for Astronauts" 3:23
5. "Daughters of the SoHo Riots" (Berninger, B. Dessner, S. Devendorf) 3:59
6. "Baby, We'll Be Fine" 3:21
7. "Friend of Mine" 3:25
8. "Val Jester" (Berninger, B. Dessner) 3:00
9. "All the Wine" (The National) 3:15
10. "Abel" 3:37
11. "The Geese of Beverly Road" (Berninger, A. Dessner, S. Devendorf) 4:57
12. "City Middle" (Berninger, B. Dessner) 4:28
13. "Mr. November" 3:57
"The Thrilling of Claire" 4:32
"Driver, Surprise Me" 3:20