The National is about to release its seventh studio album, Sleep Well Beast, on September 8. But days before it comes out, on September 5, the band is going to play that record in its entirety live for NPR.
The new songs revolve around the fears and struggles within relationships, particularly that of singer and lyricist Matt Berninger and his wife, the writer Carin Besser, who co-wrote some of the lyrics on this album. Sleep Well Beast is characteristically dark and sonically rich — and some of the best music this band has made.
Today we're sharing a conversation between Matt, myself (All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen) and Talia Schlanger, host of World Cafe.
We discussed how the band works these days, spread as it is across five different cities; collaborating via email, file sharing, word documents and occasional exploratory, face-to-face recording sessions.
Those free-form sessions, held in studios across California, New York and Germany, yielded much of the guitar-based material — including a rare guitar solo — heard on Sleep Well Beast, which also sweeps in electronics, orchestrations and more.
We spoke with Matt about the nature of families — The National itself is a family of sorts, after all, made up of two pairs of brothers: Aaron and Bryce Dessner, and Scott and Bryan Devendorf. In addition to those familial and artistic relationships, Matt Berninger spoke to us about how he and his bandmates challenge themselves to steer clear of cliches, and how overcoming his anxiety on stage with the crutch of a teleprompter has made them a stronger, nimbler live band. — Bob Boilen
You can hear The National, performing Sleep Well Beast from Union Transfer in Philadelphia here.