La Blogothèque

The National

It’s a challenge for me to speak about The National, who has accompanied me over the past few years through various projects, including a feature-length film that I’m currently finishing. The film should be available for viewing within 2 or 3 months, just after the release of their new album Boxer (expected May 22nd). The new release promises to be a masterful artistic evolution from a band that has gone through their share of doubt and question. Always progressing.

#40.1 – START A WAR

Réal : Vincent Moon

Shot in Perpignan, September 2007

The times I’ve spent with The National have inspired countless stories, both personal and public. Their music has a capacity to fuse itself into the fabric of our daily lives more than any other, moving gently at first, in such a way that you don’t initially notice the depth behind each song. But they’ll tell you themselves that the melodies that stand out on the first listen won’t be there on the tenth listen. That’s the way they work, composing with the challenge of refining each song with unprecedented complexity. In the beginning there’s an obvious melody line, in which each musician offers something particularly special. Then Matt Berninger arrives with his unique poetry, allowing the music to unravel into rare heights. The difference between the songs on these videos and the ones on their upcoming album is pretty striking.

The great flamenco guitarist Pedro Soler invited The National last September to play at a guitar festival in Perpignan, in southern France. Taking a break from the insanity of recording their new album, they had just come from a short respite in Banyuls, which is a tiny port town at the edge of the Mediterranean. They were staying in a small farmhouse owned by Pedro and Madeleine, isolated in the mountains and overlooking the sea. We agreed to hang out for a couple days and pass a special moment in the sunny south with a unique group of friends.

The concert in Perpignan was explosive and stunning–whoever’s seen them live can attest that they have an astounding tendency to make the audience shudder. It would be difficult to say that Matt “makes the show”, even if you find yourself latching onto his nervous and brusque gestures, which seem to appear as a testimony of unforeseen brilliance. He told me last summer, “What’s easy about going onstage and singing, as opposed to just speaking publicly, is that you have music behind you just to cover you up a little bit. To hide in.” It’s all there.

“Start a War” is on the new album. It was late, nearing the end of a typically southern dinner beneath a huge tree. It was obvious that everyone there had to participate. I think it was Bryan who had the idea to have everyone play in rhythm with whatever he/she had in hand: glasses, plates, bottles, trunks of wood. Hands. This unfolded gently, moving subtly through the euphoric haze of alcohol, subtly through the heat of nearby Spain.

#40.2 – ADA

Réal : Vincent Moon

Shot in Perpignan, September 2007

Afterwards, we climbed high into the mountains where a glimmering chapel awaited, leaning out into the surrounding mountains. After countless requests and supplications for the song “Ada”, the band played it twice: the first time with dancing, and the second with a beautiful choir of fifteen. It was a magical ending to the evening, the kind of evening that could have only happened in the south.