Slowly over the last couple of years, The National has gotten improbably big. It was a creeping kind of breakthrough for the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Ohio quintet, appropriate to their tender and mostly dark songs of love and loss, which grow on you with time. But enough about the music. The important thing is that 2 out of 3 eXile editors like them. On December 9, they play Apelsin. We recently sent some email questions to singer and lyricist Matt Berninger. His answers were fine, but in #6 he sort of sounds like a prick when he says, "I'm more interested in songs about growing up and being responsible than songs about fucking around."
Who talks like that?
Highlight of the tour so far, and lowpoint.
The highlight so far was in London when REM showed up and sang happy birthday to Scott backstage. Lowpoint was when Bryan got jumped and robbed in Manchester. He still has a footprint on his forehead.
Describe the typical National groupie.
Late twenties, bookish, holding a cocktail.
I read in an interview somewhere that during your first Europe tour you had a lot of Antifa types protesting because they thought you were a nationalist hate-rock act. Does that still happen? Have neo-nazis ever showed up to a gig?
That doesn't happen anymore. I don't know if we've ever had any neo-nazis at our shows. They're harder to spot these days and it seems that a lot of them have cleaned up and gotten jobs in Washington.
Have you ever been to Moscow?
I've never been to Moscow and I don't know what to expect. I picture Dr. Zhivago. I hope to ride in a horse drawn sleigh.
A lot of your lyrics deal with break-ups or verge-of-break-up situations.
Not that many of our songs are really about breakups. Most of them are about staying together, or trying to.
Are you worried that if you find yourself in a happy relationship that goes on forever like rainbows and kittens, then you won't have any more good breakup songs in your future? Would you ever write a song about an affair if it was a great song even if it meant your wife would kill you?
I've been really happy for about four years but relationships never all rainbows. I'm more interested in songs about growing up and being responsible than songs about fucking around.
What is your advice for getting through a bad breakup?
Time is really the only thing that works so you just have to find ways to distract yourself. I recommend watching a lot of movies.
If a Russian oligarch wanted you to play his tween daughter's b-day party for $1 million, but you had to lipsynch the whole show and wear sparkly outfits, would you do it?
I'd do that for free. Do you know someone?
Did you guys have any mixed feelings when that tv show wanted to use one of your songs? Was it at all like, Fuck, we're gonna be on some stupid tv show? Or was it all cash registers ringing?
There wasn't much cash. We were just happy to have another way for people hear about us. We need exposure.
Last thing. You live in Ditmas Park [Brooklyn]. Do you ever go to Vox Pop Cafe on Courtelyou? A friend of ours owns it.
I've been there many times. Mostly to peruse the dirty photography books. It's two blocks from where Aaron and Bryce [two band members] live. They live on Stratford.