HomeMusicFeatures & ListsArtist of the Week: The National

Artist of the Week: The National

What’s going on this week? Oh yeah! Indie88 presents The National for three sold out shows at Massey Hall. So with this National fever hitting Toronto, let’s get up to speed on how the band has gotten to where they are.

nationThe Beginning
To start this story we have to do a little bit of time travelling. We go back to 1991 when Matt Berninger and Scott Devendorf met while attending the University of Cincinnati for Graphic Design. The two, along with Jeff Salem, Casey Reas and Mike Brewer, started a band called Nancy (named after Berninger’s mom), aspiring to sound like Pavement. Nancy lasted all of 5 years and released one album before Berninger, Devendorf, Reas and Salem moved to Brooklyn. Bryan Devendorf and the Dessner brothers (Bryce and Aaron) were childhood friends that played in bands together over the years, and they too left for Brooklyn. The National was formed via the Devendorf connection in 1999, with all the members working day jobs so they were able to play weekly free shows at the highly regarded venue, Luna Lounge. Eventually the group went into the studio to create their debut self-titled record released in 2001 through the Dessner’s label Brassland Records.

2014 Grammy Awards

The National began to snowball, with each release garnering more and more attention from critics and fans. In 2004 both Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers and the Cherry Tree EPs were released, landing The National a successful tour with The Walkmen. By the end of 2004, each member had quit their day job and the band signed a new deal with Beggars Banquet, as working on their own label was “too complicated.” The first record released with the new label was Alligator, which got them into the festival scene and was named Album of the Year by three different publications.

From that point on there was no stopping The National. They continued to build upon the dark and moody sound they were known for, with each album they released (Boxer, High Violet, Trouble Will Find Me) gaining more and more praise. The band recently released their 2nd documentary entitled Mistaken For Strangers, directed by Matt’s brother Tom Berninger, and they’re back on the road for a tour filled with sold out shows all over the world.

The National’s songs have been featured in a number of different TV shows including Chuck, One Tree Hill, Friday Night Lights, House, and more. They’ve made multiple year-end lists including a few appearances on Pitchfork’s top 200 albums of the 2000s. An instrumental version of their track “Fake Empire” was used in Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign video, “Signs of Hope and Change”. The National also contributed to the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack with “Lean”. And this year, Trouble Will Find Me snagged the band a 2014 Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Album.

The National (2001)
Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers (2003)
Alligator (2005)
Boxer (2007)
High Violet (2010)
Trouble Will Find Me (2013)

A Skin, a Night (2008)
Mistaken for Strangers (2014)


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