The Cincinnati transplants of The National have found their groove in Brooklyn, the band's adopted home of almost ten years. As the tight-knit group—many of whom are either related or have been friends and musicians together for so long it just feels that way—work and play in Ditmas Park (that is, of course, when the indie rockers aren't headlining venues such as Bowery Ballroom or opening for such little-known bands as Arcade Fire), their latest offering, Boxer, is filling up iPods across the country. (See the first single video Mistaken for Strangers).
Not that that was the plan. "A lot of us worked for Internet and graphic design companies in lower Manhattan." Says bassist/guitarist Aaron Dessner. "We were just living that life and I was playing music on the side. One weekend we all got together and wrote songs on the spot," he explains regarding the band's latest incarnation. "It was kind of a joke, but it came out with a lot of chemistry. From the beginning you could feel something meaningful in it."
That chemistry was something the music industry picked up on—and fast. With the release of their first self-titled album in 2001, the band found true fame on 2005's acclaimed Alligator. With its musical bite, the quintet quickly found the release heralded as an "Album of the Year" from tough critics such as The L.A. Times and InSound. Now touring with their fourth full-length album, the group of junior high school friends—vocalist Matt Berninger, guitarist Bryce Dessner, twin brother and bassist Aaron Dessner, guitarist Scott Devendorf and brother/drummer Bryan Devendorf—have settled into a more mature sound as well as their intimate Brooklyn community, which serves as a welcome refuge from the rigorous demands of touring. "Where we live is very neighborly. It's quiet with a lot of families. Sometimes you feel like you can be anywhere—even Buffalo or Pittsburgh," says Aaron. "It's a little more leafy than New York generally is, so there's a lot of green space."
Not that the urban sprawl of Manhattan doesn't serve as one of their biggest sonic influences. "Being in the city is where the excitement is. You see people in movement, the hustle and bustle," describes guitarist Scott Devendorf. Besides it's a great excuse to catch up new sounds: "I like to listen to music while I'm traveling on the subways."
And as the buzz for Boxer builds in momentum and popularity, ironically, he's probably standing next to someone on the train enjoying The National on their own iBuds during the daily grind. Which is pretty cool because, really—would that ever happen in Buffalo? We don't think so either.
When people come in from out of town, it's always the place that we go to because it's comfortable and not that expensive but delicious food. …more
It's totally quiet and I think that's sort of their shtick—they'll yell at you for having loud conversations. It's old school. …more
The beach at Jacob Riis Park is nice, clean and easy to get to by train with a short walk or bike ride. …more
Buttermilk is a great, dark Brooklyn bar on 5th Avenue that has character and a great jukebox. …more
I love Prospect Park. They say it has one of the last virgin forests in North America—there are parts that have never been cut down. …more
It's my guilty pleasure—I like to go if there's a special event like someone's birthday. …more
They are really supportive of independent musicians like The National and many others. It's run by nice people, and there's a café attached to it. …more