It’s been a stellar run for indie-rock reunions.
Following the long-awaited returns of Grizzly Bear and LCD Soundsystem, The National is back with its first album in four years, Sleep Well Beast (out Friday). Now living in different cities with families of their own, the five-piece, formerly Brooklyn-based band wrote and recorded their seventh effort in Los Angeles, Berlin and upstate New York, piecing together many of the songs via email and file-sharing sites.
USA TODAY caught up with frontman Matt Berninger, 46, to discuss the new music.
Q: You’ve described this album as being emotionally autobiographical, rather than based on specific details about your life.
It’s about a marriage falling apart, although my marriage isn’t falling apart — it’s a really healthy marriage. It’s not autobiographical in the sense of, “These are the events of my life.” My wife (writer Carin Besser) and I just had our 10-year anniversary. It’s hard to be married, to share your life, all your dreams and ambitions, compromise and have a family together. This record honestly looks over the edge of all the choices that you make with someone, but it’s a pretty fun record, even if it sounds grim.
Q: You’ve also said that two of the songs — Turtleneck and The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness — were inspired in part by Trump’s election?
Inspiration’s a word that I love, so I don’t want to taint it by saying Trump inspired anything. But yeah, those are visceral reactions; Turtleneck is just a physical reaction to it. I’ve been (writing) about politics since George W. (Bush). It’s part of my brain, way before I had a kid and even more since.
In my personal life, I listen to podcasts and talk about it with friends, but when it comes to music, I just want the band to be an escape. But by escaping it, it is a way of healing or processing. So I’d say those songs don’t try to say anything other than just express a feeling. The expression of the feeling is the message.
Q: Outside of hip hop, we haven’t seen many artists get political in their music this year. What do you think about the current output of protest songs?
It’s a personal decision. I don’t even expect other members of my band to be…