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The National

The National

The National

John Meagher maintains The National’s latest album is one of the releases of the year. He’ll be checking them out at Oxegen then... Matt Berninger answers the questions

The reviews have been very positive.

“It’s validating to get such lovely reviews. Alligator got a lot of very good reviews. It’s nice to see that people have been paying attention to it and not just comparing it to something else.”

After the success of Alligator in 2005, did you feel more pressure when making [new album] Boxer?

“We knew more people were paying attention. Alligator got great critical attention and then it become a sort of word of mouth success. I don’t think we did anything differently because we knew there would be greater expectation about this.”

Some 50 songs were written for this album.

“It was more like 50 sketches of songs for the album, but it takes us a very long time to finish a song. We start a lot of new songs, but we argue so much among ourselves about what works and what doesn’t that many of them never see the light of day. No member of the band takes a back seat on the songwriting format.”

Describe the songwriting process.

“Most of the lyrics are written while listening to the music that the guys come up with in the studio and come from ideas that we are throwing around together. I don’t do very well when I try to write lyrics in isolation.”

Talk to me about some of the album’s themes.

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“Songs like Mistaken For Strangers and Green Gloves are informed by the unsettling idea of losing connection with people that are important to you such as college friends, for instance. For us, as a band, we spent so much time touring with Alligator, we literally did not see people who we used to see two or three times a week, for months on end. And it was quite difficult then to reconnect with friends and wives and girlfriends after that. That sort of scares me in a way – the fact that you can be so close to someone and then not close at all.”

Is this your biggest, most anthemic album to date?

“I don’t think so. In some ways, this is a much more intimate sounding record than the last one. A lot of the songs feel very private rather than anthemic, so it is odd to play them in front of a lot of people. It’s almost like they shouldn’t work live but they do.”

What music influenced you growing up?

“My sister was really into REM and The Smiths and The Violent Femmes, and those were the first bands I paid attention to. I had been a big Styx and AC/DC fan before I discovered those bands. What I love about REM is the fact that many of their songs don’t have all the dots joined. You have to do a bit of work to get a sense of what they’re about and you can impart your own feelings on them and make them your own. That’s something this band really wants to achieve when we’re writing new material.”

Sufjan Stevens played on two of the songs.

“It’s exciting to throw a cat and a cobra into a box and see how they will get on. There was a good alchemy between and Sufjan and us.”

The National play the New Bands’ Stage at Oxegen on Sunday night. Boxer is out now on Beggars Banquet

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