"Joe, I'll always think of you as a kinder child who knew this was never gonna last," Matt Berninger sings in the National's "Sea of Love." Now the somber Brooklyn rockers have posted a video for the Harvard name-checking song, which they recently debuted on late-night TV ahead of May 21 album Trouble Will Find Me. No word on whether the little boy in the video, directed by Sophia Peer (Paul Banks, Wanda Sykes, Yeasayer), is named Joe, but he looks like he's having a blast miming the song with the band, all crammed into a little room. At the end, the band members bow and walk offstage. It lasts just long enough.
UPDATE: Three of the National's members — Berninger and twin brothers/guitarists Aaron and Bryce Dessner — participated in an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Reddit today (May 8). The trio discussed what it was like playing the same song over and over for six hours at New York's MoMA PS1, shared background information on their Game of Thrones contribution, teased a possible future collaboration with Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, and revealed which band name they wish they could steal. Scroll down for the highlights.
How far into the six-hour "Sorrow" performance did the National think, "We may have made a huge misake"? Aaron: "Actually as the hours went on I think we all realized that this experience was something special for us — there was a weird hypnotic resonance and spirituality to repeating the song over and over. We almost didnt want to stop and we learned something about our capacity for endurance and the song opened up in surprising ways....by the end it didnt feel like we were playing it anymore. We know the idea seemed pretentious in some way, but Ragnar's has this mix of humor and sadness that feels quite similar to what are songs about....we're very glad to have done it."
Will that show ever get an official release? Matt: "I think we are actually planning to release a 6 hour vinyl version of that performance for charity. Seriously. Hope it happens."
Do the National plan on collaborating with Bon Iver's Justin Vernon again? Aaron: "We do talk about making more music together — [Vernon] is an amazing musician obviously and such a nice guy. Probably our next collaboration will involve the Grateful Dead's music and charity."
How did the National end up recording "The Rains of Castamere" for HBO's Game of Thrones? Aaron: "The creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff approached us about doing a song. They are fans of the band and super nice guys. We love the show so we agreed to do it. We worked with the show's composer Ramin Djawadi on the music — the melody and words were already written. So we were essentially covering the song. I did the harmonium and trombone drone in my garage in Brooklyn. The rest was done in Ramin's studio in LA."
Have any of the bandmembers been approached to write a film score? Bryce: "Aaron and I recently wrote music for a kerouac biopic called Big Sur. We'd like to do more but for now we are really focused on learning the new songs and touring this year."
What's the "worst situation" the National have got themselves into? Matt: "We once tried to take a 'short-cut' through the alps in the winter on one of our very early european tours. Took and extra 4 hours and we nearly got stranded and would have frozen to death. Also, once stayed in a youth hostel in Scotland. Almost died there too. Played a french swingers club as well."
How can a group of guys who seem to have it all write such sad songs? Aaron: "It's true we are now all in relatively happy stages of life — three are married and three of us have children. But like anyone, we have struggled in the past and music for us has been always something emotional and cathartic. I find it impossible to write music that doesn't have an emotional tug of some kind — otherwise it feels pointless to me. Matt writes about some of the darker stuff — social anxiety / awkwardness, depression, death etc — I think because he doesnt want to have to live it."
Are there any plans to record The Long Count, the orchestral-rock cycle that Berninger and the Dessner brothers collaborated on with visual artist Matthew Ritchie, My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden, and the Breeders' Kim and Kelley Deal? Bryce: "We definitely want to record [The Long Count]. I think now that we are done with the new album Aaron and I will set aside time to get everyone together and do it. Its a little bit elaborate and there are lots of musicians involved so it takes some wrangling."
If the National could change their band name, what would they change it to? Matt: "If I could change our name I would pick The Strokes."
Does it ever get annoying when fans try to hug Matt while he's performing? Matt: "I don't mind the hugs. It's the ass grabs I could use less of."