The National talk politics, lyrics and their ‘wild’ new album ‘Sleep Well Beast’

'We're abusive with our songs'

The National have described their new album ‘Sleep Well Beast’ as ‘wild and experimental’. Watch our video interview with the band above.

NME were talking to the band ahead of their triumphant pre-headline set before Foo Fighters on the Pyramid Stage last night, when attention turned to the sound of the new record.

“I think we just stopped editing ourselves,” said frontman Matt Berninger. “We throw everything onto the table all of the time, then at the end of the process we flip the table over again. We’ve learned to destroy our stuff and throw it away and forget about it and move on and go to new stuff. We’ve become much more reckless. It’s been really liberating. We all have kids and stuff. They’re just rock songs, no one’s going to get hurt. We used to stress out about every little change and everyone would be very protective about little things. Now we’re less protective. We love the songs but we’re harsh on them.


Guitarist Aaron Dessner added: “We’re abusive with our songs, is what he’s trying to say.”

“There’s a lot more experimentation. There’s different sonic dimensions to it. You might recognise certain organic elements to the National but there’s a lot of other things going on. It took four years to make it, so it’s kind of wild in that sense. Sonically, it’s much more diverse.”

The National at Glastonbury 2017
The National at Glastonbury 2017


Speaking of the lyrical themes of the album, Berninger said: “It’s very personal, but it’s very not personal. The lyrics to the record are just the lyrics to the record. I don’t finish a song and then start the next one. They’re all in the same stew. I bet the lyrics on this record are about the same stuff as all of the other records – fear, fear of losing the things you love, trying to find the things you love, attempting to be kind. All the basics.”

Quizzed about if he’d been inspired by the current political state of affairs in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency and the rise of populism, he replied: “I don’t know if ‘inspired’ is the right word, sickened maybe. Maybe the sickness was inspiring, I don’t know. I don’t think of this record as at all political, but it obviously is. I don’t know how anyone can’t be political in every aspect of their life now.


“The world has been under some trauma for the last 20 years. I don’t know how artists avoid it, I don’t know how they emotionally and mentally avoid writing about politics because I don’t separate it. Every little bit of politics affects my daughter, it affects my friends, it affects everybody.”

The National play Glastonbury

The National will return with their seventh album, ‘Sleep Well Beast’, on September 8 – their first full-length album since 2013’s ‘Trouble Will Find Me’. The frontman hinted last year that the album contains a “very dark” sound that may surprise some fans, while the tracklist features the song ‘Turtleneck’, which was debuted at an anti-Trump show last year.

Their upcoming UK and Ireland tour dates are below. Tickets are available here.

September 16 – Cork Opera House, Cork
September 17 – Vicar Street, Dublin
September 18 – Vicar Street, Dublin
September 20 – Usher Hall, Edinburgh
September 21 – Usher Hall, Edinburgh
September 22 – O2 Apollo, Manchester
September 23 – O2 Apollo, Manchester
September 25 – Eventim Hammersmith Apollo, London
September 26 – Eventim Hammersmith Apollo, London
September 27 – Eventim Hammersmith Apollo, London
September 28 – Eventim Hammersmith Apollo, London