The Reverb Interview: Scott Devendorf of the NationalBy Ricardo Baca | October 16th, 2010 | No Comments »
With indie rock’s rise to mainstream consciousness, it’s no surprise that one of the year’s most talked-about records comes from a literate, if moody, group of musicians out of Brooklyn.
When the National’s latest album, “High Violet,” landed in May, there was Springsteen-style buzz surrounding the release. Most fans had discovered the band via 2007’s “Boxer,” and many of them then went back to 2005’s brilliant “Alligator” for more. “High Violet” carries forward the band’s grand vision, which is as dark as it is meditative.
The band plays its biggest Denver show to date on Monday at the Fillmore Auditorium, and we spoke with bassist Scott Devendorf about working with expectations and the benefits of perspective.
Q: How are the new songs sounding live?
A: It’s been great. People seem really into them. It’s funny, when you write songs, seeing which ones become live favorites. “Vanderlyle” and “England” and “Conversation 16″ — we didn’t expect them to be big live songs, but they’re raucous songs.
How has the process of this album experience varied from “Alligator” and “Boxer”?
There was a little more expectation. But in the way we worked, it didn’t change that much. At one point we were trying to write some more upbeat pop songs as an experiment, but obviously the record didn’t turn out that way. Matt was challenging himself to sing in a different range, not so low-low-low, and that worked out. And that worked out in that we still sound like we do. It was an interesting experiment.
Tell me about “Racing Dreams,” the documentary you guys contributed music to.
It’s about kart racing, pre-NASCAR kart racing. It follows five kids and their families around, and it’s their experience training in kart, which leads to becoming a NASCAR driver. They drive these cars at 80 miles per hour, so it’s quite dangerous and intense. But the story’s great, and a friend of ours, Marshall Curry, is the director and cinematographer.
Would you rather license your music to a small-budget documentary than a BMW commercial?
We’re open to a lot of that so long as it’s not destructive. We’re not opposed to being in commercials or television shows as long as we don’t have an issue with what they stand for, so we wouldn’t do R.J. Reynolds or Cialis commercials.
So you all have had your music out there?
Sure, “Fake Empire” was in an HBO show. We did a Google commercial. And “One Tree Hill,” we’ve had lots of stuff on there. It’s not the world’s greatest show, but people watch it, and for us, it’s nice to get paid a little money to do something and see how it enters culture in ways that you wouldn’t expect. Our music isn’t all that radio-friendly, and it’s interesting to see how it’s used. I’m always amused when it ends up in places that are slightly bizarre.
Bands selling their music has definitely become more prevalent and acceptable over the last 10 years.
Bands almost have to do it a little bit. If you’re not touring, a small band can do a couple commercials and get a little money and record a record. No one buys music anymore, it seems. It’s less and less so. Everything is streaming or stolen. True fans buy records, but we’re the minority. I was talking with my 17-year-old cousin recently and she had a burned copy of “Dark Was the Night,” the charity CD we helped with. I asked her, “Is that a burned copy of a charity CD?” It was. It was funny.