One week after learning his band’s new album became the second and third best-selling in Canada and the U.S., respectively, drummer Bryan Devendorf is still at a loss for words.
“It’s weird,” he says. “We’re definitely not a mainstream band that would be thought of on the same level as Justin Bieber.”
As he’s quick to point out, the new National album, High Violet, did slip a number of spots in its second week of release, but Devendorf and his bandmates have a lot to celebrate after more than a decade together.
The indie band’s profile has seen a significant rise over the course of five critically acclaimed albums. Their last, 2007’s Boxer, was unavoidable in the music press and on television, where its songs graced every show from Chuck and Gossip Girl to Barack Obama’s campaign video. Despite this exposure, however, Devendorf still feels The National benefit most from grassroots exposure.
“It’s word of mouth, but also with that encompasses the Internet, which helps,” he explains. “It could also be just perseverance, we’ve been doing this for ten years now. It’s like in politics, you hang around long enough and then you can run for President.”
Like any wise politician, The National haven’t changed many policies in the last decade. Meticulously co-produced with Peter Katis (Jónsi, Interpol), High Violet stays true to the Brooklyn band’s dependable model of evocative and forlorn rock. Yes, they still sound depressed, a description that follows them like a bad smell.
“People bring their own interpretations — they might be depressed themselves or they might identify with elements,” Devendorf says. “There is a lot of accuracy to that. But it’s also depressive in how black humour can be depressive, it’s not maudlin. It’s humorously depressive.”
Devendorf feels the mood and sound of the album may not sound like a big stretch from Boxer but it wasn’t planned that way. “While it’s still kind of orchestral and lush, the album is a little more straightforward and the core songwriting is simpler.
“We produce ourselves along with Peter Katis, so it’s kind of this team that does a similar thing,” he adds. “We were trying to do something different. We have this sort of tic where the songs all start smouldering into this peak and become an epic thing. I think we might just try to write songs that don’t have verses and choruses. At least we say we will, but we probably actually won’t.”