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The National at Glastonbury on a supergroup with IDLES, Fontaines D.C. and Ed Sheeran

July 2nd, 2024

The National spoke with NME backstage at Glastonbury 2024, where they talked to us about what the festival means to them, the impact of their Taylor Swift collab, plans for new material – a supergroup dream born of recently touring with IDLES, Fontaines D.C. and Ed Sheeran. Watch the video clip above and check out the full interview below.

The US indie pioneers played the weekend’s closing headline set on the Sunday of the festival. In a five-star review of the show, NME wrote: “It’s one thing to have artfully crafted the perfect setlist for such an occasion, but it’s another to have the ability to play each and every song like it could be the last one. When the finale does come with Matt Berninger and the crowd all choked up for the devastating ‘About Today’, we leave knowing that they couldn’t have done more.”

Before they got warmed up and ready to perform, we caught up with frontman Matt Berninger and bassist Scott Devendorf backstage to talk what they put into their live shows, getting teased by Dave Grohl, the love of Swifties, and plans for the future.

The National live at Glastonbury 2024. Credit: Andy Ford for NME

NME: Hello, The National. Welcome back to Glasto. You’ve already had a few real ‘Glastonbury moments’. What does this place mean to you?

Scott Devendorf: “It’s one of the biggest festivals in the world, and it’s been around forever. It’s amazing. We’ve played here like four times, and the first was in 2008. We played after Hot Chip in a tent, it was like a rave and we were post-rave, which was interesting. Hot Chip was great. I think we were OK. There was a lot of mud that year.”

Matt Berninger: And were we on the Pyramid Stage once?

Yes, in 2017 – playing just before Foo Fighters headlined

Berninger: “OK, yes – it kind of felt like inside the Dune worm. I remember parts of it.

Last time you were here, you told us that Dave Grohl cornered you all backstage and gave you a bear hug?

Berninger: He’s a hugger. He was trying to rattle us. That was funny. Do you remember what he said, Scott?”

Devendorf: “We had to do some press right before our set, maybe with the NME, and we had to walk far to it. Then Dave Grohl drove past waving at us and telling us that we had to be on stage in 15 minutes and just kept going. It was pretty funny actually. He was correct.”

Berninger: “He was like ‘Get a watch!’, and it worked. Look, I have a watch now.”

The National live at Glastonbury 2024. Credit: Andy Ford for NME
The National live at Glastonbury 2024. Credit: Andy Ford for NME

The National live at Glastonbury 2024. Credit: Andy Ford for NME
The National live at Glastonbury 2024. Credit: Andy Ford for NME

He’s been spotted here this weekend, so maybe you can get revenge?

Berninger: “If you find him, text me and I’ll go fight him off.”

So what’s in store for tonight?

Berninger: “Lots of bangers? Well, our version of bangers. I don’t know actually. I don’t know what the setlists are. I never know what the setlists are. I’m pretty sure there’s a handful of songs that will be on there. We’re just excited. We’ve been having such great shows. I mean, I would never call us tight, but we’re as tight as it gets, and it fits well I love it.”

You guys really have spoiled us these last couple of years with with two albums ‘The First Two Pages Of Frankenstein‘ and ‘Laugh Track. What’s it been like living in the universe of those records?

Devendorf: “It’s been great. There’s a lot of music, so that means a lot of new music for us to play. We’ve really tried to mix up the setlist a lot and try to be more dynamic in that way just because it’s interesting for everyone.

Berninger: “Our songs always get better and better the more we play them live, and that’s happening to a lot of the songs on these last two records. We’re also going way back and doing really old songs that we haven’t done in years, and those are even getting better than they ever were before. There are versions of ‘Geese Of Beverly Road ‘and ‘Runaway’ that we’re doing now and we’re like, ‘Well why did we take that out?’ So we’re enjoying all of the songs we’ve written over the past 25 years a lot – the new ones and the old ones.

“That’s why I don’t like to know what’s gonna be on the setlist. In not knowing, every time it’s like a new flavoured gum ball and I get to take that little red pill and go to that song in a new way every time. If I knew what all the songs are gonna be, I think I wouldn’t be able to let go as much and just enjoy it. That’s why I’m enjoying it so much, because I have no idea what’s happening.”

The National live at Glastonbury 2024. Credit: Andy Ford for NME
The National live at Glastonbury 2024. Credit: Andy Ford for NME

Your friend and collaborator Taylor Swift is in the country this weekend…

Berninger: “That  is not our special guest!”

OK, but maybe you could show up at one of her shows. Is that a thing?

Berninger: “Nah, I don’t think so. I don’t think so. It is fun – that whole bridge has been a really, really fruitful thing for our whole band, not just Aaron [Dessner, guitarist and producer]. Obviously, yAaron’s been having such a great time and making so much great stuff with her, and the Taylor Swift bridge has been there for a long time. But no, we’re not.

“We get asked that a lot. we see a lot of Taylor Swift fans coming to shows and being bewildered by the first 25 minutes or so. We’ve been blessed with demographics that are across the spectrum. Then 10 or15 years ago, a lot of younger people started coming [to our shows] – more and more women. The first 10 years was kind of a dude-fest at most of our shows, but that’s changed a lot. At our shows we have all kinds of old friends and they’re always different.”

The National live at Glastonbury 2024. Credit: Andy Ford for NME
The National live at Glastonbury 2024. Credit: Andy Ford for NME

You’re playing Crystal Palace Park this week too. Any special plans for that?

Berninger: “Post Malone will be on stage!”

Devendorf: “No, but we have Unknown Mortal Orchestr,  Kevin Morby, This Is The Kit all playing. It’s going to be great. Hopefully the weather holds. We’re really excited. We never played there, and we’ve played a lot of places, so it’s nice to be someplace new.”

It feels like you guys are cooking all the time. Is there anything else from the ‘Laugh Track’, ‘Frankenstein’ universe to come? Are you working on another record?

Berninger: “No, we kind of purged ourselves. Once we started writing again, I wrote almost everything that was in the folders and made a song out of everything. Now the folders are filling up. I’ve been writing a lot, but I think we’re just gonna take it nice and slow. The garden is full of seeds. But we don’t know when it’s gonna start to bloom or anything like that. We’re in a very creative space – we’re in a gardening phase. Gardening at night!”

Devendorf: “Appropriate.”

Berninger: “We should cover ‘Gardening at Night’ [by R.E.M.]. That would be a good song. We gotta go. We have to cover something real quick. Get your show.

What’s the first thing you guys going to do after the set tonight?

Berninger: “I know exactly what I’m going to do. In a four-part stage, but I can’t mention two of the stages. But At some point, I will probably listen to a record. Something to justerase the brain. I’ve got a link to the new Fontaines D.C. record [‘Romance’]. Have you heard it?”

Yes, it’s pretty special. 

“Let’s not talk about that right now. Yeah, so I’m gonna go listen to that I think afterwards. We spent a bunch of time with them and IDLES and Ed Sheeran recently, we were all together. It was Ed, IDLES, Fontaines and us all backstage on buses. Ed’s dad was there, sleeping on the buses and it was like a caravan.

“We did two nights in a row in Germany, and we were all watching football and talking about travel and guilt and Jesuit backgrounds and all kinds of stuff. So that was really fun. We all watched each other’s shows. That was like kind of the best two day festival run I’ve ever had. I was so inspired by everybody. That was the first time I’d ever seen Ed Sheeran live. Aaron knows him very well, so I was blown away by Ed Sheeran. It was it was incredible. We’re enjoying watching bands. We’re enjoying being a band. It’s all good.”

The National live at Glastonbury 2024. Credit: Andy Ford for NME
The National live at Glastonbury 2024. Credit: Andy Ford for NME

Would you form a supergroup with those guys?

Berninger: Yes. we’ve started one! It’s the guys with the pink hair from each band. it’s all the strawberry blondes. So it’s Joe [Talbot], Curley [Conor, guitar], Ed [Sheeran] and me. We’re called The Strawberry Blondes.

I would watch that.

Berninger: “That would kind of be good! Because Ed could play everything. Yeah. Joe and I wouldn’t have to do much at all. That’d be great. I would be the Bez of that band. Yeah, Curley and Ed would make the records. Joe and I would dance.”

Strawberry Blondes for Glastonbury next year! But for now. Have a great night guys.

Berninger: “Thank you. Great to see you.”

The National’s upcoming UK tour dates, including a huge show at Crystal Palace Park, are below. Visit here for tickets and more information.

2 – Cornwall, UK – Eden Sessions’ Eden Project
3 – Cardiff, UK – Cardiff Castle
4 – Manchester, UK – Castlefield Bowl
5 – London, UK – Crystal Palace Park
11 – Edinburgh, UK – Edinburgh Castle

Check back at NME for the latest Glastonbury 2024 news, reviews, interviews, photos, rumours and more. Check out the NME liveblog here for all the latest Glastonbury action as it happens.

This content was originally sourced and posted at NME »
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