The National Have Another Album's Worth of Material "75 Percent of the Way There"

The National Have Another Album's Worth of Material "75 Percent of the Way There"
Photo: Graham MacIndoe
The National are nearly ready to release their latest LP, Sleep Well Beast, marking the band's first since 2013's Trouble Will Find Me. And while that record hasn't even hit shelves yet, the group already have a chunk of new material in the works.
 
Speaking to Exclaim! at guitarist and producer Aaron Dessner's Long Pond Studio in upstate New York, frontman Matt Berninger explains that the sessions for Sleep Well Beast spawned a vault's worth of music the National will probably return to in the future.
 
"There's a folder of 13 things that we kind of got 75 percent of the way there, at least musically," he says. "Lyrically, some of them I haven't been able to crack, but I love the music so much."
 
Berninger's not certain they'll eventually translate into a full-fledged LP, but he is hesitant to squander the songs away. "I'm far less inclined to B-sides and giveaways and exclusive track offers and this and that," he says. "It turns everything into a bit of a 'taking out the trash' or 'here's a discount song' — and I don't like to treat any of our songs like that."
 
He doesn't want to serve up songs before they're "fully cooked," joking "We've got basements of freezers full of songs that are best left frozen for a while."
 
Berninger admits that sessions for all of the band's past albums have generated plenty of extra material — as Dessner puts it, "If we have to make a record of 12 songs, we'll have to write 100, basically." But the singer is particularly fond of the latest set. Bassist Scott Devendorf agrees, adding, "I feel like it has more of a shelf life than past discarded tunes."
 
Berninger insists that the 13 "frozen" tracks weren't kept off Sleep Well Beast because they aren't great.
 
"They just weren't far enough along, and the other stuff was ready and it all felt like it was connecting," he says. "The truth is, one option was to go with the other record first. I've had these two separated things for a long time. But this collection that ends up Sleep Well Beast felt like it needed to come out now."
 
Sleep Well Beast reflects the current state of the world, according to Berninger, acknowledging that "everybody's suffering and desperate and at the ends of their ropes."
 
"The other stuff is loose, a lot more fun, the band just fucking around, vamping," he explains, adding that it features "much more Southern gothic shit, a lot of guitar work and groovy stuff."
 
So, it seems like the social and political climate may have to cool significantly before the National are ready to defrost said batch of songs.
 
Frankly, as Berninger puts it, "We're not ready to think about that yet."
 
Sleep Well Beast arrives on September 8 via 4AD.