Despite catching some flack for supporting President Barack Obama at recent campaign events, the National feel this fall's election is too important not to participate, the musicians tell The Lantern at Ohio State University in Columbus. "Personally, we feel that the stakes are even higher this [election] than they were last time, in many ways," said frontman Matt Berninger.
The band – which has received "hate mail on Facebook" for its support of Obama, guitarist/keyboardist Aaron Dessner said – was in Columbus helping register students to vote before hosting a GottaVote concert. The Cincinnati natives said their Ohio roots have helped shape their political perspective.
"I grew up in a neighborhood that was heavily Republican, but growing up, you always felt the significance of Ohio's going Democrat or Republican in presidential elections – you're just aware of how important it is," Dessner said.
Berninger said many of the Republicans he's known for years are having second thoughts about the party. "A lot of the people I grew up with who are very conservative feel a little bit alienated by the current sort of version of the Republican party," he said. "I think many of them don't feel represented by the Republican party anymore . . . so there's more at stake this time, just with the way the whole political landscape has shifted."
Even though the band supports Obama, Berninger said he actually prefers apolitical music. "I listen to rock music to sort of escape that kind of stuff," he said. "Even 'Fake Empire,' which was our most political song – it wasn't specifically a partisan song, it was just kind of feeling disenfranchised with Washington and the whole government."
But for the National, these issues transcend music. "This is more important than a rock band," said Berninger. "I know we've gotten responses from people [who] don't like the fact that we've taken a position on it, and I don't actually think artists or musicians necessarily have a responsibility to do that. But in our case, the five of us . . . talked about it and we were like, 'Yeah, it's worth it, for sure.'"