The National’s Matt Berninger has released a video of his new song “Walking on a String,” featuring indie-rock phenom Phoebe Bridgers. The duo recorded the track for the new Zach Galifianakis film Between Two Ferns: The Movie, released last month on Netflix.
“It’s a song about how our problems and anxieties can build up and feel like a tangled inescapable web,” Berninger tells Rolling Stone. “Sometimes all it takes is a friend with some perspective and patience to help us see our way out of our own messes. It’s also just a love song between a spider and a moth.”
Shot in black and white, the clip features Berninger and Bridgers recording the track at Sound City Studios in Los Angeles. “The things you said are hanging in the middle of my mind tonight,” Berninger sings. “I can’t turn ’em off.” Guitarist Walter Martin and the Walkmen drummer Matt Barrick also appear in the video, as well as a hilarious cameo by Galifianakis, who mellows out during the track’s breakdown.
Berninger and Bridgers perform “Walking on a String” at a bar in the film, dressed in chic cowboy suits.
“[Director] Scott Aukerman called and told me he and Zach had an important scene in a honky-tonk bar in middle America,” Berninger says. “They needed a band and a song and said I could do whatever I wanted. My wife Carin and I wrote the lyrics really quickly and I called Tony Berg to produce. I didn’t realize he was in the studio with Phoebe at the time but she graciously let me crash her sessions and that’s when we had the idea to turn it into a duet.”
The track was cut in two days and was produced by Bridgers, Berg and Ethan Gruska. “It’s also where Boygenius recorded,” Bridgers says of Sound City. “So I’m very comfortable there, even with an entirely new band. The rest of the time Matt was trying to corral everyone to steal the couch on which Kurt Cobain wrote ‘Lithium.'”
Bridgers is currently on the road with the National, but this was her first time collaborating with Berninger. “He’s been a hero of mine since I was a teenager, but it’s easy to forget when hanging out with him,” she says. “He treats everyone around him as a peer. I wouldn’t have been so comfortable co-producing without him.”
Unfortunately, Bridgers did not get to keep the peach cowboy suit she wore in the film. “I fucking wish,” she says. “I do, however, have the belt cuz it’s mine — you can’t even see it in the movie. When I was 10 years old, I won a mutton-busting competition at the rodeo and they gave me a buckle with a sheep on it. I finally had a reason to wear it.”
“Walking on a String” is available now via Dead Oceans.