One of the highlights of Lollapalooza’s second day was a superb 75-minute set from the National, with songs like “Slow Show,” “Mistaken For Strangers” and “Mr. November” filling the Chicago night with a mixture of beauty and raw emotive power.
Before they took the stage, frontman Matt Berninger let Rolling Stone in on his secret for channeling into the frenetic energy he brings to the live setting. “I start drinking wine about half an hour before we go out and that’s the most fun part of me,” he said backstage. “For me, the wine definitely helps me lose a little bit of my grip on my reality, which makes me less conscious of the situation, which makes me get into the songs a little more and it’s a zone I go to, which I love. Definitely wine is a crutch to get there and I won’t call it anything other than what it is, but I do love it.”
For anyone looking for tips on wine pairings with National songs, Berninger isn’t choosy when he comes to his alcohol. “People give me expensive bottles of wine and they don’t realize I just pour it over ice and mix red and white together,” he said. “I have an unsophisticated palate, I know nothing about wine other than I like to put it in my body.”
Alcohol also played a big part in the band’s forthcoming video for the track “Graceless,” from their recent Trouble Will Find Me album. “[It] involved a great deal of binge drinking beer,” he said. “We shot it at my mom and dad’s house in Cincinnati and kind of destroyed the place and ourselves along the way.”
Proving binge drinking and making videos is a combination that should only be left to the pros, the band suffered a series of mishaps throughout the filming. “I gave myself a minor concussion, head injury on the slip and slide,” bassist Scott Devendorf said.
“I had a serious face injury, Bryce [Dessner] had a back injury,” Berninger said. How did he do it? “Riding a bike into a swimming pool and my face hit the water hard all three times,” he said. “I had glasses on, I had bruises around my eyes where the glasses hit. It was the most brutal video we’ve ever done. It was really fun, but it cost us. No one died, though.”
While at Lollapalooza, the National might also be able to recruit some new big-name acts for their planned Grateful Dead tribute album. If they could get Mumford & Sons, who played immediately after the National’s set, to do the album, Devendorf would choose “Uncle John’s Band.”
Berninger concurred with that choice, adding that a lot of people have emerged as Dead fans. “People are coming out of the woodwork saying they want to be involved in that, so it’s been kind of a fun surprise how many secret Dead fans there are,” he said.
Devendorf has another Lollapalooza act he’d like to see on there. “I would love to see Kendrick Lamar on the Dead album,” he said. “I think I would go with ‘Wharf Rat’ for Kendrick.”
Beninger now has faith they can get him. “He’ll do it, we’ve just committed him,” he said.