The National frontman Matt Berninger is back with a new side project and an album that serves as musical homage to his youth.
If you could ever consider being frontman of one of the world’s preeminent grown-up rock bands a day job, then it is probably a little bit true in the case of The National’s Matt Berninger. His new collaboration, EL VY, with Brent Knopf of Menomena fame was many years in the making due to, in Matt’s case, juggling the demands of parenting, making films with his brother, and keeping up with the The National’s touring and recording commitments. So far, so grown-up.
Thus, for Berninger there is satisfaction in releasing EL VY’s debut album Return to The Moon. He speaks to me down the line from New York City while on the promotional circuit for this new side-project. This means he’s holed up in a hotel room, close to midnight, talking on the phone for several hours to some voices from the bottom of the world.
I begin to wonder if these tasks make rock stardom seem like work. As he takes a sip of his first beer, Berninger explains that things like promotional work and touring can start to gnaw away at what was initially a sought-after dream.
The weird thing is that all The National side projects have been the best thing for the health of the band.
“Being on tour it feel like you’re being an astronaut….and there’s so many bad habits you can get into as a travelling rock band”
And so, EL VY provided a welcome outlet for Berninger during these times. Beginning as a few emails between him and Knopf, the pair gradually sent snippets of music wherever in the world they were, or more precisely, wherever in the world The National tour bus was driving.
“The weird thing is that all The National side projects have been the best thing for the health of the band,” he says.
Return To The Moon, Berninger explains, is a music homage to his hometown of Cincinnati and the semi-fictional characters of his youth and bands of the time, such as Minutemen.
Yet, these punk influences are tempered with the influences of his present-life. Namely, being father to a six-year-old daughter who is deeply in love with the Grease soundtrack.
The resulting album shows a lighter and more irreverent side of Berninger, which is departure from the introspective and sometimes, stark truths he presents through The National. So much so, that even his daughter has expanded her music collection to include EL VY.
Music 101's Yadana Saw catches up with Matt Berninger.