The National at the LC

By Columbus Alive
From the The National at the LC edition

A band of Buckeyes? Sort of.

Though all five members of The National hail from Cincinnati, they aren't technically an "Ohio band." By the time the group formed in 1999, they had all relocated to Brooklyn.

"We played music in Ohio in different groups, nothing really big time or anything, just kind of messing around," bassist Scott Devendorf said during a phone call last week. "And even when we started this band here, it was more like a hobby."

That quickly changed as the group members stumbled upon special chemistry - a brooding, sophisticated strand of indie rock that has won over fans as slowly but surely as the quintet's slow-burning songs unfold.

Five years ago, while touring behind critical smash "Alligator," The National watched a large portion of the crowd depart each night after opening act Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!, who were benefiting from a perfect storm of online hype.

These days, Clap Your Hands is little more than an afterthought, while The National's perseverance has led them to headlining huge venues like 5,000-capacity LC Pavilion, where they'll play Monday with The Antlers.

They're touring in support of "High Violet," another gloomy, contemplative and ultimately cathartic set of carefully orchestrated rock confessionals. Matt Berninger's baritone belts out restless, stream-of-consciousness narratives, exemplified in peak form by the melancholy swoop of lead single "Bloodbuzz Ohio."

Devendorf, who supervises the band's artwork with Berninger, tried to capture the album's feelings with an image by Mark Fox, Berninger's distant cousin.

"That particular piece that's on the cover really felt like the process we were going through at the time," Devendorf said. "This sort of cloud of thought - partly anxiety, I think - kind of this racing-thoughts idea that was going on through the themes in the lyrics."

Berninger's brother has also joined The National's touring entourage as a production assistant and documentarian - appropriate for a band where Devendorf's brother Bryan plays drums and twins Bryce and Aaron Dessner are the creative engine.

"Matt finally has a brother in the band," Devendorf said. "He's just not on stage."