Aaron Dessner of the National on the possibility of the next record being radically different
In advance of the National's show tonight at Red Rocks, we spoke with Aaron Dessner. We printed the excerpts from our chat with him in this week's paper, and today on the blog, we have the full Q&A. Dessner talks about what could be in store for the band's next album: "There's an interest in making something radically different again," he says, adding that there's been talk of recording a much rawer kind of record that is less layered and more visceral and loud. Continue on to read about that and a whole lot more.
Westword: It sounds like you guys weren't really planning on making a record after you'd come off the High Violet tour. You started writing demos and took it from there, right?
Aaron Dessner: I had some time at home, and I had a studio in my back yard. My wife had our first child, Ingrid. In the beginning, there's not much that you can do other than...they feed, and they sleep, so you have a lot of time on your hands -- time you don't think you're going have on your hands, actually. And you're kind of in this heightened state.
And so I would go out in the studio, and I ended up recording a bunch of songs earlier than I ever thought I would have been writing new material. Eventually, when I had a bunch of them, I gave them to Matt, and I think that they were really clicking with him on different levels, and he just started writing. And I think because there was no pressure or expectation of making an album, the writing came pretty easily. Some of the songs were written pretty quickly.
It just all came together, and before we realized it, we had thirty song ideas without ever really having a discussion of writing songs. That was cool. Some of them, like "I Should Live in Salt" -- I think once that song came together, we realized we were making an album, and then we started sharing stuff with the other guys, and my brother was also writing new music. So we got together, and last summer, we played some of the songs, and it was going well, and we thought, "Lets go into the studio." So we did.
From what I gather, it sounds like making Trouble was much more relaxed than making previous records.
It was. We all lived together in this barn in upstate New York for six weeks. It was like being at camp or something -- waking up every day and eating and being together and staying up late drinking together. We hadn't done that in a really long time. It allowed us to focus, I think, in a different way and shut out a lot of the distractions of the city, which was very positive.
And right at the beginning of the sessions, there was a tornado, right?
Yeah, that was crazy. We had set up to record and everything was miked, and we were all ready to go, and then this tornado came around the barn and tore up all the trees and brought down all the power lines; and actually, a tree landed on the neighbor's house. It was kind of a weird scene. The power was knocked out for a week. So the first few days, we just sat around strumming acoustic guitars in the dark. That was kind of fun, actually. Eventually the power came back, but it was a funny beginning. And then the hurricane came a few weeks later, and that stopped recording for a few days also.
Did any of those natural disasters seep into the record at all?
I think there's a lot of imagery... "I love a storm, but I don't love lightening/All the water's coming up so fast, that's frightening." Matt uses a lot of water metaphors, I think, and a lot of ways to kind of... A lot of different emotions and tears and things, and I think that may have been something that was in his mind because of what was going on with the weird natural disasters and things. It certainly gave us a bunker mentality in the studio that was kind of interesting. You just kind of hunker down in there and it's a nice cozy feeling.
I guess there was a little less tension making the record as well versus High Violet, right? It sounds like you have Matt have gone at it in the past.
We were more relaxed this time. There were a few battles, but for the most part, we got along. I mean, we get along well as people, but it's just when we're collaborating on any kind of project, and it means a lot to you -- it's very personal music, and words are very personal -- you can run into movements where you're pulling in different directions. We both have different perspectives on things. But this time, it was smooth, and it was working so well that I think it kind of flew by without a lot of interpersonal tension, which is good.