The National: Heads Of State


As five fans turn into thousands and beyond, it's getting hard to pinpoint exactly what the National's audience looks like. "It's a little older," Barger says. "It's different than, say, MGMT's audience or Passion Pit's audience-but it's definitely not like an old people band." Nor is it limited to the United States-in fact, the National has nearly as strong a following in the United Kingdom and Australia as it does stateside, 4AD's Ayers says. "They've toured Europe quite a bit, and our label has people on the ground everywhere, so that's helped a ton."

"When I'm looking at touring and balancing the band's schedule for the year, I try to make sure that we're not neglecting those territories and that we're balancing worldwide need with U.S. needs," Barger says. "If you don't take the time to go to those markets, you're not going to be successful there."

Another sector that the National is being mindful of is independent retail. Although the band wasn't available to perform as a group on Record Store Day (April 17), member Scott Devendorf spun a DJ set at New York's Other Music. During the week of the new album's release, the band will annex the space next to Other Music and host a "High Violet Annex" pop-up store for a full week of performances by acts curated by the National. Additionally, a deluxe CD or LP of "High Violet" will be made available exclusively to indie record stores on day of release, with most of the U.S. store locations receiving one CD or LP with a copy of a "High Violet" ticket. The purchaser who finds the ticket will receive a $50 credit at that store.

"The idea is just to do things right and not to do it for money necessarily," Barger says. "We want to make sure we're playing in beautiful rooms and keep ticket prices relatively low. For merchandise, we want to make sure we're making stuff that's really high quality, and if that means we make less, that's OK."

While the National is open to licensing the music from "High Violet," and Barger sees synch deals as more valuable than traditional radio promotion, the band has decided to wait before greenlighting any synchs in the immediate future. The reason, Barger says, is "just to make sure that the songs have a moment to live as songs before they're tied to other imagery."

This falls right in line with the National's strategy up until now-its albums are generally considered "growers" that reap rewards over time, and the band would prefer to keep it that way.

"There is something about the records' slowly revealing themselves that is a good thing for us," Dessner says. "Our records seem to stay with people."