New York's Tribeca Film Festival kicked off on a musical note Wednesday night, with the premiere of Mistaken For Strangers, a tour documentary on indie rock A-listers The National. The doc's also the directorial debut of Tom Berninger, younger brother of the band's baritoned front man, Matt Berninger.
The premiere, which was followed by the band playing a show at the Highline Ballroom, comes at a high-profile time for the ascendant National. A sixth album, Trouble Will Find Me, comes out May 21 and their upcoming tour includes a headlining date at Barclays Center, easily The National's biggest show to date on their home turf of Brooklyn.
Fuse News spoke to Matt and Tom Berninger at the film's opening.
“This was like seeing him work. And being a rock star. It was very strange.”
So, being a local band, what's it like opening up Tribeca?
Matt Berninger: It’s bizarre. We’ve played in a lot of venues in New York. But to be here and doing this with a movie is amazing, and especially since this is my brother's movie and he's never done an interview before. To watch him do this right now, I can't believe it. I'm fearful for him but he looks like he's doing ok. I'm really proud of him but I don’t think we ever thought it would be like this. We thought we'd make a little thing that would be on our website, or one of our CDs.
Tom, people have been calling this a tour doc, but it's more than that. It's also about you making your first film.
Tom Berninger: Yeah, it's a small, lo-fi movie about two brothers in the world trying to make something good. It takes a long time to make something good. When you do that, and you're so close with somebody trying to figure out a creative process and work your personal way through it, and figure out what is honest and what is truth... you know, "What would we want to tell?"
How is your relationship? Have you guys always been close?
Matt: It's gone up and down. We’ve always loved each other and we've always driven each other crazy. Through the process of him being on tour with us and then moving in with us to make the movie, it got difficult. It got toxic at times. Luckily my wife was there as an ambassador and a guiding light for the film.
Tom: The tour was the longest we were on a bus together, by far the longest I've ever spent with my brother as adults. Sure, we spent Christmases and Thanksgivings - but this was like seeing him work. And being a rock star. It was very strange at first.
Not only are you guys playing Barclays Center this summer but you sold out the arena in 10 minutes! How does that feel?
Matt: I don’t know. I try not to figure that out. We’ve had a really slow sort of ascent. To get to the point where we are even playing at Barclays – we’ve played big venues opening for REM but to be doing it ourselves, we’re terrified about it but excited. Same thing with this movie. It’s a big mixture of fear and ambition and excitement.
The new album Trouble Will Find Me is just weeks away. We've heard it's an album about aging, and death?
Matt: Not so much aging. I think the NME said that. I'm 42, does that count as aging? I still feel pretty young. But there was a lot of reflection on sort of, mortality and what it means to be on the planet when your light gets turned off. What happens when you’re gone. That’s what the record is about, but it's actually a very uplifting record. I don’t think of it as depressing. It's much more about what you can do with your life and how you can do some good things that last longer than you ever will.
Producer: Cassius Kim
Writer: Peter Hoare
To find out more from The National about their documentary and new album, tune into Fuse News tonight at 8/7C! Check out the Channel Finder to locate Fuse in your area.