Exclusive Cover Story Excerpt: Liam Gallagher Interviewed By Foo Fighter Taylor Hawkins

Here’s an exclusive excerpt of the current MAGNET cover story. To read the whole thing, order a copy of the issue here.

Interview by Taylor Hawkins

Photo by Flint Chaney

Liam Gallagher doesn’t need to introduce himself—he only requires unwavering dedication to rock ‘n’ roll. With debut solo album As You Were, the former Oasis frontman swaggers back into the spotlight for another swing. Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins sits down with Gallagher to find out what’s the story.

OK. What can I say? I’ve known Liam for probably about 20 years or so. Happy to say I’ve always been on his good side. I want to keep it that way—ha. I love his voice. A perfect cross between John Lydon and John Lennon. I love the way he can stand up onstage not doing one fucking thing, just looking at people, singing, and still captivate a huge crowd. We had the pleasure of seeing him do this in Seoul, South Korea, a couple months ago, and we were due to go on after him … We were a little scared. Ummm, what else? He’s truly fucking hilarious. Really quick, sharp as a tack. In my eyes, he is truly one of the greatest frontmen of my generation. His new record, As You Were, is definitely a return to form, putting him back where he belongs: at the top. —Taylor Hawkins

Taylor Hawkins: OK, first question. Your voice is so loud and so powerful—everyone’s always like, “Oh, Liam punched this guy” or “Liam said this in the interview” or this, that and the other, you know?

Liam Gallagher: Yeah.

Hawkins: A lot of the light never gets shone on the basic fact that you have a really loud, projecting, powerful fucking rock ’n’ roll voice. Do you warm up before shows, or is it natural?

Gallagher: I don’t take care of it as much as I should do, but I try to get a fucking good night’s sleep. And I lay off the cigs on the day of the gig. I don’t do cocaine before I go on.

Hawkins: Anymore. [Both laugh]

Gallagher: I have a little warm-up, I have a little thing about half an hour before we go on. You know what? I’ve never had any real problems with it, really, man. Fingers crossed. I like to think that I’ve got … I don’t classify myself as a singer—more of a fucking human cello. Some days it works, and some days it doesn’t.

Hawkins: That’s the way it draws, man. Some days it’s magic, and some days it’s tragic.

Gallagher: Fingers crossed, man. I just spend the whole day just going, “Fucking hope it’s there.” And if it’s there, good looks, and if it’s not, fuck it.

Hawkins: Exactly. Dave (Grohl)’s same thing. Dave doesn’t really warm up. He doesn’t really do anything.

Gallagher: He drinks a lot of fucking whiskey, though, doesn’t he?

Hawkins: Fuck, he does, dude. If you go to any vocal coach, they’ll tell you that’s the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to do.

Gallagher: When you got onstage the other night and he screamed, the first thing he said was, “If I scream like that, I’d have to have 12 more shots.” [Hysterical laughing from both]

Hawkins: Dave’s a fucking superhero. There’s no question. He’s a fucking superhero.

Gallagher: Animal, man. And he’s got that voice, too.

Hawkins: Oh, fuck yeah. I love his voice. He’s powerful, too, and he’s loud, just like you. I have a thin, little wispy voice, and if I had to sing all set, it’d be done by the end, no question. But you guys both have these loud, projecting, lead-singer voices.

Gallagher: That allows the band a little area as well then, you know what I mean?

Hawkins: Totally. You guys were fucking great that night, dude. It was really, really … We were a little shaky before we went on after we watched you. We were like, “Fuck!”

Gallagher: You always play a bit better when there are people around you who are good, and I mean that.

Hawkins: I think so, too. I mean, for us, it seems like it can go two ways. Either that’s gonna push us up a notch, or we’re gonna get a little “in ourselves” a bit too much. I got some other questions for you. The first question that I came up with is: Is it lonely now, being a solo dude? When you’re the guy … I know you were probably the de facto leader of the band. I know it was a band, but you were probably the leader of the band. But now it’s Liam Gallagher—it’s you. You have a great band, and they play like a band. Is it lonely?

Gallagher: I prefer it being a band, I guess, with all the people I went to school with and all that, because then you know each other inside out, you know what I mean? The new band, we’re getting to know each other slowly but surely. We don’t really hang out that much; we don’t say a lot, but I don’t feel lonely. Man, I’ve got multiple fucking personalities, so there’s a lot going on inside my head. I just chat with myself inside my head, so I’m all right.

Hawkins: Got it, got it. I kinda figured. I would never think to myself, “Oh, Liam’s lonely,” ever. It’s a different thing, when you set out to do a Liam Gallagher tour. It’s a little different. It’s all you in the front and your name is on the bottom of that fucking check, you know?

Gallagher: I say what it is. I say what it is. I’m an indecisive fucking bastard. Someone comes up to me and goes, “I like that … ” I can’t just agree on it and get stuck to it. I’m kinda like, “Oh, what do you fucking think?” I kinda like sharing the bag, you know what I mean? I guess that’s the only pain in the ass. It’s all about you making decisions, which I’m not good at.

Hawkins: If you do another solo record, do you think you’ll do it the way you did this time? Do you think you’ll work with different writers and different musicians and all that?

Gallagher: Yeah, I think so. I mean, the band was put together like that, so it was me, and I called Dan—there’s a producer called Dan (Grech-Marguerat)—and then obviously I did some stuff with Greg Kurstin. At this moment in time, I’ve only got one fucking tune for the next album, so it all depends—if it goes well, people want another one, I guess I’ll do another one, but at the moment there are no fucking new songs. I definitely don’t mind making music. I like working with Greg Kurstin when I write, so definitely, man.

Hawkins: It worked out. I like the way that it’s a different kind of sonic experience you get.

Gallagher: Exactly, man. I trust myself as a singer a lot more than a songwriter, so if I write some, hopefully this time next year … I sort of believe the songs will come, and I think I want these people, I guess.

Hawkins: How important is using the studio to you? Do you get involved? Do you come in there and say, “Oh, I wanna do this, and I want my voice to have this many delays on it.”

Gallagher: I’m not a studio—I don’t really know much about studios. I was always kind of … I know where the fucking “louder button” is. I know where that is. I let the producers do it. I know how to turn me up. I know where that is.

Hawkins: “I wanna turn up my voice right here. Do something like that.” You let those guys do it.

Gallagher: I know where it needs double tracking, definitely. I always sing dry, man. I never add those effects on.

Hawkins: Same with Dave. Dave’s the same way. He likes to hear nothing but his voice.

Gallagher: ’Cause that’s the truth. I want it to sound like when I’m sitting in the room playing the guitar at home. I want it to be kinda like that. The majority of it. I like it dry ’cause you can feel it.

Hawkins: Kind of the rule of thumb I always thought of: If it sounds good just you and an acoustic guitar, then it’s gonna sound good either way. What’s your favorite studio? I don’t know if you care about studios. We love going to different studios, and we find the experience of each studio to kind of lend itself differently to the situation and the recording we pick.

Gallagher: Obviously, I’ve been going to Abbey Road, and that’s all right. The one where I recorded this album in England is called Snap!, a little shithole with one live room and where you record it, and that’s that. It was good, man. I could definitely work there again. There was a place in Richmond by this geezer who wrote, like, “(Simply) The Best” for Tina Turner. And he based it on Abbey Road, so it’s a smaller studio, and that’s got good gear. That’s a good studio. I worked there with Beady Eye. Anywhere that’s got the old gear in it, man.

Hawkins: I sometimes get into the history of studios. A lot of times when I’m in London, I’ll go over to Saint Anne’s Court down in Soho ’cause Trident Studios is there. I love Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and all that, and I just wanted to go stand by the door that he walked into. I don’t know why.

Gallagher: I used to do that. There was one called Olympic Studios where they did “Sympathy For The Devil.” And that was a good studio, but I don’t think that’s there anymore. I think it closed down. And there’s one called Konk—that’s the Kinks—that’s around the corner from my house and is a nice studio.

Hawkins: Is that still there?

Gallagher: That’s still there, yeah.

Hawkins: They did like all their ’70s shit there, didn’t they?

Gallagher: Yeah, and I think the White Stripes did something there as well, years ago. I’m not a studio guy, but I do like chalking big fat lines out on the desk.

Hawkins: Well, there you go. Gotta have a good desk. You can’t do that on a laptop.

Gallagher: Exactly! Exactly!

Hawkins: OK, this is a funny question, Liam, and this is from me to you, and you can say whatever you want. But this is a fun question, and it’s a question only I would ask you. My favorite band of all time, probably if I had to pick one, is the Beatles because they’re just like the Bible to me, you know what I mean? That’s the beginning, you know. That’s everything that came after. Anyway: Do you like Queen?

Gallagher: Do I like Queen? Uh, not really, no. I mean, I get Freddie Mercury has a great voice and all that, and obviously they’ve got some great songs. But I do find them a bit Queen-y. [Hawkins laughs] Listen, they’re a top band and obviously they’ve got great songs, but I dunno, man. Brian May’s guitar sound sounds like he’s got it clogged in his ass.

Hawkins: Poor Brian. I love Brian.

Gallagher: I respect him and all that, but I don’t know, man.

Hawkins: OK, that’s funny. That’s a good one. I like that. OK, next question. What about American bands? What American bands from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s?

Gallagher: Guns N’ Roses. I do like, is it Creedence Clearwater Revival? I like them. He’s got a good voice, that John Fogerty.

Hawkins: Oh fuck, dude, we played with him. He’s fucking loud—he’s like you. He’s just fucking loud.

Gallagher: He’s got a good voice. And obviously Hendrix and all that.

Hawkins: What about when all the ’90s shit was going on, and you guys were getting ready to fight your war over there?

Gallagher: I did like Nirvana, and I liked some of the tunes. Who else was out at the time? I wasn’t a big fan of Pearl Jam.

Hawkins: Right.

Gallagher: All the grunge stuff was a bit different for me, I’ll be honest with you. There’s a few bands.

Hawkins: Few songs here and there.

Gallagher: I was kind of caught up in all the old stuff. I was kind of into the Monkees and all that when all that stuff was going down.

Hawkins: Well, it’s like you guys were kind of having your same sort of thing like what was happening in Seattle, in a way. English version.

Gallagher: Exactly. And I like Guns N’ Roses. They’ve got some tunes.

Hawkins: Yeah, they do. And they’re powerful, and they still sound good on the radio today, you know? When you hear fucking “Welcome To The Jungle” or fucking “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” it’s a classic fucking song. When Oasis came out and all these other bands came out at the same time, and the critics they love to use this kind of a word to describe one genre, but there’s nothin’ like it. Do you fucking hate Britpop?

Gallagher: I fucking hate that word, mate. We weren’t fucking pop. To me, I felt it was us and the Verve. We were different scenes, were like a classic rock ’n’ roll band. Britpop to me was Pulp, Menswear, Blur, all these stupid little Camden bands that were all jolly as fuck, you know what I mean? We wanted to play, man. I personally always found that word fucking insulting.

Hawkins: I think it is, too.

Gallagher: The Verve and Oasis—we were thinking way bigger than Britpop. We were a classic rock ’n’ roll band.

Hawkins: I see that. And also, it’s the same thing with grunge. You can’t say Nirvana and Pearl Jam sound anything alike—they’re not the same kind of fucking music, really. Just ’cause of an era. They have to simplify shit.

Gallagher: It’s just fucking journalists, isn’t it? Lazy cunts. I felt like Blur and all that—they were doing like just jolly kind of weird, fucking stupid music. “Champagne Supernova” is a boss fucking tune. They were all jumping about it with their fingers in their ears.

Exclusive Cover Story Excerpt: The Killers Interviewed By Jimmy Kimmel

Here’s an exclusive excerpt of the current MAGNET cover story. To read the whole thing, order a copy of the issue here.

Interview by Jimmy Kimmel

Photo by Gene Smirnov

Viva the Killers—Las Vegas natives who return with Wonderful Wonderful, their first album in five years. To mark the occasion, MAGNET united them with fellow Sin City local Jimmy Kimmel for a conversation about growing up in the glitzy capital of American excess and experience.

I met the Killers 13 years ago. Somebody told me that one of them had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend that I’d had in February of that year, and so, of course, I wanted to meet them. Las Vegas is my hometown, and I always root for bands and others who share that unusual distinction, and in this case, I was a fan of their music before I knew where they were from. Singer Brandon Flowers, drummer Ronnie Vannucci and I bonded over time (not immediately, as you’ll read), and they are two of the sweetest, most thoughtful and best guys I know. We wrote a Christmas song together called “Joel The Lump Of Coal”—look it up, it’s said to be one of Jesus’ favorites. This interview was conducted by phone, and unbeknownst to those on the other end, I was naked throughout. —Jimmy Kimmel

Jimmy Kimmel: I’ll start by saying that I was very excited to meet you guys back in 2004 because we are both from Las Vegas, and I was a fan of your music and got it in my head that you would be equally excited about meeting me. So when you were on the show that night, I walked up to you guys and started making chit-chat about Vegas and what high schools we went to, and it seemed that you couldn’t have been less interested in any of it. Then I walked offstage and was like, “All right, I guess these guys don’t give a shit about the Vegas connection.”

Brandon Flowers: We were so nervous to play on national television in the beginning. I still get really nervous, and I think that you were probably experiencing that coming off of us firsthand. Sorry about that.

Kimmel: Fortunately, we got to know each other later on, but I thought it would be fun to relive that awkward moment today.

Flowers: I don’t think we knew how close the ties were at that point. I didn’t know you and Ronnie both had gone to the same high school.

Kimmel: Even more so than that, Ronnie—share your connection to my best friend and bandleader Cleto Escobedo (III), who I grew up directly across the street from in Vegas.

Ronnie Vannucci: I was very young when I started playing drums. My mom worked at Caesars Palace, and she would sort of brag about me to the musicians who were coming in and out. Cleto Sr. was a name that was thrown around the house; he sort of ran the Strip as far as music goes. At least I got that impression, anyway.

Kimmel: That may have been exaggerated. He is a very talented sax player who gave up life on the road to become a room-service butler at Caesars, and his son, Cleto Jr., started playing the saxophone too. It just so happened that Cleto Jr. got a job playing sax with a band called the Checkmates on a stationary boat that floats inside Caesars called Cleopatra’s Barge. Your mom also worked on the barge as a cocktail waitress. The first time I heard this anecdote, I got nervous because I don’t think Cleto left too many cocktail waitresses unplucked. I’ve investigated, and I have good news: Nothing happened.

Vannucci: My first experience was playing that song “Play That Funky Music White Boy” by Wild Cherry.

Kimmel: How old were you?

Vannucci: I think I was like eight or something. But I just remembered being part of an all-black band, which, looking back, was kinda funny.

Kimmel: And not only that, but an eight-year-old playing in a cocktail lounge shows you just how different Vegas is now.

Vannucci: It was a neighborly place then.

Kimmel: What’s the greatest Las Vegas act you guys have seen, either together or individually? And you know what I mean by Vegas acts, the classics.

Vannucci: I saw something called Metal Skool 20 years ago.

Kimmel: It was school with a “k,” right? Metal Skool with a “k”?

Vannucci: So good. They nailed everything. It was like going to see Mötley Crüe and Van Halen and Skid Row all in the same concert.

Kimmel: Where did you see them?

Vannucci: It was, like, the Suncoast or something.

Kimmel: One of those off-Strip Vegas hotels. I wonder why they decided to spell Skool with a “k.”

Flowers: That’s cool.

Vannucci: With a “k.”

Flowers: I think it’s OK for me to say Copperfield is up there. David Copperfield.

Kimmel: Really? Wow.

Flowers: I remember Danny Gans. I saw him play a few times.

Kimmel: Yeah, he’s one of those guys that not too many people outside of Vegas knows. He passed away, right?

Flowers: Yeah, he died.

Kimmel: And he did imitations of singers, right? That was his thing?

Flowers: He was supposed to be really good at it. I never saw it.

Kimmel: It’s a shame he didn’t live long enough to imitate you guys. That’s a real-life Vegas tragedy. OK, I’m not gonna dwell entirely on Las Vegas, but it is what brought us together, so what is the most “Las Vegas” thing you’ve ever seen? You can translate that in any way you like. For me, it was seeing Liberace at the Mayfair Market on the Strip. He was wearing a hairnet and buying meat.

Vannucci: You got one, Brandon?

Flowers: I was a busser at Spago when I was 18, and Carrot Top came in. It was during the day—and during the day only the cafe’s open at the Forum shops, but because he was Carrot Top, he requested to sit in the dining room so nobody would bother him. My server—I wasn’t 21 yet, so I couldn’t be a server—was not familiar with Carrot Top so he didn’t know that there was a comedy side to him. And Carrot Top assumed that everyone knew who he was, I guess, and my server, he was from Japan and he was a martial artist. Carrot Top, when he sat down, picked up his knife and made this move kinda jokingly at my server, who didn’t know who this guy was. My server did this judo chop thing, and the knife went flying across the dining room. It was this whole scene, and we had to calm the waiter down and explain to him that this was a performer on the Strip and famous comedian and he was just joking. It was crazy.

Kimmel: He actually chopped the knife out of his hand?

Flowers: He was one of those guys who was just prepared, I guess.

Kimmel: The move will hereafter be known as the Carrot Chop. Can I tell you something? Carrot Top emailed me this morning. I’m not kidding. So you see how strong my Vegas ties are? I won’t reveal the contents of the email, but just know that he did contact me and I will get to the bottom of this story. Ronnie, did you want to answer that question? The Top is hard to top.

Vannucci: I can’t top that. Or chop that.

Kimmel: Do people ever give you ideas or lyrics for songs? I’m not talking about people like Elton John. I’m talking about people in your life. And if so, do you ever take them?

Vannucci: In the early days, there may have been a couple attempts from family members to chime in. I would politely listen to what they say, but I don’t think anything ever made its way into a Killers song.

Kimmel: Have the four of you guys ever shared a room?

Flowers: Yeah, when we were recording in Berkeley, we were all in the same room.

Kimmel: And how did you split that up, bedwise?

Flowers: There was a couch in the room, so I think I went on the couch because I was younger than them. I sort of got last dibs.

Kimmel: And then who had to pair up? Were there multiple beds?

Flowers: I think it was one of those two-room deals or, like, a kitchenette, where there was, like, a double-bed-and-a-couch scenario, and then we got a rollaway or something.

Vannucci: This is, like, before everybody had access to cellphones, otherwise we would’ve taken pictures.

Kimmel: This is not necessarily a music-related question. I want you to go back into your lives and think about this. What’s the first award you ever won?

Vannucci: I actually won the school talent show in fifth grade.

Kimmel: For playing the drums?

Vannucci: Yeah.

Kimmel: And what did that feel like? Were you instantly a celebrity at school?

Vannucci: Yeah, I went from nobody to being a drummer. The runner-up was this girl who made French toast.

Kimmel: Did you get to try the French toast?

Vannucci: Yeah, it was good. It just goes to show the level of my talent if French toast is the runner-up.

Kimmel: I know you’re being sarcastic, but I think if you asked a thousand people, “What would you rather have right now, a drum solo or some nice French toast?” 900-something of them would say French toast. So I think that’s fairly impressive.

Vannucci: You’re right. It was good, and then my family moved away, like, two days later so there was sort of this legend. I left a legend.

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Minor Poet’s “And How!”

Tomorrow, the EggHunt label will release And How!, the debut album from Minor Poet. A band in name only, Minor Poet is Richmond, Va., musician Andrew Carter, who wrote, played and recorded the 11 songs on the LP all by his lonesome over the course of two months after the breakup of his band the Mad Extras. Says Carter of the album, “And How! was made during an uncertain period in my life—the kind of time where a dread hangs over everything you try to do. Recording these songs was my escape. I was all alone in my dingy basement studio, getting lost in the songs and remembering why I loved making music in the first place. All I hope is that people wanna listen to this album’s weird little world and connect through our shared anxieties and daily existential dramas.” You can preorder And How! here, but you can also try before you buy below. We are proud to premiere the album today on magnetmagazine.com. Check it out now.

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Johnny Dango’s “Recluse In Plain Sight”

On September 1, Johnny Dango will release Recluse In Plain Sight. The Austin-based singer/songwriter has been a member of Brothers & Sisters and the Memphis Strange and a sideman for Stoney LaRue, but now he’s going out on his own with his solo debut. Says Dango, “A not-so-secret hope is that other musicians might potentially somehow hear it and be inspired to take more chances with their own work, to not play it so safe all the time. I don’t feel like I’m doing anything new here. These songs are all kind of throwbacks to other, more elegant eras. But, they’re sounds I wanted to hear paired with the words and melodies I had bouncing around in my head. So I made a record of it.” Dango will do an acoustic tour in support of Recluse In Plain Sight this fall, then, he says, “I’ll lay low and hopefully write some new stuff in the winter. I’ve got another record coming out in January, so I’ll be touring to support that.” In the meantime, check out Recluse In Plain Sight below. We are proud to premiere the album today on magnetmagazine.com. Says Dango of the LP, “I hope it’s a fun little record for anyone who bothers to give it a listen. We tried to keep it fairly short, since attention spans aren’t what they used to be. I don’t expect it to inspire anyone to go out and register to vote or volunteer to help the hungry or mentally ill, but that would be a nice development, wouldn’t it? It’s only rock ‘n’ roll, but I like it. Mick Jagger said that, and I’m repeating it over and over again. Because it’s the truth.”

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of The Domestics’ “For The Last Time,” From Their Upcoming “Little Darkness”

On September 1, Tender Loving Empire will issue the sophomore album by The Domestics. For the 11-track Little Darkness, the Portland duo—Michael Finn and Leo London—collaborated with hometown producer Tucker Martine (Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, Decemberists); Finn and Martine have also worked together on records by the likes of Neko Case/k.d. lang/Laura Veirs, Bill Frisell and Darlene Love at Martine’s Flora Recording studio. One of the standout tracks on Little Darkness is “For The Last Time.” Says London of the song, “I wrote ‘For The Last Time’ driving home from work. I was just singing the lines as I made them up, literally tailgating cars, trying to get home and record it while I could remember the melody. The song was all verse, but I had this funny song I used to sing a friend who told me about a time she got high with her dad at a Destiny’s Child show. So I put it into the mix as the hypothetical song the character is referring to. The song’s about the emptiness of a long work week and a disappointing check. Love is out of reach, and the only thing that sounds good is getting loaded. And then the dread of how it will all be exactly the same after the weekend. Rinse, wash and repeat. It’s in A major, which seems like a funny key for a pop song.” We are proud to premiere “For The Last Time” today on magnetmagazine.com. Check it out below.

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of The Heroic Enthusiast’s “When The Deal Is Done,” From Their Upcoming Self-Titled Debut

In October, the Heroic Enthusiasts will issue their self-titled debut album. The Rochester, N.Y., band’s self-produced LP was mixed by Mercury Rev’s Anthony Molina and is out via the Bodan Kuma label. Formed in 2014, the quartet is made up of James Tabbi (Eleven Pond), Thomas Ferrara (Bullseye), Mike James (Longwave) and Dexter Redic (Roots Collider). Says James, “We all hit it off with a mutual love of bands like Japan and Cocteau Twins. I think we knew there was immediate chemistry, and I was indeed intrigued by the sound. It wasn’t forced or revivalist to me. It sounded honest.” We are proud to premiere first single “When The Deal Is Done” today on magnetmagazine.com. Check it out below.

Exclusive Excerpt: The National “Heaven Up Here”

Here’s an exclusive excerpt of the current MAGNET cover story. To read the whole thing, order a copy of the issue here.

For its first album in four years, the National moved upstate, experimented with electronics and completed its long climb to the top of indie rock

Story by Matthew Fritch
Photo by Gene Smirnov

“I don’t make it back to the house much anymore.”

If you believe him, Matt Berninger has been living outdoors for the last four days on a farmland property called Long Pond in New York’s Hudson Valley. A few hundred feet behind the farmhouse there is an actual pond, a skinny strip of still water surrounded by reeds, and a small, square wooden dock. The curiously pale Berninger is sitting on the dock barefooted and wearing shorts and a T-shirt with a floppy straw hat and sunglasses; he looks like old Huckleberry Finn or, less romantically, like a beach-vacation dad. A bullfrog croaks from the sedges along the edge of the water.

“I named him Drake after ‘Signs’ came out,” says Berninger. “Because he just sits there and does nothing.”

A sick, and au courant, burn from the brambles of the modern world. Berninger is periodically resupplied with scrawny joints and cans of La Croix, and he pees in the bushes. After an hourlong conversation with MAGNET, he strips off his shirt, dives into the murky pond water and is not seen again until the next day.

Not all of these outdoorsy details are accurate—let’s say there are a couple dozen truths and one lie—but a few things should be made clear and real: Berninger is the singer for the National, and he is a full-time, punch-the-clock rock star. Over the past 15 years, his world-weary baritone and lyrics have given voice to America’s 21st-century decline (“Fake Empire”), embodied our collective sense of paranoia (“Afraid Of Everyone”) and ordered a woman named Karen to “put me in a chair, fuck me and make me a drink.” Somewhat reductively, he is indie rock’s Don Draper: a late bloomer, a Midwesterner who came to New York City to make his name, a mercurial talent with some manageable self-destructive tendencies. So far, however, he hasn’t revealed a secret past or an adulterous nature—although he may sing about them.

In this return to nature, Berninger is temporarily joined on the dock by the Devendorf brothers, Bryan and Scott—the National’s drummer and bassist, respectively. Bryan is the tall, impossibly skinny, bearded one with oversized sunglasses and a trucker hat; he is dryly funny and easy to engage in a conversation about the Bee Gees or Al Capone. Scott, the older of the Devendorf brothers, is almost entirely silent. When asked if he’d like to say a bit more for the record, Scott will shrug and sheepishly reply, “Not talking is good.”

Together with Berninger, the Devendorfs come across as the outdoor cats to the National’s other set of brothers, identical twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner. Aaron owns the Long Pond property and oversaw the building of the studio; he lives in the farmhouse and produced the band’s seventh album, Sleep Well Beast (4AD).

The National are having a moment, however unassumingly, at the top of whatever is left of serious rock music. The National’s career in 2017 is, in various ways, an echo of Wilco circa Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002), Radiohead circa Kid A (2000) and R.E.M. at various points a decade before them. Sleep Well Beast arrives four years after its predecessor and is notably shaded by electronic beats and squiggles but is unmistakably the five members of the National at work: an elegant, melancholy cathedral built for guitar-driven rock, with Berninger as its louche, low-voiced cantor. If you were to pile up the accolades, it would be apparent that it may not be possible for the band to get more critically acclaimed. In this time of deep American division, we may never agree again on anything the way we agree on the National.

In the face of such grand proclamations and great expectations, Bryan Devendorf utters the most practical, Midwestern, National-esque thing, and it hangs in the air like a mild scolding.

“I feel like we should be practicing more,” he says.

One advantage of having your own studio out in the country is the low crime rate. When the National rented a rehearsal space on Ninth Street in Brooklyn, a kid on the street outside randomly punched Bryan Devendorf in the face. It’s just one of a long list of indignities the band endured in its early days. What puts the National’s slow start into sharper relief is the fact that, before inhabiting the Ninth Street room—the face-punching one—the band occupied a practice space in Williamsburg in the early 2000s where its neighbors were Interpol and TV On The Radio, both of which were immediately and massively successful. Keeping up with the Joneses, never mind the Strokes, was never so demoralizing.

“We weren’t that great,” says Berninger. “We weren’t good enough to be listened to widely.”

Over the course of the late ’90s and early ’00s, the band members trickled into New York City from various colleges and employment outposts, but all five grew up in the middle-class suburbs of Cincinnati. Berninger and Scott Devendorf played in a college garage band called Nancy, while Bryan and the Dessners played middle-school basketball and, later, some of their own music.

Far from being a Middle American teenage wasteland, Ohio at the time was home to a fertile indie-rock scene that included local talent such as Brainiac, the Breeders, Guided By Voices and the Afghan Whigs. Bryan—whose musical tastes also veered toward the Grateful Dead—took drum lessons from Afghan Whigs drummer Steve Earle.

“We had a big thing that if (Afghan Whigs singer) Greg Dulli could be a rock star, then anyone could,” says Berninger. “And he was. I remember reading somewhere about him drinking tequila out of a high-heel shoe. And then a school teacher from Dayton (GBV’s Robert Pollard) put out Bee Thousand and changed the chemistry of rock ’n’ roll music. In the ’90s, Southern Ohio was way cooler than New York or Brooklyn.”

By 1999, everyone in the National but Bryce, who was studying classical music at Yale, was living in New York City, and they began to coalesce around making eight-track recordings in Berninger’s Brooklyn loft. On paper, Berninger was a dot-com millionaire. He parlayed his design degree from the University of Cincinnati into a job making websites for pharmaceutical companies and moved up to the position of creative director at an ad agency. (The Don Draper parallels don’t go away easily.) In 2001, the National’s forgettable self-titled debut was released on Brassland, a record label founded by the Dessners and college friend Alec Bemis.

“I didn’t even realize we were making a band back then,” says Aaron. “It was fun, we were drinking some beer. There wasn’t much thought put into the first record.”

When asked about the world’s reaction at the time to The National, Bemis is blunt: “Nothing. There was nothing. People were intrigued, but the band wasn’t touring. They had day jobs. (NYC record store) Other Music took a couple of the records on consignment.”

It’s difficult to know what, exactly, kept the National together in its low-key pursuit of a music career, but one theory is that life started to knock the guys around a little bit. The tech economy imploded, and Berninger had to lay off the staff he’d hired. There was heartbreak (“I dated a girl for three weeks that I was crushed by,” recalls Berninger) and, of course, the traumatic aftershocks of September 11.

“I think in that post-9/11 period, there was a lot of flailing around, throwing care to the wind,” says Bryan. “Heavy drinking every night.”

“I was a loner drinker,” says Berninger. “Two packs of cigarettes and some pizza and a 12-pack. I’d listen to Nick Cave and be depressed and write lyrics.”

Somehow, the band coalesced around Berninger’s bleak lyrics. Bryce had arrived from Yale to join the band officially, and the formerly sleepy New York City music scene began to stir. When the National issued Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers in 2003, this group of 30-ish-year-olds was competing for attention with a largely younger and more beautiful set of local contemporaries: the Strokes, Interpol and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, among others. The National, meanwhile, had an image crisis—or a lack of one—that plagues the band to this day.

“Our style was Pavement,” says Berninger. “Pavement looked like they just didn’t care. They would wear parkas and shorts onstage. We were also desperate. There were a couple photo shoots where scarves were involved. Drawstring pants and espadrilles are starting to creep into our style now. None of us could ever get on the same page. I mean, look at [Bryan]. I wear suits and Bryan wears cutoff sweatpants. Whenever we try to create a sort of playbook, it’s never worked.”

Berninger is dismissive of Sad Songs. “It was like looking in different windows and often finding nothing much to look at,” he says. But it was a distinctive, dark voice—Berninger’s craggy baritone ranges from a croak to a howl—among all the brighter lights at the time.

“That’s when we started to get hungry again, with Sad Songs and going to see all these other bands,” says Berninger. “The Strokes’ record had come out. We knew at least not to try to be any of those bands. Sad Songs is us desperately trying to avoid being one of the 50 bands that copied the Strokes and Interpol.”

Says Bryan, “We were often just avoiding things.”

The Dessners, in particular, began to realize that a rising tide in the New York music scene could lift all boats, and they redoubled their efforts to both network with other bands and focus on the permanence of their own recordings. A recurring dynamic in the National is that the Dessner twins—not to make them sound un-fun—are relentlessly, yet quietly, driven.

“I remember Bryce and I having specific conversations around the time of Sad Songs and just afterward that, ‘If we’re going to make a song we have to feel really confident about the music, otherwise we’re going to get stuck with it,’” says Aaron. “It was kind of like, ‘Let’s not give Matt anything unless we’re confident we can do something with it.’ And that’s when we got more thoughtful.”

2004’s Cherry Tree EP was partially recorded at Bryan Devendorf’s house by his wife, and it is the rare case when you can hear a band snap into focus over the course of five new songs. It begins with the sound of sleigh bells, shaking open “Wasp Nest,” and Berninger sleepily sings, “You’re cussing a storm in a cocktail dress.” All of a sudden, the National has miles of style—and it’s persistent, continuing to the audacious “All The Wine” and the best, most provocative metaphor of 2004: “I’m a birthday candle in a circle of black girls.”

“With Cherry Tree, the gene strain started to mutate,” says Berninger.

The momentum carried over to 2005’s Alligator (which wisely reprised “All The Wine”), widely considered to be the National’s breakout album. Just as the hype from the Strokes and Interpol died down, this smoldering underdog made permanent marks. The band scored with anxious rock anthems (“Abel,” “Mr. November”) and surreal, orchestral laments (“The Geese Of Beverly Road”). A sophisticated and nervously energetic album that evoked watershed moments from the Pixies, Smiths and R.E.M., Alligator made almost everything else at the time seem like children’s music.

After Alligator, there is a long middle section to the National’s career. It arcs upward, slowly but steadily, carefully burnishing the band’s sound into deeper shades of perfection. Maybe too perfect—the band’s last two albums, High Violet and Trouble Will Find Me, almost resemble museum pieces: artful, chiseled, but somehow distant. Could the inscrutable National exhaust us with its greatness? A 2013 Slate article (“Why I Hate The National”) finally fired a shot across the bow: “The National makes me feel that rock music, like much of American literature and visual art before it, has died and gone to graduate school.” It should be noted that, near the end of the piece, the author acknowledged that he may need psychological therapy.

“We haven’t been shit on enough,” says Berninger. “That’s the funny thing—it always does happen, eventually. Dylan has made some of the worst records anyone’s ever made. He has. But he’s also made five or 10 of the best ones ever made.”

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Joseph Childress’ “White Castle Creek Mother,” From His Upcoming Self-Titled Album

Singer/songwriter Joseph Childress returns October 6 with the self-titled follow-up (on Empty Cellar) to 2013 debut album The Rebirths. Prior to writing the songs on the new LP, San Francisco resident Childress spent time traveling around the West, living out of his car, riding trains and working on a cattle ranch. He then went to Portland to record the album with Mike Coykendall (M. Ward, Bright Eyes, She & Him), who added guitar, percussion, fiddle and bass, as well as a supporting cast of musicians including Aaron Robinson (Sean Rowe) and Joey Ficken (Swords). “I tried to keep it very organic, not a lot of special treatments,” says Childress. “My goal was to make it sound as if we were playing in your living room.”

We are proud to premiere first single “White Castle Creek Mother” today on magnetmagazine.com. Check it out below

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Guided By Voices’ “How Do You Spell Heaven”

Robert Pollard (high)kicks off his 101st full-length record with a song so catchy you’ll wear out the repeat button (or the turntable stylus) playing it over and over again. With its simple riff and typically anthemic chorus, the immediately indelible “The Birthday Democrats” amply proves that Pollard’s unprecedented creative spark shows no signs of going dark. As you will hear, the rest of Guided By VoicesHow Do You Spell Heaven confirms that notion. Pollard ceded the spotlight to his bandmates—guitar wizard Doug Gillard, drummer Kevin March, bassist Mark Shue and second guitarist Bobby Bare Jr.—on a fair amount of August By Cake numbers, but the streamlined, consistent Heaven is all Pollard-penned, even the instrumental “Pearly Gates Smoke Machine,“ which features Gillard dealing off a litany of hot licks. The songwriting deity admits “I dream of drinking” on “Cretinous Number Ones” and implores you to “take a shot with your eyes down” on the burst of melodic power pop that’s “Diver Dan.” Clearly, the church, er, the club is going to remain open for a while. Let us pray.

MAGNET is proud to premiere How Do You Spell Heaven. When you’re done listening, watch the official trailer for the album below.

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Ryan Wong’s “Good Lovin’,” From His Upcoming “More Milk”

On August 4, Cool Ghouls singer/guitarist Ryan Wong will release solo debut More Milk on cassette and digitally via the Empty Cellar label. You can pre-order it here. Self-recorded by Wong, More Milk features him on most of the instruments with drums courtesy of Cool Ghouls bandmate Alex Fleshman, along with contributions from friends Richard Harkins (drums) and Seth Snyder (flute). We are proud to premiere “Good Lovin'” today on magnet magazine.com. Check it out below.