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Matt Berninger of The National: Interview on The Sound of Young America

Matt Berninger

Matt Berninger is the frontman of the Brooklyn rock band The National. Their latest release is High Violet. He talked with us about the bands roots, in Cincinnati, and about slowly developing the group from hobby to headliner.

JESSE THORN: It’s The Sound of Young America, I’m Jesse Thorn. My guest, Matt Berninger, is ten years or a little bit more into his rock and roll career with his band The National. They’ve gone from a tiny, independent label of which they were partly the boss to, with each passing record, a little bit more national renown. They’ve now made the transition from critic starlings to at least the indie mainstream’s darlings, and they’re continuing to grow. Their newest album is called High Violet. Let’s hear a little bit of one of the singles from the record, “Bloodbuzz Ohio.”

Matt Berninger, welcome to the Sound of Young America. It’s so great to have you on the show.

MATT BERNINGER: Thank you, thank you. I’m excited to be here.

Click Here For a Full Transcript of Our Interview

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: The Sporkful


Vital stats:
Format: food talk, but specifically eating talk
Duration: ~20m
Frequency: weekly
Archive available on iTunes: all

Sporks march shamefully in my Gen-Y internet perp walk right alongside monkeys, robots, pirates, and ninjas. The presence of any is usually a strong disrecommendation in and of itself, a red flag of sensibility, tone, or (worst of all) “irreverence” mechanically prioritized above substance. Then again, The Sporkful [RSS] [iTunes] is hosted by Dan Pashman and Mark Garrison of public radio’s “short-lived but much-beloved” The Bryant Park Project, public radio being the busiest intersection of belovedness and cancellation. Despite having never caught that program, I’d heard it was kind of neat, so I figured I’d put my spork-related qualms aside and give their new food show a chance.

Though The Sporkful is podcast-only, Pashman and Garrison have evidently retained a good deal of that distinctive energy radio-y radio beats into you. They speak rapidly and forcefully, as if with eyes fixed on the ticking clock. (The especially nice thing about podcasting, I’ve always thought, is that there is no ticking clock, but hey.) As a firm believer that podcast episodes should be no shorter than my favorite Tarkovsky film, I admit to having eyed their twenty-minute episode lengths dubiously. How on Earth to cram a nuanced discussion of poutine into such a compressed time frame? Bit here’s the thing: the hosts aren’t food critics; they’re sports commentators.

Now, as an aficionado of public radio and Tarkovsky, I have no idea what sports commentary sounds like, but, culinary content aside, this is how I imagine it. The rapid-firing Pashman (who sounds like a second cousin of Stop Podcasting Yourself’s Graham Clark) and Garrison are opinionated, argumentative, and all about the action, the down/dirty physical realities of food and eating. They bill the show as “for eaters, not foodies,” and that’s about right, especially given the sheer number of debates they get into about how best to bite into various comestibles. Occasional guests, like Radio Lab’s Robert Krulwich on sandwiches [MP3] or Marc Maron on coffee [MP3], can get pretty het up about these matters.

To top pumpkin pie or not to top pumpkin pie; the optimal coffee-dunking speed of a yeast donut; the hosts’ eternal struggle about bite consistency versus bite variety: these are important questions to anyone who eats, and that most of the media’s food conversation ignores them comes as a surprise. This isn’t a show concerned with exotic ingredients or elaborate preparatory flourishes; it’s all about being the best, most pleasure-extracting eater you can be. Whether this is more or less hedonic than all those foodie tracts about Belgian endive and Azerbaijani puff pastry I have yet to resolve, but it turns out to be one of the very few stripes of populism I can get on board with.

The most recent peak of The Sporkful’s usefulness, for my money, comes in its episode on buffet strategy [MP3]. (If we’re going to speak populistically, we might as well take it to the limit.) Though Pashman and Garrison’s techniques differ in the details, they agree solidly on one thing: when you approach the buffet, in the name of all that is good and pure, blow past the landslide of starches restaurants always place at the beginning and survey the whole thing before you take any food. That way, you can load up on the precious, expensive proteins rather than, say, potatoes, which is just what the management — your enemy — wants you to do. File this discussion in the Why-They-Hate-Us folder if you must, but it’s more relevant to the landscape we actually navigate every day than the last hundred hours of election analysis you listened to.

[Podthinker Colin Marshall also happens to be the host and producer of public radio’s The Marketplace of Ideas [iTunes], the blogger of The War on Mediocrity and the writer of The Ubuweb Experimental Video Project.]

Larry Sanders on DVD


I've spent the bulk of my non-working time the last few days devouring the DVD box set of The Larry Sanders Show. It's probably my favorite TV show, ever... brilliantly funny and powerful in every way. Some of the best acting you'll see on TV, anywhere, anytime, and some of the best writing, too.

The box set has some great extra features, as well. Among other things, you can watch Garry Shandling kick the shit out of Alec Baldwin in the boxing ring, and hear Shandling argue over jokes with Judd Apatow. Once again, the folks at Shout! Factory have come through with a wonderful collection that goes above and beyond my expectations.

If you're on the fence about buying this, come down. It's time to pull the trigger. This is pretty much the best $100 you can spend on entertainment.

The Onion News Network on IFC

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Onion News Network - Coming To IFC January 2011

The Onion News Network is probably my favorite thing on the internet, and I couldn't be more excited that it's coming to IFC. I visited IFC (who are the home of the show I host, The Grid) the other day in New York, and everyone is over the moon about this show. As they should be. I'm looking forward to it.

Judd Apatow on Sale at McSweeney's


Our pals at McSweeney's have decided to celebrate our interview with Judd Apatow with a special on his (great) new book, I Found This Funny. You can get it from their store for an even $20, and you can rest assured that your money's going to support two great causes (McSweeney's and 826 National).

"Stitcher's Top Picks" - Thanks, Stitcher!


Finally, we have achieved our dream: parity with the audio from the Glenn Beck TV show. Thanks, Stitcher!

(and thanks to Joe for sending this over)

The Alumni Newsletter: November 17, 2010

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  • Reggie Watts, who performed at The Sound of Young America Live! at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival in 2009, performed on Conan last night (11/16).

  • We can look forward to Aziz Ansari and new addition to the cast Adam Scott on "Parks and Recreation" on its newly announced return to NBC's schedule on January 20th at 9:30pm, following The Office.

  • Bestselling author George Saunders gives some words of advice to creative writers and those considering MFA programs.

  • And finally, a fun video from St. Vincent for her song Laughing with a Mouth Full of Blood featuring Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen.

Ep. 153: Danishes and Bear Claws with Neal Pollack

Neal Pollack

Neal Pollack joins Jesse and Jordan to discuss yoga, yogis, bear claws, danishes, Danes and more. Neal Pollack's new book, Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude, is a hilarious look at how Pollack learned to love yoga. Danish teen intern Johannes also joins in on the fun.

MaxFunCon: The Movie


Join us for MaxFunCon 2011, June 10th-12th in Lake Arrowhead, California.

Tickets go on sale at on Black Friday, November 26th.

Gamer Grub with Jordan on The Grid


In case you've been living UNDER A ROCK, I've been hosting an IFC show called The Grid, and Jordan has been a regular contributor. Above, one of his great segments, on a very sad product called Gamer Grub.

Watch! Thursdays, 7:45 PM Eastern / 4:45 Pacific.

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