The National released Trouble Will Find Me in May, but 2013 hasn't brought them much trouble. Since the album's release, the Brooklyn-based indie rockers have played some of their biggest and most unusual shows, including gigs at a basketball arena and an art museum. Bassist Scott Devendorf describes these experiences as "interesting, scary and exciting." I talked with him before the band's Sept. 15 show at the Orpheum.
Singer Matt Berninger has mentioned concerns about living up to expectations with several previous albums, but not so much with this one. What's your perspective?
We're always concerned about making a different record from our last record. I think what Matt said was that we had like 30-something song ideas we were working on, without expectation of making this type of song or that type of song.... I think that works, like on songs in odd time signatures. And I think there are twice as many lyrics as on High Violet. [Trouble] was more sprawling, [which] was refreshing.
There are two sets of brothers in the National. How has that dynamic shaped the band?
That's the glue that keeps the band together. [We were] longtime friends before the band existed, and I think that's always fueled our desire to do this thing together and make it as much as it can be for us. The twins [guitarists Aaron and Bryce Dessner] can finish each other's thoughts.
Earlier this year, the band played "Sorrow" for six hours straight in a museum. What was that like?
We were worried, but it turned out to be quite fun. The idea wasn't to suffer through it. It was more like a meditation, with the idea of gaining something rather than wearing yourself out.... We came out of it like, "Oh, we should do this more often, practice for hours and hours." I think we played the song 108 times in six hours.
What surprised us most was the endurance of the audience. We expected people to watch the song once or twice and leave, but most people ended up staying. It was like a marathon race where they were cheering us on as well as themselves.