Abstract, free-association lyrics from The National’s Matt Berninger meet the music of Menomena’s Brent Knopf to create “El Vy”, a band currently touring overseas to promote their debut album. Multimedia display produced by Jillian Kitchener.
MULTIMEDIA DISPLAY (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: After 18 months of touring with The National, frontman Matt Berninger is now touring internationally with a band called El Vy, a collaboration with musician and producer Brent Knopf (from Ramona Falls and Menomena). Berninger's long-time band The National had shot to international fame with their 2005/06 album "Alligator." The band's song "Fake Empire" appeared in campaign ads for Barack Obama during his race for presidency and The National opened for Obama in Madison, Wisconsin during the 2010 midterms. Even though Berninger says his new project El Vy doesn't make up for anything lacking in The National, nor does it serve as a replacement, he says it offers a different style from what he is known for. "The chemistry of the way Brent writes music is very different than the guys in the National," said Berninger, during a sold out concert at Washington, DC's 9:30 Club. Knopf, who writes the music for El Vy, said one of the biggest joys in collaborating is seeing how different sensibilities compliment each other. "There's almost a sense of infectiousness to it which I didn't expect but I'm happy it's there," said Knopf, referring to the eleven tracks on their album "Return to the Moon." Longtime friends Berninger and Knopf have been working on the album over a period of five years, with Knopf writing music and sending it Berninger's way to write the lyrics. These poetic, "free association" lyrics are what he is known for. "I am always writing about things I care about and obsess over and everything means something for sure to me. There's not always these literal riddles that have a solution…" said Berninger. "Leaving it a little bit milky and abstract always for me feels closer to the truth than explicitly trying to like color in all the spots or connect the dots." But Berninger explained some themes running throughout the album, revolving around two characters. "And I named them Didi and Michael after D. Boon and Mike Watt from Minutemen," he said. The Minutemen were a punk rock trio from California, with guitarist/vocalist D Boon and his childhood friend bassist/vocalist Mike Watt. The band fell apart after Boon died in a car crash in 1985. "I'm interested in kind of following the characters more. They boil down to, they're basically different versions of me," said Berninger. After friendly laughter between Berninger and Knopf, the vocalist shared his opening lyrics of the album, from a song titled Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, with Crescendo) "Scratched a ticket with the leg of a cricket and I got triple Jesus. I cashed that in for a Siamese twin at the family firing range. Then I went to bed and I woke up inside another man's head and nobody noticed. I'm so excited the senator's a fighter, don't tell me nothing's changed." Berninger pointed to themes of religion and the pursuit of the American dream. "You know, you think that Jesus will provide you the answers or you know if you win the lottery, that will solved your problems," said Berninger. Fans of both The National and El Vy agree Berninger's lyrics have "gold in there" and "the kind of insight you would expect from a good friend." El Vy has been playing sold out shows in the U.S. and internationally. They'll be finishing up their tour on December 13 in Dublin, Ireland, after playing in Brussels, Paris and London among other cities.