Matt Berninger is trying to give peace a chance.
“After (Trump) won, I went to a strange, internal place. I couldn’t get my head around it,” Berninger confessed to the Daily News. “Fear and hatred, selfishness and corporate interests (are) all that stuff winning Washington.”
As lead singer of Brooklyn indie rockers The National, Berninger, 46, has regularly used his platform as an artist to speak his mind when it comes to political and social issues.
Songs like “Mr. November” off 2005’s “Alligator” and “Fake Empire” from their 2007 breakout “Boxer” encapsulate the hopes and anxieties of living in a post-9/11 America. Beyond their music, the band has also publicly supported presidential campaigns by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, as well as Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Although Berninger has been reluctant to ever explicitly label The National a political band, it’s difficult to ignore the profound impact the 2016 Presidential election had on the group’s seventh album, “Sleep Well Beast,” which was released on Sept. 8.
“It’s definitely about a marriage that’s evolving or mutating or struggling,” Berninger said. “It feels to me like a staying-together album.”
Berninger thinks Trump is a “twisted boy” who “didn’t get hugged by his dad.”
One of the overarching themes of “Sleep Well Beast” — how to keep something from falling apart in the midst of constant flux — also serves as a potentially hopeful nod to the country’s current state of affairs.
“I think we thought we were somewhere, but we were actually 1,000 miles away,” Berninger said. “I actually feel a clearer understanding of America now. Even though it’s an ugly situation, it is a true situation.”
Berninger actually sounds grateful that Trump became President, if only for the fact that Americans can now confront the country’s “original sins” of racism, sexism, genocide, oppression and greed with greater clarity.
“(Trump) is an American mirror. And I think we need to look right at him so we can look at the government and we can look at ourselves,” Berninger said.
He also refuses the popular notion that Trump — who Berninger calls a “twisted boy” who “didn’t get hugged by his dad” — is some sort of outlier who isn’t representative of American values.
The National first found acclaim as members of Brooklyn’s mid-2000s indie rock scene.
(Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
“I recognize Trump; I see him everywhere,” Berninger said. “He’s not special. He’s the way we are as Americans in many ways.”
In increasingly divisive times, Berninger is placing his faith in the “butterfly effect of kindness and empathy.”
“Whatever the opposite of selfishness is, just do that,” Berninger said. “What’s the thing that serves you or the thing that serves us? Just pick us and it’s always going to work out better.”
The National will play Forest Hills Stadium in Queens on Oct. 6.