The National are the George Clooney of indie bands: a class act toiling in obscurity for years before 2007's Boxer, the album equivalent of a transcendent role on ER, made stardom unavoidable. ''Through the early years, we sort of learned how to respect ourselves even in the face of failure, and sometimes because of it,'' says frontman Matt Berninger. ''We learned how to be a good live band in the shadows.''
Those days are over. The National are poised for a colossal year, with a new album, another tour, and a rock documentary, Mistaken for Strangers (release date TBA), that was the toast of April's Tribeca Film Festival. The album, Trouble Will Find Me, is the band's most ambitious effort yet, with traces of Cat Stevens and Roy Orbison sprinkled throughout.
And while Berninger may be the face of the band, his ''lovable f---up'' brother Tom (who directed Strangers) steals the doc, which chronicles his backstage misadventures as a roadie. ''My mom used to [call and] ask me about the records,'' says Berninger. ''All she cares about now is Tom's movie. In a funny way, I'm right there with her.''