Berninger, Matt - Serpentine prison CD
“When I was a kid, my dad’s favorite record was Willie Nelson’s Stardust. I have a really great dad, and that record has a tenderness and optimism that must have worked its way into the fabric of my soul because every time I hear it, I feel safe and happy.
I had been wanting to make a covers record like Stardust for a long time. Then in 2010, thanks to cosmic magic or god or whatever, Olivia Jones reached out to me to see if I’d be willing to duet with the incomparable Sharon Jones on a song Olivia had written with her dad, Booker T. Jones, the man who produced and arranged Stardust. The two hours I spent in a crowded little Manhattan studio recording with Booker, his friends, collaborators, and family were the beginning of our friendship. In 2018, after the National finished recording I Am Easy to Find, I decided it was time to make my version of Stardust. I wrote to Booker and Olivia, who was now his manager, and they liked the idea.
It felt like the right time to do it, partly because I wanted to do something new but also because my dad and I were arguing a lot. A few years earlier, my parents had sold our house in Cincinnati to someone who immediately bulldozed all the flower beds and turned my old bedroom into a gun room. My parents relocated to Snoqualmie, WA to be near my sister’s family, and when we were all together for Christmas my Dad and I got into a bad fight. I was mad at a long list of things, only one or two of which were his fault, but on Christmas Eve I unleashed it all on him. My dad’s birthday is December 25th. I gave him gardening tools.
A few weeks later, I started sending Booker songs that I wanted to cover. I also sent him a few rough demos of originals that I had started working on with some old friends, including the songs “Serpentine Prison” and “Distant Axis”. Booker responded to those demos right away and encouraged me to keep writing and digging deeper into that stuff. Six months later we had twelve originals and seven covers. Everyone I had been working with on these songs came to Venice, CA, and we recorded it all in 14 days.
This record isn’t about my dad, but it is for him.” – MB
1. My Eyes Are T-Shirts
2. Distant Axis
3. One More Second
4. Loved So Little
5. Silver Springs
6. Oh Dearie
7. Take Me Out of Town
8. Collar Of Your Shirt
9. All For Nothing
10. Serpentine Prison