The National Film, Mistaken for Strangers, Opens at Esquire Theatre

Mar 31, 2014

Cincinnati native and lead singer of The National, Matt Berninger, is coming home tonight with little brother Tom. The duo will answer questions at the Esquire Theater about their new rockumentary, Mistaken for Strangers, produced by Tom.  The film is getting positive reviews.

The National has toured worldwide, and has been featured on the Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live. The group lives in Brooklyn but all five of them are from Cincinnati. Matt Berninger is lead singer with a baritone voice. He’s a rock star and really nice guy.

Matt: "I was in late high school, early college when the Afghan Whigs and the Breeders and stuff like that were makin' a splash and it made me believe that maybe I could do that too. If Greg Dulli, came from the west side of Cincinnati, can be a rock star, it made me believe that maybe I could too.

The National didn’t even start til we were all living in New York for different reasons but, you know Cincinnati is a big part of our band for sure. There’s something about our personalities and ethics and vibe or something like that. We feel more like a Cincinnati band than a New York band even though the band formed in New York, so yeah."

A few years ago, after the release of The National’s fifth album High Violet, Matt invited his younger brother Tom to go on tour with the group and help manage. Tom’s always been into film making so he brought his camera on the tour. That’s what led to the film, Mistaken for Strangers. Yeah, it’s about the group and the relationship of Matt and Tom.

Cheri: "How has your relationship changed with your rock star brother? And one of your lines at least in the trailer is, 'Being Matt’s brother sucks!.' Did you not say that?"

Tom: "I mean, in a way it does suck being his brother, in a certain way. I mean I was never jealous of him. I was always curious, since we’re nine years apart. I was always wondering why it seemed like to me at the time, in my twenties, my brother had made all the right decisions with his life and I was making the wrong decisions, I guess.

In some ways, it sucks because I think I also had dreams and aspirations to be some sort of awesome movie maker like James Cameron or George Lucas or Peter Jackson. And I had big aspirations like my brother did but somehow he was able to figure out how to gather all of those and work hard and figure out how to actually do 'em. And it just took me this movie and spending some time with my brother to do it myself. Finally being able to do it myself."

Tom says he didn’t do very well in school. But he does credit WNKU’s "Mr Rhythm Man" with having a huge impact on his life. "Rhythm Man" was his art and journalism teacher at Elder High School

Tom: "I had 'Mr Rhythm.' I don’t even know if people knew he was a teacher. I don’t want to blow his cover. Yeah, other than art and journalism. He really embraced me. Everybody has a teacher that changed their life and Bob Beemon was that for me."

Tom is humbled by the comments about his film by Michael Moore who says Mistaken for Strangers is the best rock documentary he’s ever seen.

Tom: "His movies, you know whether you like Michael Moore or not, they’re funny, you know they’re cut like comedies. And he’s got a great sense of humor and that meant a lot. And for the first time you know my brother being who he is and being as famous as he is, he was always able to introduce my parents to other famous people.

For the first time in my life I was able to introduce my parents to Michael Moore. That meant a lot to me, you know, to do something for my parents much like my brother did for them."

Matt Berninger says he and Tom, along with the National’s drummer Bryan Devendorf, will be at the Esquire Theater in person tonight to answer questions about Mistaken for Strangers.

Matt: "That’s where Tom and I would go see little weird repertory movies that were coming to Cincinnati that made us feel like Cincinnati has a really cool side to it. And, the fact that our movie is playing at the Esquire on Ludlow down there is kind of a really surreal wonderful feeling and we just can’t wait to be there.

It’s kind of like one of these weird little dreams come true. The type of dream you don’t actually dare to have but the fact that we have a movie opening up in Cincinnati at the Esquire is a huge huge thrill and we can’t wait."

Cheri: "Wow, Matt, thank you so much. And thanks to your brother Tom, really appreciate you being with us on WNKU.

Matt: "Thanks a lot. We’ll see you Monday."