In a half-hour video posted on the band’s official YouTube channel, Berninger speaks to David Letterman about his struggles with depression and how a period during and following lockdown sparked the new album.
You can watch the whole video below:
In September, the band surprise-released their latest album ‘Laugh Track’, just a few months after also releasing April’s acclaimed ‘First Two Pages of Frankenstein’. The band announced ‘Laugh Track’ during a concert in Cincinnati and released the album three days later.
Berninger explains in the video that it was the dissonance between maintaining a public persona and a stable private life that proved difficult. “I wasn’t writing at all, but [the band] kept sending music,” he said. “I don’t think they realised quite how debilitated I was. I didn’t really tell them how bad I was.”
“I’ve known that it’s a part of me, and that it comes and goes, and I know that it’s a healthy thing to make something out of it.”
He also spoke of the challenge of “having to kind of turn on a personality for an intense few hours” on stage, “and then turn it off, and then try to get some sleep and then the next day, turn it on, turn it off.”
Letterman himself expressed an understanding of the struggles, sharing that the challenge of maintaining his late night show sometimes felt like “holy hell”.
In September, NME spoke to Berninger about his writing process and its interaction with his mental health. “I don’t believe in ghosts,” he said, “but I believe in the power of the belief in ghosts. It’s the same thing with God. I don’t really believe in it, but I believe in its power.”
Speaking about the difficulty of the lockdown period and the absence of touring, Berninger added: “I was coming out of a long period where I’d just dried up and was in a depression. I just couldn’t write and that triggered a panic of never being able to go back and do this thing. It’s the thing I love to do and I’m better at it than anything else. When I couldn’t do that, it was pretty terrifying.”
“I tried to reboot myself physically, mentally and everything. Everything burned down. My brain burned to the ashes and I had to slowly rebuild it up again somehow. It was sobering to realise how fragile I was. Looking back, I was sick as hell. It was a whole physical thing triggered by real things and mental things. It was a total emotional and physical paralysis. I’ve learned to just respect it and respect how fragile everyone is.”
In a four-star review of ‘Laugh Track’, NME shared: “The tightness of ‘First Two Pages…’’s singles like ‘Tropic Morning News’ and ‘Eucalyptus’ are somewhat absent, though the looser structures and decision to allow the songs room to grow, melodically and lyrically pays off. In a statement shared with the record, Berninger says the period ‘feels like the shedding of a skin’ and the band walk into the unknown once again for their next creative cycle: a thrilling new chapter will surely emerge.”
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