In terms of immediate influences, most National fans would probably point to Pavement, The Smiths or Joy Division before mentioning Phish and the Grateful Dead. As Deadheads with ties to the indie rock world, was there a time you felt the Dead and indie worlds started to co-exist?

SD: I think we kind of liked it early enough that the whole “us being in an indie rock band thing and all that stuff” didn’t make much of a difference. It wasn’t like we got into it simultaneously—it was more like a historical thing. We grew up with the Dead and followed them through all the music [we’ve listened too and made]. Obviously, The National makes music that’s different than the Dead, but I never really saw a huge difference. I feel recently people have come around to the Grateful Dead—people who didn’t get it before are now embracing it so that’s interesting.

BD: It’s funny you mentioned Pavement, right. I feel like Malkmus has that idiosyncratic guitar style and unique approach.

SD: Yeah, there’s a jam quality to the way he plays. I think he acknowledges it—he stretches out the songs. I never really thought about it as being a hugely different thing, a different world.

BD: I guess more culturally, like a divide. That’s why we’re doing a Bridge Session to cross that divide.

Have the Grateful Dead influenced any specific elements of The National’s style or approach?

SD: Maybe partly in the songwriting. I know the twins [National guitarists and songwriters Aaron and Bryce Dessners] are big fans and grew up with that music and played that music. And you guys [Bryan and the Dessners] had a folk rock group that definitely had some jam influence to it. But we don’t really stretch out our songs. I think of it more of the spirit of the Grateful Dead that we have in common, the feel of it all.

BD: There is a family’s feeling to both our bands and I think you see a clue of [the Dead’s influence] in our music in that way. We both have a crew.

SD: I guess the organization in a way is a big influence on us. It’s just in the back of our minds when we’re trying to do things. We went to the Grateful Dead archives show [in Uptown New York] when it was playing at the New York Historical Society. It was awesome to see all these weird little details like the letters to the Egyptian consulate and all these crazy articles and artifacts. We deal with all of that on a much smaller level so it was interesting to see how they interacted with their fan base and organization.

You guys both attract geeks to your music.

SD: Yeah, I guess we’re big music fans—you can really get into all the details of their world.

When I interviewed Matt at Langerado he told the story of a time you “dragged” him to a Phish show at Deer Creek. Do you remember his reaction to the show?

SD: It was longer than a couple of years ago, but we did take him to a show. He agreed to go—well, maybe you could say he was dragged. He wasn’t ready for the culture of the whole thing and maybe not the music either. [Laughter.] But it was interesting for him to see that environment. I remember watching Phil Lesh and Friends out the window of our transporter as we were leaving that festival in Florida [Langerado]. They were on the bigger stage and we finished and had to leave. We missed that.

BD: I think part of Matt’s problem with Phish was just getting around it all—that and being outside amongst a lot of people.

When it came to arrangements for the upcoming show with Bobby did you look to certain tapes or studio versions of songs or did you try to capture an overall period of the band?

BD: I think that was mostly the work of Josh, who is doing the musical direction. We all collaborated on song choices. A big part of it was looking at different eras and what we would be capable of given or limitation and what not. It was mostly his work to get the arrangements together. We basically picked songs that we liked and that we could play…

SC: …Which is a short list [of songs we can play well]. We tried to be ambitious and Josh especially getting arrangements together. We’re not trying to mimic any era really.

BD: Honor it. Emulate it a little bit.

SC: Yeah, a little bit.

BD: Not really trying to precisely replicate anything.

SC: We’re trying to put a little bit of our spin on the songs, but also honor where they came from.

BD: There is a lot of stuff that I can’t do that Billy [Kreutzmann] does. You think you can do it, you hear it. And then you sit down and try to do it and you’re like “Oh, I can’t do this.”

SD: Yeah, there’s a lot of things we can’ t do. [Laughter.]

There’s a lot of things you can do from what I heard today.

BD: Yeah, what we can do well, we try to exploit that.

SD: And we have a lot of people involved

BD: The actual lineup is going to have a horn player, piano, another guitar player and Aaron from The National playing guitar.

SD: And Bob.

BD: And of course, Bob Weir.

Does Aaron have as deep roots in the Grateful Dead world as you two?

BD: He does, yeah. He’s a big fan.

SD: We came out of that same era. It was like secondary education. The Dead were a rite of passage. Conrad went to prep school in Canada. They traded tapes. It was like a culture of being a young male, coming of age like, “Oh it’s the Dead. Oh, this is cool. Smoke some pot.” We are all big fans of The Allman Brothers, too and other bands like that.

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