Aaron Dessner, founding member of Brooklyn-based indie darlings, The National, is a man who has fallen hard and fast for the Premier League. “I’m probably more obsessed with football that I am with music,” he admitted unabashedly in a recent conversation on Grantland’s “Men In Blazers” podcast.
Anyone who listens to such haunting lyrics from the band’s single “Don’t Swallow the Cap” may find it unsurprising that the guitarist is a Liverpool fan:
I have only two emotions … Careful fear and dead devotion,
I can’t get the balance right … Throw my marbles in the fight
Dessner’s love of football springs from his days as high school co-captain in Cincinnati in the 1990s. “I wasn’t extremely fast but … my first step is quick and I was decently intelligent … fairly skillful but not powerful,” he said.
“I was definitely not a [Steven] Gerrard and not a Lucas [Leiva] and not a [Philippe] Coutinho -- I’m trying to think of a model. Jordan Henderson might be the closest.”
Liverpool became the object of Dessner’s devotion by marriage. “My wife is from Copenhagen and her father has been a huge Liverpool supporter since the early 1960s,” he explains, linking the club’s immense popularity in Scandinavia to their working-class brand, reinforced by the Beatles.
He has accompanied family members to a slew of Liverpool games over the last eight years. “Once you’re hooked, you’re hooked,” he said with a laugh.
When Dessner says “hooked,” he really means it. “The great thing about being on tour is that … the band plays at night and other than that we have a lot of free time,” he explains when asked how he keeps up with the game.
“I try to keep up with [the game] as much as possible. I stream matches, I watch them on television and sometimes I get to go see them in person. I’ll even go as far as I’ll cancel shows or get the shows rescheduled if they conflict with major matches.”
Dessner’s love of the game extends to the U.S. men’s national team. In the past, he has compared watching “Tim Howard warm up with Brad Guzan way more exciting than any rock show.” After declaring himself to be “optimistic” about the 2014 World Cup, the Grammy winner suggests the U.S. national team “is better now than it has ever been. For a long time we’ve had great goalkeepers, but I think we actually do have a number of field players that are starting to be world class.
“However, it’s hard to be optimistic about the group that we’re in.”
I ask Dessner whether he would ever dream of recording a World Cup single, quickly explaining the tradition by which teams have entered the recording studio with their favorite band. England with New Order in 1990:
And Germany with the Village People in 1994. The band recorded a track for television series “Game of Thrones” -- would they enter the studio with the U.S. team? “Definitely,” he says enthusiastically, “although I’m not sure that we would be No. 1 on their list of acts.”
However, Dessner’s American loyalties carry only so far. Though he professes an admiration for Tim Howard’s goalkeeping, he is quick to respond when asked for prediction for Tuesday night’s derby: “I’m going to say [Liverpool] 2-0. I apologize in advance to Howard -- he’s playing amazing, but he won’t have a chance with either goal.”