Back in May, Matt Berninger made plenty of people happy with the announcement he was finally releasing a solo album named Serpentine Prison. Now he’s released the second single from said album, a co-write with The Walkmen’s Walter Martin titled Distant Axis.
Fronting The National, Berninger has spent 20 years striking deep emotional chords every time he opens his mouth. Now operating without his Dessner flankers and calling in Booker T. Jones on LP production duties, it’s clear the artist hasn’t diminished without his usual company.
Matt Berninger has served us another taste of his upcoming solo album, Serpentine Prison. Distant Axis is weighed down by longing, a bittersweet cut that, despite its origin, screams Berninger through and through.
Walter Martin fronted NYC indie group The Walkmen for 13 years before they dissolved in 2013, when he launched an acclaimed solo career. Today he’s released seven albums under his own name.
His band formed in the same year as The National and kept many of the same circles. Speaking about their relationship and the genesis of Distant Axis as one of Martin’s demos, Berninger shared:
“I met Walter Martin fifteen years ago when The National opened for The Walkmen on a tour of shitty clubs in the American Southeast. On that tour I learned a lot about how to be in a band without ruining your life. I also learned a lot about Florida, Tennessee and Georgia.”
“Walt and I have stayed friends and about three years ago we started passing ideas back and forth. Distant Axis started from a sketch Walt sent me named Savannah. I think it’s about falling out of touch with someone or something you once thought would be there forever.”
The clip for Distant Axis is as gorgeous as the track, if a little kooky. Then again, Berninger’s gloomy moments have always come side-by-side with a dry sense of humour. It was co-directed by Berninger, his brother Tom, and photographer/director Chris Sgroi.
After stopping to smell the flowers, Matt enters a set draped by what turns out to be one of the more neglected green screens in music video history. If there were grand plans to superimpose the singer flying across fantastical landscapes or animated scenes, it seems they were thrown to the wayside in favour of a more uncooked approach.
Writhing on the ground as various household objects float down upon him, Matt takes on a character who seems mid-acid trip, rather than mid-shoot. The result is subversive and oddly charming, a pitch-perfect accompaniment to a beautiful song.
Distant Axis comes from Serpentine Prison, out October 2 via Book Records in conjunction with Concord Records / Caroline Australia. Stream or buy your copy here.