The National will release their new album I Am Easy To Find at the end of this week. Despite its instantly recognizable sound, for several reasons, it’s not your average National album. One of those reasons: The project was conceived in partnership with director Mike Mills — not the R.E.M. guy, the guy who made 20th Century Women. Mills created a 24-minute film starring Alicia Vikander that incorporates music from the new album. And today, four days ahead of the album’s release, the film is available to stream.
After Mills approached the band about working together, they created the album and film in parallel. There is thematic overlap, and the two parties had a hand in each other’s work. Music from the album appears in the film, and Mills is credited as a producer on the album. Yet according to all involved, the film is not an extended music video, and the album is not a soundtrack to the film. They’re companion pieces. As Mills explains in a press release, “The National gave me the stems for their songs, some were sketches some were finished and encouraged and allowed me to create my own versions of the songs to score the film. The album then features different versions of these same 7 songs — and 9 new songs which sometimes refer to the themes, texts, ideas from the film — but are their own work, their own piece of art.”
Mills and the band recently elaborated on that linkage in a series of Q&As between screenings of the film and special performances by the National in major cities across North America and Europe. The Q&A from New York’s Beacon Theatre, moderated by Julien Baker, is also streaming today. So are two versions of the film with commentary tracks, one by Mills and one by Matt Berninger with his wife and co-writer Carin Besser.
Watch the original film plus all the rest of that content below.
I Am Easy To Find, the album, is out 5/17 on 4AD.