The National to Enlist Members of Vampire Weekend, The War on Drugs, Bon Iver and Kurt Vile for Grat

Mike Greenhaus on August 1, 2013

Bob Weir with members of The National and Yellowbirds. Photo by Dave Vann

Members of Vampire Weekend, The War on Drugs, Bon Iver, The Walkmen and Kurt Vile & the Violators are expected to participate in The National’s upcoming Grateful Dead tribute album. As previously reported, the Ohio-bred, New York-based indie band are working on an all-star, indie-leaning Grateful Dead tribute album in the coming months. The National’s twin guitarists Aaron and Bryce Dessner will curate the album, which will benefit Red Hot, an international organization dedicated to fighting AIDS through pop culture. The National’s rhythm section, Bryan and Scott Devendorf, who claim to be the band’s bigger Deadheads, will ghost curate the project.

“We’ve done a lot of work talking to various artists and laying the groundwork,” Aaron Dessner tells Relix and “It is kind of an ambitious project both because of the legacy and the material. We are obsessed enough with the Grateful Dead that it is kind of a monumental idea.”

Unlike the Dessners’ Red Hot benefit album Dark Was the Night, which featured one or two tracks from a number of artists, the guitarist says this album will hone in on a few all-star ensembles assembled for the project as well as select featured guests. “How do you even skirt the surface of it?,” Dessner asks rhetorically. “We are about to dive in in a major way. We listen to the Grateful Dead a lot on tour, mainly because Scott is the DJ on the bus, and he is obsessed.”

The Dessners also cite Sonic Youth’ Lee Ranaldo and Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan as big-name indie guitarists with an affinity for the Dead who’d fit on the album. In 2012, Aaron Dessner, The Walkmen’s Walter Martin and the Devendorf brothers performed with Bob Weir at benefit show held at the Dead guitarist’s TRI Studios. Vampire Weekend’s Chris Tomson has also performed with Weir at TRI while The War on Drugs regularly cover “Touch of Grey.” As they mention in the September issue of Relix, the Dessners riffed on “Eyes of the World” for eight hours during their first jam session with Bryan Devendorf in middle school."

“There are all kind of corners of the musical world that are deeply influenced by the Dead that one wouldn’t expect,” Bryce Dessner says. “Lee Ranaldo is a crazy Deadhead. So that was part of the idea but I think it is broader than that now. Jerry Garcia was a total cat.”