The National weren't supposed to be touring again so soon, lead singer Matt Berninger tells me from behind a desk in a borrowed Sun TV office.
After nearly two years of buses, planes and automobiles through North America, Europe, Australia and Asia in support of their 2010 release, High Violet, the Brooklyn-based indie rockers anticipated some downtime.
The five-piece consisting of Berninger, twins Aaron (guitar, keyboard) and Bryce (guitar) Dessner, and brothers Scott (bass) and Bryan (drums) Devendorf was spent.
"We had the intention not to write and not put out another record for three or four years because Aaron had a baby, Bryan had two babies and after 22 months [of touring] we'd said, ‘Let's take a year off and not even talk about a new record.'?"
A return home sparked the band's mojo and thus the creation of their latest release, Trouble Will Find Me (4AD). "The first song on the record was the first one that started turning into an actual song," recalls Berninger.
"Aaron sent me a little sketch for it, an acoustic guitar thing, and later the same day I sent him back the whole structure - the melodies, not the lyrics - but I think ‘I should live in salt' was the chorus already even in one day.
"That happened with all the songs, in a really quick way, and before we knew it, without any idea that we were even making a record, we had 20 ideas we were really excited about."
Berninger's speaking voice is surprisingly mid-range considering he's known for his moody baritone. It's the band's defining characteristic, and contributes to the emotionally grabby melodies that have sold them many records (High Violet went gold in Canada) and landed them lucrative TV deals (including Gossip Girl).
They never did get their year off, but commercial and critical success gave Berninger a reprieve from creative anxiety. "For so long we were trying to plant our flag or prove that we deserved to be here," he says. "We've been critical darlings for a long time, but we've also been called ‘depressing, sad-sack dad rock.' Not often, but occasionally."
Instead of fighting against that, Berninger and co. made a firm decision to "follow the songs" - external perceptions be damned. As a result, the critically salivated-over Trouble Will Find Me is their most unselfconsciously honest effort to date.
"I Need My Girl, which is borderline embarrassingly earnest - there's no tricky metaphor in that," says Berninger. "It's just about missing my wife and daughter.
"In the past we'd think, ‘Oh, is that a little too heart-on-sleeve? A little emotionally melodramatic?' Not that I've ever had much of a problem with being melodramatic in lyrics. Even musically, melodrama has always been a part of our DNA. But that song is more earnest than we would have been comfortable with before."
Fourteen years, six albums, two meetings with the president (they campaigned for Obama ahead of both his victories) and years on the road later, it's a well-earned comfort for New York indie rock's kingpins.
With the album comes more touring and, yes, they'll be more selective this time around. But Berninger values the chance to reach the National's broad fan base, while also relishing their hard-won fame.
"We're well aware of how easy it is for your band to disappear. This is what we've been chasing for 10 years or more, so we have to go for it."