Bloodbuzz Ohio

Album: High Violet (2010)

Songfacts®:

  • The National is a Brooklyn-based indie rock band who formed in Ohio in 1999. The group comprises lead singer Matt Berninger and two pairs of brothers, Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Scott and Bryan Devendorf. This regret-tinged reminiscence is the lead single from their fifth album, High Violet.
  • This song originally featured a horn fanfare, which some members of the band felt was too like the one on "Fake Empire." However the decision to remove it caused some dissension within the band as Aaron Dessner explained to The Quietus: "We had to do away with a horn fanfare that's no longer there, but if you listen to the live version you'll hear this "ba-ba-ba!" section, which was cool, but not unlike 'Fake Empire'. It was too similar, and so Matt and I wanted to get rid of it, but others, especially Peter Katis [the band's long-term producer] and to some extent our drummer really loved it, so there was a battle being fought right then! The interview was mostly about that… There were other songs that we pulled back, but that was the main one. Eventually we took it out.
    Berringer added: "There were a lot of things about that song that suddenly weren't working at that point. The version we had then was not going to be on the record. It was over muscled-up and kind of annoying, and it was too long. We'd been trying to figure it out and solve it for a long time, and sometimes I was like, y'know what, this can't be saved. So it's not totally untrue – we all had every intention of trying to save it – but you never know what can happen."
  • Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, The National lead singer Matt Berninger moved to Brooklyn, New York, along with his bandmates in the 1990s. This song finds him drunkenly reminiscing about his home state.

    I'm on a blood buzz
    I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees
    I never married but Ohio don't remember me


    Said Berninger: "Y'know when you have a wine buzz, you're drunk. And I think it's a little bit, y'know, like something about like your history or family or what's in your blood. Ohio's in your blood. I don't know, it sounds good."
  • Stand up straight at the foot of your love
    I lift my shirt up


    Berninger explained the song's meaning to Uncut magazine: "It's about being stuck between an old version of yourself and the one you're becoming. I was trying to shed my skin. That's what the first line about lifting up my shirt means to me. I definitely didn't feel like the same person I used to be. I didn't feel like an Ohioan anymore and I definitely was not a New Yorker. I was married with a baby, living in Brooklyn, which was still a foreign land to me, and on the verge of becoming a rockstar if I didn't blow it. It was winter, and I remember pacing around ice puddles in (co-producer) Peter Katis's yard trying to finish the words."
  • The first time that Berninger's bandmates heard the lyrics was when he laid down his vocals.

    I still owe money to the money to the money I owe
    The floors are falling down from everybody I know


    Multi-instrumentalist Aaron Dessner told Uncut: "We all have our own ideas about what Bloodbuzz Ohio means. To me it was a lament, an existential nostalgic love song about where we're from, about family and the way America is so frayed and divided. So you can be family in blood but estranged because of social values. Obama had just gotten in, but we were coming out of the Bush years and the financial crisis had meant people had worked their whole life and watched their savings just disappear. Hence I still owe money to the money to the money I owe."

    Bassist Scott Devendorf added. "There's a homesickness to the song. We're a band from Ohio that formed in New York. So we were channeling the feeling of being away from a place you knew in another life."
  • One of The National's most critically acclaimed tracks, Pitchfork ranked the song at #76 on its list of the 200 Best Songs of the 2010s.
  • The video, directed by Hope Hall, Andreas Burgess, and Berninger's wife Carin Besser, shows the singer walking the streets of New York City. Documentary film director D.A. Pennebaker has a cameo playing a bartender.

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