Something of a supergroup in their native Norway, the National Bank came together in 2003, initially only to perform a one-time show commissioned by one of the Norway's music festivals, and later as a band proper. Formed around the talents of brothers Lars and Martin Horntveth, who also happen to be the main driving force behind the highly successful and unique Norwegian electronica/jazz/post-rock combo Jaga Jazzist, the band features former Jaga keyboard player Morten Qvenild, bass player Nikolai Eilertsen, and singer/songwriter Thomas Dybdahl handling vocals and guitar.
Despite such close kinship with Jaga Jazzist, the National Bank share very little with that hyperkinetic, unpredictable instrumental band besides certain creative restlessness and frequent gorgeousness. Rather, the bandmembers prefer to use this moniker to explore the world of sophisticated, densely orchestrated, and mature pop, in the vein of such luminaries as Burt Bacharach, Scott Walker, and Jeff Buckley. The original impulse behind the National Bank was to perform a single time at the 2003 Vestfoldspillene music festival, with a focus on vocal-oriented orchestrated pop music suitable for the big stage. The show went so well that the musicians assembled by the Horntveth brothers for the performance were encouraged to continue with this direction. In 2004 they started working on their first record, and the chemistry between the musicians in the studio was so great that all the songs featured on the group's self-titled album were reportedly recorded in one take. The album's first single, "Tolerate," became an instant hit in Norway, and upon release was proclaimed by many Norwegian music critics to be the best Norwegian song of the year. The National Bank was released in the summer of 2004 and went straight to number one, where it stayed for a staggering 25 weeks. That year the band also won the Spellemansprisen, the national music award of Norway, as the best pop band of the year.
Despite such enormous success, all the members of the National Bank decided not to abandon their respective careers in favor of this new and unexpectedly popular project, so the band continued strictly as a side project. The National Bank did perform a number of successful shows around the country, but all the bandmembers subsequently returned to their primary outfits. Some work on writing and recording new material was still occasionally pursued, and by 2007 all five members finally found the time to get together in the studio. The first new single, "Let Go," hit Norwegian radio in August 2007, and an announcement was made that the band's second album would see a spring 2008 release. Come on Over to the Other Side arrived in February and was an instant smash again, staying on the Norwegian charts for most of the rest of the year. To support another massive success, the National Bank toured Norway, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands for the next six months. ~ Sergey Mesenov