In 1997, when [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Death Cab For Cutie[/lastfm] started first perfecting what would become their quintessential lo-fi dream-pop sound in their “living rooms in Bellingham,” it was at the height of the prog-rock era. However, if you wanted to impress a raven-haired indie/emo girl on the pre-Myspace social networking site, Make-Out Club, Death Cab was always that go-to indie band that would get you a second date.
[pullquote quote=”When we started this band fourteen years ago in a living room in Bellingham, you never think you’re going to be doing anything, let alone fourteen years late.”]Fourteen years (and seven albums) later, not much has changed. Death Cab For Cutie is still making the gentle, glittery indie-pop punctuated with literate, melancholic lyrics that makes girls swoon, except these days the band isn’t playing to an audience of one.
Last week, Death Cab played two dates at the iconic Greek Theatre. Kevin & Bean had a chance to bring them out of their green tour bus and into the studio to talk about their “world domination,” the music writing process, if lead singer (and lucky hubby of the beautiful actress/singer [lastfm link_type=””]Zooey Deschanel[/lastfm]) [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Ben Gibbard[/lastfm] really still hates Los Angeles, and what would happen if the Mariners went to the World Series.
Gibbard and guitarist/keyboardist [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Chris Walla[/lastfm] also played a stripped-down acoustic version of two of their popular songs “Stay Young, Go Dancing” from their newest album Codes And Keys and an oldie–“Soul Meets Body” from 2005’s Plans.
“When we started this band fourteen years ago in a living room in Bellingham, you never think you’re going to be doing anything, let alone fourteen years later,” began Ben Gibbard, lead singer and multi-instrumentalist of Death Cab For Cutie.
[pullquote quote=”I started to feel with the amount of traveling that we do or the amount of time away from home that over the years I lost touch with some things that I think that if my life were different I maybe wouldn’t have.” credit=”Ben Gibbard”]In can be argued that Death Cab For Cutie was one of the iconic bands at that gave an international identity to the “indie” music genre. While many “alternative” bands associated with more assertive sounds were affiliated with independent labels or didn’t go “mainstream,” bands like Death Cab For Cutie and [lastfm link_type=””]Bright Eyes[/lastfm] cemented the softer sound of “indie rock” into the cultural lexicon, especially after the massive wave of popularity from these kinds of bands in the late ’90s and early ’00s.
But, as many popular bands would attest, it didn’t begin without a struggle. Gibbard explains how their smallest show was to a crowd of two, but not really even that:
“Two people…I think in Sacramento. Old Ironsides. One of them playing saw with us that evening. So, him and his friend. I guess that’s really an audience of one. Because he watched half the show and actually had to play the other half of the show.
“It’s pretty crazy to put on an event and have literally no one show up.”
Having to go through these dry periods is par for the course for up-and-coming bands, which is perhaps the reason why Death Cab For Cutie has asked relatively unknown Scottish indie rock band, Frightened Rabbit to go on tour with them for a second spin:
“We toured with them in Europe three years ago and it was a horrific winter tour in Europe that was fourteen shows in fifteen days. We were in a bus, thankfully for us, but they were in a van trying to catch up to us and they were great sports about it and that was probably one of the most harrowing trips that we made on the last record.”
“So I think when we were looking at people to people to…tour with in the states, we all enjoyed their company and loved them as people and we love their band; it just made sense that we would kind of do a round two with them.”
While one may idealize the touring life of a musician, tours can be both grueling and isolating–which is a big part of the lyrical story behind Death Cab’s song “You Are A Tourist” from Codes And Keys. Gibbard elaborated:
“I think that line is certainly more reflective in the sense that I live in Los Angeles now. I don’t live in Seattle anymore. And I love Seattle–the north west will always be where my roots are and where I’m from; I will love it ’til the day I die.”
“But, I think that at a certain point for me, you know, I started to feel with the amount of traveling that we do or the amount of time away from [pullquote quote=”Life kind of hit the pause button and you’re walking back in and picking back up.” credit=”Ben Gibbard”]home that over the years I lost touch with some things that I think that if my life were different I maybe wouldn’t have…I’ll always feel like I belong there, so I think that the line is somewhat of an embellishment.”
“But it’s certainly rooted in a feeling, you know, when you spend a lot of time away from your family, the people that you love, and then you come back after a couple of months and somebody had a kid, someone else got married…you come back and you assume…life kind of hit the pause button and you’re walking back in and picking back up and as you get older you realize that’s not how it works.”