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Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie recently wrapped up an Australian tour, promoting their seventh studio album Codes and Keys. Before one of the band’s wonderful shows in Melbourne frontman Ben Gibbard, the man behind the Bellingham quartet’s solemn lyrics, sat down to chat with FasterLouder backstage to chat about about the band’s career, adventures with street art icon Sherpard Fairey, and chasing the road of author Jack Kerouac in search for deeper meaning.

I spoke to Chris just a few months ago and I asked him this question and it left him a bit stumped. I referred to a quote from an interview of yours where you said you believe Arcade Fire will be looked back on in 25 years as being incredibly important for our time, and compared them to U2. How do you think Death Cab will be looked back upon in 25 years? And could you draw a comparison to yourselves and another band?
I feel that’s a very dangerous territory to get into, or as my friend Ted Leo likes to say, it’s kind of like ‘jousting with karma’. I think that whenever you compare yourself to a band that has existed before you have, it’s somewhat erroneous in the sense that it assumes that the cultures of the times are similar. What I will say is, we grew up loving The Cure and R.E.M. and as you look at their career arcs and what they were able to accomplish, if we were able to accomplish even just a fraction of the careers that those bands had, or are having in the case of The Cure, that would be amazing.

At the same time I’m shocked that I’m sitting here talking to you fifteen years after our first recording. It’s maybe a coy answer to say I’d like to be the Death Cab For Cutie of our generation, but I’m not trying to say that, I’m just saying I admire the career arcs of The Cure and R.E.M. I don’t necessarily want to be those bands of our generation but I would like to have a body of work that resembles their arc by the time we’re done.

Codes and Keys was a different recording process for the band, especially compared to the likes of Narrow Stairs, how are you finding replicating some of the studio tricks from the album into your live performances?
There are certain songs that… it’s not that we cant play them, they just fall into a category that’s kind of soundscape-y, quieter moments, something like Unobstructed Views is not necessarily a track we’re playing live on this tour, not to say that we won’t at some later point. We’ve always been pretty adamant about having it be just the four of us on stage, which means we do end up playing to some tracks from time to time, but what we try do is make sure whatever we’re playing to is reacting to what we’re doing. We do have a couple of tunes throughout the catalogue where we basically have to start a sample and it has to go with us, when we play Different Names For The Same Thing it’s a sequence throughout the whole song, so we have to play the sequence, we can’t just go off book. What we try to do is make sure that we have enough things that can go wrong in a particular song, that we’re never just phoning it in, we’re always having to remain present in a song.

It’s been out for a while now, have you settled on a favourite track?
I really like Doors Unlocked and Open. I really like playing it as it allows just enough improvisation and breathing to keep me on my toes every night.

Comments

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davidswan

davidswan said on the 7th Mar, 2012

no offence dude but if i'd had the opportunity to interview the same band twice within months, the last thing i'd wanna do is repeat questions like that

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 7th Mar, 2012

He interviewed Chris Walla a few months ago and this interview was with Ben Gibbard.

I wouldn't say it was a case of interviewing the same band twice.

davidswan

davidswan said on the 7th Mar, 2012

he interviewed chris walla a few months ago and this interview was with ben gibbard.

i wouldn't say it was a case of interviewing the same band twice.

huh? yeah i read it. he interviewed the same band, twice. just saying it's pretty pointless to say 'would you do something like the codes and keys remix ep again' to one band member, and then ask the same thing to another band member, when there are probably a million other things you could talk about.

grattan

grattan said on the 7th Mar, 2012

Can't really see any problem with it at all. Different band members aren't necessarily going to have the same answers; they do have their own personalities and opinions. You only need to look as the the answers to the "what will the legacy of the band be in 25 years?" question - they're very different.

And the questions about the remix EP are quite different - one's a before question (how did it come about?);very the other's an after (were you happy with the result?)

oldgregg

oldgregg said on the 7th Mar, 2012

so you're criticizing because I asked two different people their perspectives on the same topic, and they both gave very different answers?

just want to make sure that's what you're doing.

davidswan

davidswan said on the 7th Mar, 2012

so you're criticizing because i asked two different people their perspectives on the same topic, and they both gave very different answers?

just want to make sure that's what you're doing.

that's exactly what i'm doing. if i'm a reader i don't particularly want to read two interviews with the same band with one interviewer asking the same questions, when there's so much other ground to cover and things to learn, etc.

also, what's the difference between

"i know that the keys and codes remix ep is something that you’ve wanted to do since as early as transatlanticism, now that you’ve done it, is it something you want to do again?"

and

"with other artists being the creators of the remix ep, can we expect another ep of codes and keys based work from the band?"

they're the same question. i totally get that the two band members provided different responses to the questions you repeated, all i'm saying is my feedback would be as a fan/reader, if a journalist only gets 10-15 min with a band, i'd much rather them cover diverse topics and points of discussion, rather than retreading similar things asked to another band member. for the record, the answers were quite similar to the remix ep question... i.e. 'not really, no'.

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 7th Mar, 2012

Pretty round-about way of being jealous you didn't get the feature, tbh.

davidswan

davidswan said on the 7th Mar, 2012


not jelly. just see a missed opportunity

oldgregg

oldgregg said on the 7th Mar, 2012

really? because you seem to be focusing on 45 seconds of a 25 minute interview.

davidswan

davidswan said on the 7th Mar, 2012


the interview itself broadly was fine... i was just giving feedback on something specific. anyway i meant no hard feelings, but forums are for feedback, so i thought i'd give mine.

oldgregg

oldgregg said on the 7th Mar, 2012

I don't have issue with feedback, in fact I always encourage it, but i sincerely, flat out disagree with your criticism, and to label the interview as a missed opportunity is really over the top and unnecessary. But if you meant no hard feelings then it's fine.

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 8th Mar, 2012

ive interviewed different members from bands a few times, and i have no problem asking the same question. different people = different answers. What if Ben had said, "No we're not doing that again, but here's a top secret remix project I haven't told anyone else about yet." You never know what answer you're gonna get until you ask the question.

oldgregg

oldgregg said on the 8th Mar, 2012

like grattan said the 25 years question is pretty much the nail in the coffin to this squabble, Chris gave me absolutely nothing in the first interview, and look what Ben came out with for his answer, it's great stuff. I had tons of other back up questions but I chose the ones I did because i instantly realised Ben and Chris are very, very different. Chris blatantly gave very rehearsed and methodical answers, and was kind of like drawing blood from a stone. Whereas Ben was just this honest, heart on his sleeve kind of guy. I wasn't satisfied with what Chris gave me initially, so I asked Ben, and in my opinion it payed dividends. This is my favourite interview to date, not just because of who it was with, but I genuinely found the answers all very intriguing and everything I wanted from the interview and then some.

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 8th Mar, 2012



I hate when theyre like that, one word answers, no explanations. grr...

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 8th Mar, 2012

You should have asked Ben if he gets weirded out by Chris' awkwardness on stage.

You should have asked Chris is it takes practice to be that awkward on stage.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 8th Mar, 2012

You should have asked them who Cutie was.

therat

therat said on the 8th Mar, 2012

Should have asked if that davidswan guy is still stealing underwear from his clothesline.

davidswan

davidswan said on the 8th Mar, 2012



it was zooey deschanel's underwear... as if you wouldn't!

oldgregg

oldgregg said on the 8th Mar, 2012

wait, what? who got zooeys underwear?

oldgregg

oldgregg said on the 8th Mar, 2012



who is the bearded dwarf in a beanie!? you better mean gareth!

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 8th Mar, 2012



Of course I meant Gareth.

I love the fact that you considered that it could be you though.

snehahaha

snehahaha said on the 8th Mar, 2012

waaah... k this is a pretty in depth interview i guess. as a lukewarm fan if anything it was a bit much for me, what with the jack kerouac and all.
i think when you reference past work it might be nice to talk about it a bit more..? you know? sure it's a stan's wet dream but i didn't really understand where you were coming from.
maybe it could have worked better as a narrative as opposed to straight q & a?
for me at least. and my death cab play count is sitting on a meagre 5.

oldgregg

oldgregg said on the 8th Mar, 2012

yeah, fair play. I did consider writing this as a feature, but I didn't want to cut the content, you'd have been reading forever, but I totally understand. I'm not going to lie, this interview was written by me - for me, and people of the same fan ilk as me. So yeah selective journalism on my behalf.

it's not often you get to sit in a room with your favourite musician, wasn't prepared to scale back my questions for the sake of lukewarm fans, with all respect of course.

I'll honestly keep that in mind for next time though. cheers.

oldgregg

oldgregg said on the 8th Mar, 2012

and what is a stan's wet dream!?

oldgregg

oldgregg said on the 8th Mar, 2012

you're only FL friend is davidswan... convenient.

TheOriginalSlipdog

TheOriginalSlipdog said on the 8th Mar, 2012

did you get to drive the death cab?

oldgregg

oldgregg said on the 9th Mar, 2012

that's exactly what i'm doing. if i'm a reader i don't particularly want to read two interviews with the same band with one interviewer asking the same questions, when there's so much other ground to cover and things to learn, etc.

also, what's the difference between

"i know that the keys and codes remix ep is something that you’ve wanted to do since as early as transatlanticism, now that you’ve done it, is it something you want to do again?"

and

"with other artists being the creators of the remix ep, can we expect another ep of codes and keys based work from the band?"

they're the same question. i totally get that the two band members provided different responses to the questions you repeated, all i'm saying is my feedback would be as a fan/reader, if a journalist only gets 10-15 min with a band, i'd much rather them cover diverse topics and points of discussion, rather than retreading similar things asked to another band member. for the record, the answers were quite similar to the remix ep question... i.e. 'not really, no'.

just to completely flog a dead horse here, I didn't really read this when you posted this, just read it properly now, these example questions aren't even remotely related.

one is asking if they are going to make another EP that isn't a remix from material left over from codes and keys.

the other is whether they were going to consider remix EPs in the future.

/thread

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 9th Mar, 2012

Alright but seriously Gregg, how many time did you ask to give him head before you were forcefully removed (from his pants)?

oldgregg

oldgregg said on the 9th Mar, 2012

that was asked multiple times, will openly admit that. erective journalism.

lineofbestfit

lineofbestfit said on the 11th Mar, 2012

the rat trying to bring back gareth hate, sorry m8 i'm m8's with most of my former internet rivals and that was pretty sad buddy. Better luck next time m8.