Interview: Death Cab For Cutie

Matt Siblo

In today’s overpopulated music scene, it’s hard to discern between those who deserve a staring role from the thousands of here today, gone tomorrow cameos that seem to often move through. Hailing from Bellingham, Wisc., Death Cab for Cutie has long since become one of independent rocks brightest prime time players. With the success of their latest full length “Transatlanticism,” the band finds themselves on the brink of mainstream success, with everyone from the cast of the O.C. to major label suits singing the bands praises. Whether the band ever crosses over remains to be seen, but after to talking to Nick Harmer, Death Cab’s bassist, that sort of success seems almost inconsequential. I had a chance to chat with Nick during their two night stint at the Trocadero theatre where we discussed their hefty tour schedule, their flirtation with soap operas and of course, the pros and cons of I-pods.

Matt Siblo: Name and what you do in the band:Death Cab: My name is Nick Harmer and I play bass in Death Cab for Cutie.

MS: This tour sees the band touring a little more extensively then usual. Is it hard for you guys to play 44 shows in 50 nights and does this kind of magnitude of touring effect the performances nightly?DC: We’re getting a lot better at touring and we have taken precautions and consideration for the intensity of the current touring schedule. It’s not so much the length of the tour that will get to you, but it’s more or less how many shows straight you play without a day off. Right now, we’re on the longest run we’ve ever done which puts us in the middle of 27 straight shows. For me, I think that’s the only way it really affects our show but to be honest I think it has made us a better band. By just playing that much, comes all of this repetition which makes our songs sound a lot tighter. I also think that we have become a lot better at listening to each other and utilizing that knowledge into putting on better live shows. With all the touring it has become a lot harder for us to rate our shows though. A lot of the time it’s pretty difficult to decide whether it’s been a good show or a bad show just because there are so many. It winds up being something like “Well, it wasn’t as good as that one, but it wasn’t as bad as that one.” So many shows just end up somewhere in the middle, you know? You have to try to piece together the good aspects while countering with the things that weren’t so hot.

MS: You guys have turned up on the Fox series “The O.C.” on numerous occasions. Do they have to approach you to use your name?DC: [Laughs] Apparently they don’t have to approach us to use our name. They did approach us a long time ago to use a song in an episode and this was before The O.C. was THE O.C. It was just like this new show that was coming out and we didn’t care either way if they wanted to play a song of ours; it was really no big deal. Then they referenced our name … I guess when they started writing us into the script that was a little odd. The people that work at that show are really cool and I think they are doing a good job. I mean there have been a couple of episodes where they’ve made some really bad choices but for the most part they’ve done a cool job as far as putting some more unknown stuff in there (i.e. the t-shirts kids wear or weird posters hanging in the background). I can appreciate that because it takes a little more work for the producers to find those bands and do that sort of stuff. I applaud their efforts for sure, and I like being a part of it. It’s not like there is any sort of monetary involvement on either side but I guess if anything it’s helping to spread the word which could possibly then lead us to sell a few more records. I really don’t know about that though, I think that remains to be seen. So it’s not like this weird seedy Hollywood production that again leads to this deal with the devil, it’s just this thing that happened and we’re pleasantly surprised by how long it has lasted. I think it’s kind of funny that our name has become a little more synonymous with the O.C.; like I can’t explain why it is that our band has kind of risen to the top of it. I don’t hear too many people saying like “Ahh, Phantom Planet!” I mean they wrote the damn theme song for the show! Or like “Bright Eyes and the O.C., what’s the deal?” It’s always “Why is Death Cab all over the show?” but I’ll take it.

MS: The video for “Sound of Settling” sees the band in front of the camera for the first time. Was that an interesting experience to make that jump?DC: Yeah, it was a really good time. The guys who shot it were super nice … to be honest I still haven’t seen it on TV. I saw it on a little screen on the computer but I’ve yet to see it in its full glory. Anyway, it was fun and an interesting experience and it is definitely something that we’d do again, but I don’t know in what capacity. It would have to be in the right capacity for us to want to do something like that.

MS: Would you say that there is any sort of cohesive theme going on in that video?DC: You mean besides nerds being nerdy? [laughs] Nah, not really. Like I said it’s been a long time since I’ve actually seen it but I don’t remember there being anything holding it together besides us just being geeks.

MS: What records are you listening to now?DC: Isn’t that always the question? I’ve been listening to a lot of a band called Clouddead and their album “Ten.” I am also listening to the new God Forbid which is pretty damn hot. I’ve been listening to the new Shins record, the new Modest Mouse as well. It’s hard because I recently got an I-pod …

MS: That seems to be what the response has been to this question lately …DC: Yeah, they basically represent the death of the album. I’m just not spending the same amount of time with one record as I used to. Now I’m just skipping and dancing all over my entire record collection. But for me, it’s also a real estate issue. Before when we used to go out on tour I’d only carry my newest records so if anyone asked me I’d be able to name 10 records right off the top of my head. Now I’m running through everything I own, including Def Leppard’s “Pyromania.”

MS: How many gigs are you pulling? 40?DC: No, I have a 30. I bought a 30 before they started producing the 40 gig model. Ben has a 40 however, so he’s quite well endowed.

MS: I haven’t quite made the jump yet, I’m still a little uneasy about the whole thing.DC: I can’t recommend it enough and I can’t tell you to run from it as fast as you possibly can. It is a blessing and a curse all wrapped into one big ball of technology.

MS: Any closing comments?DC: None thanks, I think you’ve been very thorough.