Death Cab for Cutie Interview | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, June 5th, 2023  

Death Cab for Cutie

Ben Gibbard’s Period Piece

Apr 30, 2009 Death Cab for Cutie Photography by Steven Dewall Bookmark and Share

Death Cab for Cutie is currently on the road alongside Ra Ra Riot and Matt Costa (with Cold War Kids as the opener during the first half of the tour). While on tour Death Cab’s vocalist Ben Gibbard doesn’t do much with his available free time. The things he does do, however, he commits to with consuming sincerity. Aside from raiding the inventory of numerous cities’ record shops, with the new season of Major League Baseball starting up, Gibbard has been living in a state of nine-inning increments: watching games, checking the latest stats, and listening to all kinds of sports commentary. He’s even managed to get out to an actual ballpark, recently catching the Twins face off against the Blue Jays in Minneapolis.

“Now that’s it’s baseball season, I find myself watching a lot of baseball and listening to a little too much Internet baseball analysis,” says Gibbard. “Baseball is something I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid, and in my adult life, I’ve kind of come back around to an enjoyment of it. It’s like it waited for me. It’s the one thing in my life that waited for me that allowed me to go off and do other things and waited patiently for me to come back and holds no grudges whatsoever. It’s still there. It still loves me.”

Focusing on things other than music was a pervading topic when Gibbard recently sat down to chat with Under the Radar. Touching on topics ranging from the band’s latest EP release, The Open Door, to his recent engagement to Zooey Deschanel, Gibbard checked in on how he ultimately checks out.

So you guys recently put out an EP. Where do these songs fall in relation to Narrow Stairs?

They were all written with the songs from Narrow Stairs during I guess what would be the end of 2006 into 2007, as we were moving towards recording the album. All these songs, with the exception of “Little Bribes,” were recorded during the sessions for Narrow Stairs. “Little Bribes” we attempted to record for Narrow Stairs, and it just didn’t come together. We just kind of overthought it, and I was a little too close to the demo version of it, and it was a song that I played a little bit on my solo tour in 2007 and had a strange affinity for and for whatever reason was really kind of adamant about it existing in recorded form. My demo was a little more psychedelic than straightforward, but I think the version that turned up on the EP is far superior to anything I originally contributed, which is always a goal.

Would you consider these songs a departure thematically or melodically from the songs that actually made it on the album? Is that why they weren’t included?

They’re only a departure from Narrow Stairs in the sense that they’re not on the album. I don’t see them as being drastically different. I think—with the exception of “Little Bribes” which is lyrically very different and doesn’t fit with a lot of the themes on Narrow Stairs—I think that most of the songs, in a different world, could have been on the album. I don’t necessarily see it as a collection of songs so drastic that they had no place on the record. I think sometimes whenever you have songs that don’t make an album, there’s always this false insinuation that the songs aren’t “good” [enough] to make the record, and while I certainly wouldn’t want to put that to a vote as far as what people think about it, I personally feel that when you’re making an album, one of my biggest pet peeves in the modern record-making world is that records are too fucking long. Now that we’re post-CD and an album can be as long as you want it to be. It can be three hours long. But just because you have three hours of songs doesn’t mean you need to put out a three-hour record. I really subscribe to the belief that an album should be between 45 and 50 minutes. An album is what can fit on two sides of a slab of vinyl. I don’t think I’ve ever picked up an album by a band—ever a band that I’ve loved—and wanted to hear 75 minutes of music from them. I don’t even think I’ve ever listened to the [Beatles’] White Album all the way through. So I think with we as band taking that position on our albums, naturally there are going to be songs that are not going to fit. If the record was a movie these scenes have to be cut for duration and moving the plot along and not necessarily because they’re not good scenes.

What is significant about this idea of the “open door?”

One can find that phrase within the lyrics of at least a couple songs on the EP, and if I’m recalling correctly that phrase is in “Long Division” on the album as well. I think it’s fairly kind of obvious in relation to the songs, particularly “A Diamond and a Tether,” with one’s lack of being able to make a real commitment to somebody else, and you’re always watching the open door, or in “My Mirror Speaks”—just falling in love with the open door and always keeping one’s eye out for whatever the next possibility is.

Where do these songs fall within the general progression of the band?

I certainly think these songs are of a darker tone. I think in the relationship to Narrow Stairs, I feel that this is kind of like the period of the sentence of the record. To me, I think these songs represent the end of this particular era of the band and this album cycle and this kind of tone, this dark tone. I am not quite interested in continuing to write songs that dark. I mean, songs kind of come out themselves. but I kind of feel like I’ve reached a zenith with this batch of songs. I guess we’ll kind of see where my mind takes me for the next record but I can’t imagine it continuing to wallow in that particular place. ,

Is there a particular reason for that?

You can kind of guess that I’m sure.

Would being engaged have anything to do with it?

I’m sure it might.

How do think having such a positive force in your personal life will affect your future songwriting?

I guess we’ll all kind of see with the next record, won’t we?

Throughout Open Door, there’s an evident anxiety within many of the songs. Have you ever felt that kind of anxiety in your life and does it happen to you still?

I certainly have. I think that it comes as a direct function of the choices I’ve made in my life and where my life has taken me as a musician. I’ve been living a state of perpetual motion for so long, but as I’ve kind of gotten into my 30s, that insatiable wanderlust has started to fade a little bit. It’ll always be there to some extent, and it goes back as far as being a kid and my dad being in the Navy and we always moved around a lot. So I’ve always kind of had this need to be in some state of motion in my life. But certainly I’ve started to reach a point in my life where I’m finding a lot more comfort in being in one place and starting to kind of settle into a side of my life I didn’t necessarily ever see myself doing, which feels wonderful. It’s certainly something that’s new, and as things that are new to you they come with a little bit of uncomfortability, and you kind of have to learn to adjust accordingly.

Does touring interfere with this notion of slowing things down?

I very much enjoy touring. I love playing and I love doing shows. I think the only thing that’s really changed for me over the years is that there are 22 hours of the day that are not musical, and while I attempt to make those more musical with trying to play more guitar and try to work on songs, I seem to be built to not be able to write songs on the road. I just can’t really do it. I can kind of clunk around here or there but I almost feel like being on tour I really only have so many hours in the day that I can devote to music. Even when I’m at home and going to my studio and working on songs, it’s like that’s my musical time for the day. I’m past the point in my life where I can eat, sleep and breathe music 24 hours a day. I used to be able to do that, but now I just have other interests. Music is still very much the most important thing in my life, but it’s peppered with other things that I like to do by myself. I have a period of the day that I can kind of work on music and that tends to be four to five hours a day, when I’m writing, and when we’re touring, I’m doing interviews and we’re doing soundchecks and we’re going to radio stations and doing that kind of stuff. So that kind of eats into what is the general time of quote/unquote music that I have in my day, and so I don’t get a lot of writing done.

What kind of non-musical activities do you enjoy doing?

For the last year and a half or so, I’ve been running a lot. Nathan [Willett of Cold War Kids] and I are actually doing a charity kind of race since we’re both runners and we’re kind of racing each other for this Water Wells for Africa charity that we’re supporting. We’re trying to get people to go to our website and donate a dollar a mile or something like that. It gives us a way to do something, to raise money doing something we’d be doing anyway, and it gives us that competitive edge going between us. We’ve actually been running together a couple times on this trip. Gone are my days of being in bars until four in the morning after shows. Now are the days of waking up at 9 a.m. and putting on some running shoes and going for a run. Yet another thing I never thought I’d find myself doing. The exciting parts of life are all the surprises you get. It’s just a lot of downtime. Especially when you’re on day five of a seven-day run, a lot of it just has to do with eating time. Some people do it by sleeping all day. I mean every band has a sleeper—I won’t divulge who ours is, but it’s definitely not me—and it’s just a whole lot of waiting. You wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. But I feel between spending too much money on Rufus Thomas and Tim Buckley records and running and watching six hours of baseball all day, I’m doing a pretty good job of eating hours right now.


Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

April 30th 2009

Excellent interview!  Best I’ve read from Ben in awhile.
Great job!

Kyle Lemmon
May 7th 2009

Gibb must be doing a whole lot of that jogging with Nathan from Cold War Kids. He’s looking svelte.

May 20th 2009

Very good interview. It’s interesting to learn just exactly what bands do while on the road. I went to the concert in Sacramento, and I thought, “Wow, this must be a lot of work!” But if all they do is wait, wait, wait, wait, then doing the concert must be one of the best parts!

The engagement part sort of confused me, you’re unhappy?

Either way, I’m glad to hear they’re all still alive. I might be seeing another one of their shows in July, Berkeley. Can’t wait. Love you guys.

May 20th 2009

I’m so excited to see what music they make next.

May 20th 2009

awesome. i saw u guys in davidson, nc last month,. been waiting yrs to see you. i think you should def keep the dark undertone, but mix it with the raw emotions of everything in life now, it would call for a freakin great album@@

May 20th 2009

Everything that comes out of his mouth proves inspirational :) God, he’s smart.

Chris Reed
May 20th 2009

This is a spectacular interview.  I am very glad Ben has taken up running and it seems he is doing it for the right reasons: pure enjoyment and the betterment of the health of society.  Also, congratulations to Ben on his engagement.  I’ve always loved Zooey as an actor and I’m glad she has taken up singing as she also has a wonderful voice.  I think they will do well together and I’m happy for them both.

May 20th 2009

Good interview.

May 20th 2009

I think it’s kind of ironic that Ben Gibbard struggles to write songs while on the road given the fact that his favourite author is Jack Kerouac and, a large portion of Death Cab For Cutie’s songs have some connection to him and the fact that Jack Kerouac wrote one of his novels while travelling around.
It’s also thereafter funny to think about the amount of times the term “On The Road” occurs in this article.

Either way: Fantastic Interview.

May 20th 2009

Let’s not forget that On The Road was not written on the road.

May 21st 2009

Awesome interview. He’s just a genius. I saw them in Nashville on the third, and it was the best concert i’ve ever been to. Just amazing. And i’m really happy for him and Zooey. They make such a cute and talented couple. I can’t wait to hear their next album too. Amazing band, amazing guy.

May 21st 2009

amazing interview.i saw them play in Orlando on May was awesome.congrats on your engagement Ben.

June 22nd 2009

thank you for everything Mike…This interview is awesome…

Hannah Schobert
July 20th 2009

I wish he would have purged a bit more information about his engagment. Great interview nontheless.

sohbet odaları
August 9th 2009

tnk you sohbet odaları

January 18th 2010

Specifically tips on inventory storage; pda usage with tracking professional tax software inventory; barcode systems with tracking inventory; RFIDs with tracking inventory; personal experience with inventory.

vatan gazetesi
January 21st 2010

thanks admin

February 23rd 2010

Türkiye’de Havuz sistemleri merkezi.

May 4th 2010

tanks admin

July 4th 2010

how are you baby

Bart Bush
August 3rd 2010

What kind of glasses does Ben Gibbard wear? He is the lead singer of Death Cab for Cutie.

Erdal toprak
August 9th 2010

thanks man

January 1st 2011

Every one understands that our life seems to be very expensive, nevertheless different people require money for various things and not every person gets big sums money. So to get quick mortgage loans and just car loan will be good solution.

January 10th 2011

After my first listen, Narrow Stairs is by far the most diverse Death Cab album, if not the one where the band explores and challenges the scope of its sound. Production-wise, it’s crystal-clear (at least through my crappy computer speakers), even if Stairs feels glossier than Plans in most spots—mainly in vocals—but not to the point of it being uncomfortable or cloying. “Rolex Submariner

February 7th 2011

Following my monitoring, billions of persons all over the world receive the mortgage loans at different banks. Hence, there’s good chances to get a student loan in any country.

April 12th 2011

Some time ago, I did need to buy a building for my organization but I did not have enough money and could not purchase anything. Thank goodness my colleague proposed to try to take the credit loans at reliable bank. Hence, I did that and was satisfied with my term loan.

July 31st 2011
11:15am thx

sohbet odaları
August 12th 2011

The engagement part sort of confused me, you’re unhappy?

October 7th 2011

thank you for blog sohbetcell

October 7th 2011

Gibb, Cold War Kids, Nathan wonders for these guys in one word

January 5th 2012

I think that to receive the credit loans from creditors you must present a great reason. But, one time I have received a bank loan, just because I wanted to buy a building.

March 8th 2012

just what an great site. Your info has helped myself with my studies. I am in college and I have a school assignment to make. I was intending to get custom essays UK over the web, the good news is your web page has made it easier for me contend with freelance writers block and i also feel as though I’m able to move forward without any help. Appreciate it all for this good material.

Dissertation Coaching
April 16th 2012

Very nice post. Wonderful suggestions distributed. Like your web site. order a thesis All the best !.

April 19th 2012

Following my own investigation, millions of persons in the world get the personal loans from good banks. Therefore, there is good possibilities to receive a credit loan in any country.

May 12th 2012

According to my own analysis, millions of persons all over the world get the business loans at various creditors. Hence, there is great possibilities to find a small business loan in any country.

June 13th 2012

Lots of specialists say that personal loans aid people to live the way they want, because they can feel free to buy necessary stuff. Furthermore, different banks offer short term loan for different persons.

August 21st 2012

I received my first mortgage loans when I was not very old and this aided my business a lot. However, I require the term loan once more time.

personal loans
August 29th 2012

When you are in uncomfortable position and have no cash to move out from that point, you will require to receive the mortgage loans ( Because it would aid you definitely. I take short term loan every time I need and feel myself great just because of it.

October 9th 2012

People deserve very good life time and loan or short term loan will make it better. Just because freedom is grounded on money.

February 20th 2013

Time of fun can be a good thing but not every good student is able to utilize that. Generally high school students stay at the libraries and accomplish their term essays having no time for fun. Nonetheless, it is over now because you are able to turn to custom writing services and be free.

writing services
March 1st 2013

Pay your attention to such fact that while ordering papers for sale at paper writing service, you may get uneven treatment. In case you start to realize that the agency desires to trick you, do not buy custom term paper “” from it.

July 11th 2013

Do not get a correct way to to define a topic for your term paper? Don’t bother and simply buy research papers online. Those guys will be able to do all for you.

December 16th 2013

United kingdom is a famous country and Custom UK Essay writing service is the best online. Hence, because of it customers opt for it to buy term papers.

Abortion essay
December 19th 2013

I think, that is really good article about this good topic. One will buy custom essay papers ( and already written essays at the essay writing organization.

October 17th 2015

Thank you free chat