Death Tape for Death Cab
J. Gordon
10/29/2002 1:46:46 PM

"My hygiene habits are just fine"

It’s every reporter’s nightmare: you’ve got an interview with Benjamin Gibbard, the lead singer/guitarist for Death Cab for Cutie, widely considered to be THE happening indie-emo group and darling of the critics right now—and something goes wrong.

Preparing and anticipating the event for weeks ahead of time, the moment of truth is a giddy one indeed: Their latest releases, The Photo Album and The Stability EP [Barsuk Records] are getting accolades everywhere as dark, thoughtful pop. At first listen anyone can tell, this is something very important. You merrily rip through all your questions, a mix that you’ve carefully culled from message boards, past-read articles, and your own observations. You take no notes, heck, it’s all on tape and you’re having such a good time rapping with your musical superhero. You get back to the office, pop the tape in, hit rewind and then play, all set to transcribe.

Er…what’s this? The sound of the sea. And then, wait, a voice!…a tiny voice, far, far away. You realize it’s your voice, asking excitable little questions in a distant, pixiesh timbre. A blurry, lower tone responds. Ben’s voice. You crank it up.

Well, it’s parts of Ben’s voice. You strain to identify words like, “um, well, and then…” interspersed with a general blurrrrrgghhhh that competes with the washing drone of an audiotape sea. You try headphones. You try lots of volume. Nothing works, the tape is, to put it bluntly, fucked.

Meanwhile, Death Cab for Cutie fans are emailing like mad: When’s the interview going to be posted? What did he say? Is he coming to Japan? Oh, the pressure.

Well, I have to be honest with you, now don’t I? The tape is fucked. I can’t give you quotes. So this isn’t an interview, exactly. Consider it a remembered interview. There are a couple short quotes for what I could make out clearly. I still have my questions, here’s how I remember his answers:

What does your name mean?

He said it was from the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, who performed in a strip bar scene in the Beatles’ movie, "Magical Mystery Tour."

As your 3rd full length CD, The Photo Album’s got more elaborate compositions and maturity. Do you agree?

Ben said he hoped that every album he did would not be more of the same and that it would show more maturity. All in all, he’s happy with the new album.

Why did The Stability EP come out so soon after The Photo Album’s release? Why weren’t those three tracks included in the Photo Album?

Ben likes the idea of having something to sell at shows that’s different. He feels The Photo Album stands on its own and didn’t need those tracks.

Do you buy into categorization like “indie” or “emo” to describe your music?

He doesn’t pay much attention to categorization. He just likes to make music.

Did you start out with the intention to defy the sound of mainstream music?

He said something like this: The only intention I started out with was to write songs that I liked.

Are you a music rebel, or a music elitist?

If I remember right, he said: Neither. I like all kinds of things, popular and unpopular, and I don’t like a certain kind of music just because it seems cool.

When did you write “20th Century Towers”? Anything to do with Sept. 11th?

OK, this one I DEFINITELY remember, and even heard a blur on the tape to back it up: We actually wrote that song long before September 11th, and it has nothing to do with last year’s big event at all.

Really nice cover of “All is Full of Love.” Are you a big Bjork fan?

“Oh, sure.” [That much we could hear!]

What happened to the “Kaleidoscope” and “We all laugh indoors” videos?

There were never videos made for those songs, due to time and budget constraints.

What’s up with All Time Quarterback (solo project) and when can we hear more?

Never! Ben has no interest in reviving this project.

Any chance DCFC’s 7” tracks will be released on CD?

There’s always the chance, but no timetable has been set.

Are you currently working on any new material?

Yes, but mainly just getting through the tour and fighting off a cold right now.

Why don’t you perform “Prove My Hypotheses” anymore?

He said, “We still do. We just alternate songs on the set lists, so you won’t always hear the same thing at every show.”

When will you come to Japan?

“I don’t know.”

Who in the band is considered ‘the Heartthrob’?

“Definitely Mike.” [referring to Michael Schorr, drummer. Ben did not elaborate.]

A fan asked me why are you so fascinated with “Goober Grape”?

Oh, that’s just a little inside joke. A fan once saw Ben eating it and now he can never live it down.

Another fan(?) suggested that your hygiene habits should be questioned.

Ben says, (and I quote): “My hygiene habits are just fine.”

So, that's how it, pretty much.


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