When things break. Interview with Death Cab For Cutie
The American indie rock band Death Cab For Cutie has so far been inextricably linked to Christopher Wall. “Kintsugi” is the first album where Walla is not a producer or co-author of songs.
Benjamin Gibbard told Carlotta Aizela why this was supposed to happen and why, despite the fact that he sings mostly sad songs, Ben is the happiest person on Earth.
Benjamin, I’m sorry, but without a preface: Death Cab For Cutie without Chris Wall? Seriously?
The album is the beginning of a new chapter in the life of the group, which is clear as God’s day. This is our first record with a new producer, with a man from the side. The first 7 albums we wrote with Chris. Now, most likely, we will never work together again, and in principle we will not write music with him.
Sharp. Sounds like a final verdict.
He is no longer a member of the group. This case turned out to be very useful for us in terms of experience. Producer Rich Bones is not responsible for someone who is no longer in the group. We need someone who will allow us to strive for more. Chris was no longer able to do his job as he wanted and as we wanted. He decided two years ago that he would not be producing a record. For us, everything is as if we have long gone in different ways. It is time for a change.
What is the outcome?
I think that in a group everything is the same as in a relationship or friendship: if someone already has one foot in the doorway and you know that this person will leave sooner or later, then when it finally happens, then you feel like a load falls from the shoulders. A bittersweet sensation. We were not particularly happy, we knew that this was to happen.
After such a break, it is probably not easy to keep moving forward. There is a useful Kintsuga technique common in Asia, which would be useful to master: broken ceramics can be glued using expensive natural materials, including gold. In this case, cracks are visible, not masked. Of course, that the word serving as the title of the album was not chosen by chance?
I am very glad that I recognized this expression while recording the album. Finally, I have a designation for what I am trying to show in my music: when things break, I try to show cracks, to emphasize mistakes in order to create something new and beautiful. I am doing something beautiful from what has broken.
Too simple, doesn’t sound too true. Just like that, take all this rubbish from a relationship, all negative emotions and get pure gold at the end?
I say this: what I’m trying to do as a songwriter and what we do with the group is an attempt to create music that is intertwined with the fate of our fans and thus becomes independent of time.
My favorite songwriter, for example, is a guy named Lloyd Kohl, whose performance I was in Seattle a couple of weeks ago. While everyone stood and listened, I thought: I want to be the same in 20 years. After 20 years, I want to show up somewhere with my guitar, where there will be people of my generation who will listen to me, because my music still means something to them.
Many indie bands reproach the use of modern sound, because of this they say one team is easy to replace with another and no one will notice the difference. Such groups play from each iron, they sound fashionable, but in the end, everything is the same for everyone. Some kind of porridge. Perhaps this cynical exaggeration …
Everyone has albums, songs and bands that you like in your youth, but then you outgrow them. If the genie could fulfill 3 of my wishes, one of them would be the ability to create songs that continue to accompany people in their lives along with growing up. I don’t want to be part of this gigantic ad machine. The music we write cannot be replaced by any other.
So you are sure that “Kintsugi” will please the fans. It seems to me that your solo album was more influenced by him than the old Death Cab For Cutie records.
The best songs from “Former Lives” and the best songs from the new disc create very vivid images. When I create this, I’m like the best version of myself. In the old tracks that we recorded with Death Cab For Cutie, I sometimes did things that were completely unusual for me. It’s not so easy for people to like it, especially when you try to create something simpler. I do not write songs in order to please people. But they respond more positively to songs that paint vivid images in front of them.
You have been doing damn long music. After 3 years, you have a round date: 20 years Death Cab For Cutie. Don’t you feel slowly creeping up old age?
I am now 38 years old. If I started working in a bureau right after college, I would definitely feel old. But I live a rather fascinating life. I travel a lot with my best friends and make music. Naturally, there were stumbling blocks. Nevertheless, I feel healthier and stronger than I was in 20 years. I periodically meet people who literally grew up with my music.