Following the release of their ninth studio album, Seattle’s influential indie-rock luminaries return to Australia.
Seattle’s influential indie-rock luminaries Death Cab for Cutie return to Australia for a special concert in Hamer Hall as part of a much anticipated tour. Adored for their shimmering songwriting and evocative alt-rock style, the veteran musicians will perform their recent ninth studio album Thank You for Today alongside their impressive back-catalogue of hits.
Their first studio album in three years, Thank You for Today, is the sound of Death Cab for Cutie expanding and refining, a band twenty years into its evolution. Together with new members – guitarist Dave Depper and keyboardist Zac Rae – Gibbard, Nick Harmer and Jason McGerr have pushed their music in new directions, further experimenting with pop production techniques and sampling Yoko Ono’s 1972 track “Mind Train” in the album’s lead single “Gold Rush”. The result is an anthemic, life-affirming album that “marks the stirring Kings of indie rock, Death Cab for Cutie, will play at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Hamer Hall on March 6, 2019 as part of their much anticipated national tour, following the release of their ninth studio album, Thank You for Today.
Formed in 1997, Death Cab for Cutie’s rise from small-time solo project to Grammy-nominated rock band is one of indie rock’s greatest success stories. Comprising Ben Gibbard, Nick Harmer, Jason McGerr, Dave Depper, and Zac Rae, Death Cab for Cutie rose to become one of the most definitive indie bands of all time with their emotive songwriting and distinctive melodies layered with rich, wistful vocal tones. They have been nominated for eight Grammy Awards, including Best Rock Album for 2015’s Kintsugi.
Thank You for Today is the sound of Death Cab for Cutie expanding and refining its sound, a band twenty years into its evolution. The Seattle band’s ninth studio album, recorded in Los Angeles with producer Rich Costey in late 2017 and early 2018, stands alongside classic Death Cab for Cutie albums – including their 1998 debut Something About Airplanes and 2003’s masterful Transatlanticism – as a definitive collection, with ten tracks that are by turns beautiful and dynamic, darkly anthemic and bittersweet.
“I realised early on in the process that I wanted to write a record that is very much who we are. I wanted to go more inward, and create something more personal,” says singer and guitarist Ben Gibbard.
Songs such as the kinetic Gold Rush, Northern Lights and You Moved Away were inspired by Gibbard’s hometown and reflects upon how interconnected geography is with memory and how hard it can be to hold onto places and to people.
“And when that geography changes, it’s as if you’re not only coming to terms with the passage of time, but it’s as if you’re losing those people and that time in your life all over again. Cities are in constant flux, and I’m not claiming victimhood in this, but the speed at which Seattle is changing, and people of colour and creative communities are being pushed out, is alarming,” says Gibbard.
The hypnagogic album opener, I Dreamt We Spoke Again, with its indelible chorus, a haunting doorbell chime, and a guitar line reminiscent of Music For The Masses-era Depeche Mode, stood out right away to Harmer as “one of those immediately captivating tracks.” Gold Rush, on the other hand, was nearly an abandoned demo that Costey encouraged Gibbard to reapproach. The song, built around a propulsive sample from Yoko Ono’s epic 1972 track Mind Train,ended up becoming one of the album’s most exciting tunes — “a requiem for a skyline” and to a city whose rapid-fire development has led to a sky peppered with cranes and scaffolding.
Another song anchored by familiar geography is the late-album winner Northern Lights, which references Dye’s Inlet in Gibbard’s hometown. “I wanted to write a song that was like a John Hughes movie that takes place in my hometown,” he says, “about two people in this suburban wasteland with nothing to do who spend their time on this body of water, one pining for the other, yet both knowing that this place will be a temporary stop in a much longer life.”
In the wake of founding member Chris Walla’s departure in 2014, Death Cab for Cutie recruited Dave Depper and Zac Rae to join the band. After more than a year and a half of performances together, Gibbard, Harmer and McGerr felt confident enough in Depper and Rae’s creative instincts to invite them to contribute to the new record.
“Dave and Zac bring such unbelievable skill sets to the band that we’ve never had,” says Gibbard.
He cites, for instance, the array of keyboards and synthesizers Rae had at his disposal, and his accompanying skills playing them, for “tiny melodies and ambient sounds” on Summer Years that he says give the song a weight and complexity that it wouldn’t have had otherwise.
“There’s a nervousness about bringing new people into the creative process, especially if you have lost a seminal member of the band,” says Gibbard.
“But Dave and Zac were fans of the band before they were members, so they have a unique perspective on the music that the other three of us can’t see.”
The five members of Death Cab spent several weeks with producer Rick Costey in his Santa Monica studio last fall, recording basic tracks live and later fleshing out additional layers. The name Thank you for Today was what the band would say to each other every day during the recording process.
The Death Cab for Cutie Australia tour includes performances in Sydney.
Arts Centre Melbourne and Supersonic present
Death Cab for Cutie
6 March 2019
Tickets on sale soon. Visit artscentremelbourne.com.au for updates
Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne