Death Cab for Cutie normally play to thousands rather than dozens of people. So for them to agree to play a small show for KCRW was incredible in itself. Actually being in the audience of that show watching them was even better.
They proved last night, that they’re one of indie rock’s most dependably great music makers. And they just keep growing with each album, and their audiences grow with them.
The band played a special private show in front of a live audience last night at Apogee’s Berkeley Street Studio that was recorded for broadcast on Morning Becomes Eclectic on November 1.
Singer Ben Gibbard made a point to note that KCRW was one of the only radio stations they would do the live session for, which included two music sets and an interview.
Backstage before the show, Bassist Nick Harmer admitted to some nerves because it was such an intimate room – literally people are right up against the stage — but once the band got up there, it was clear they were in their element, and treated us to a batch of songs, many from their excellent new album “Codes and Keys”.
Watching Death Cab is like hanging out with a confident friend – they’re not arrogant (which, arguably, they have a right to be),they are just self-assured in a way that is so deep it comes through in every single song. There’s no swagger, just pure talent. And a clear love for their own songs and what they do.
Just weeks after one of indie rock’s originals, R.E.M., finally called it quits, KCRW DJ Anne Litt, who hosted the evening, had to ask how they keep their relationship strong and “keep it fresh” after all these years. Ben quickly quipped “date nights”, to lots of laughter from the audience. Then, Chris talked about how they’ve done it.
“When you start a band you all jump in the van together…a young band sort of makes it’s own gravity. Like everybody quits their job together, and everybody jumps in the van together because that’s a respite and a relief from your day job. It’s something you get to look forward to and something that just completely changes your life.
That itself is this glue that only lack of communication, frustration, anger and time can blow apart. And it does blow apart for a lot of bands. But if it doesn’t, I think very much the old adage of ‘if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger,’ I think that it’s definitely made us stronger.”
Ben adds “This is not unique to this band by any stretch of the imagination, but I think there is something that happens when you get in a room with people and you’re playing music and it works. We had all been in bands before Death Cab For Cutie and we tried and tried and tried to sound good and it just never sounded right. And we sounded like us from the first song we ever played together.
I think when bands break up and fizzle apart is when they lose track of that, when they lose track of what made them so special. And the sum of the parts is what makes the band work.”
Anne also had to mention that “Codes and Keys” ends with the track “Stay Young, Go Dancing”, a stark difference from their recent album enders. Ben says they realized that of the previous six records they had put out, there was only one that didn’t have a major downer at the end of the record and realized they wanted to end on an up note.
“It’s a simple song, it’s nice to end with a “palette cleansing song that is upbeat and doesn’t bum you out”. But he made sure to note, “I like bummer songs. I love them. I’ve always loved then.”
Here’s to that!
Enjoy more photos of the evening courtesy of photographer Jeremiah Garcia.
Death Cab for Cutie Live on KCRW Set List
Doors Unlocked and Open
You Are a Tourist
St Peter’s Cathedral
Stay Young, Go Dancing
Home is a Fire
Sound of Settling