Benjamin Gibbard is fascinated by love and death. This comes as no surprise to fans of Death Cab for Cutie. And, as he has branched out on his own for his first solo album, those topics are pretty much still at the front of his mind. From Ben:
“I think that love and death are two subjects that I tend to keep coming back to because they are so unexplainable. Just when you think you have one figured out you’re made painfully aware how little you understand about it.”
He captures loneliness better than just about anyone, especially when he reinterprets a song about riding the rodeo — “Something’s Rattling (Cowpoke) — into a ditty about living in LA and “a state of being lost both beautifully and tragically, lost in this gigantic grid of a city.”
During his live session, he set up pretty much every song with a story about how or why it was written.
He named Teenage Fanclub as his favorite band before covering their song “Everything Flows” and crediting them for offering inspiration when he gets frustrated, musically-speaking. He also tells us “Teardrop Windows” is about his favorite building in Seattle, the Smith Tower.
Last but not least, he talks about his songwriting process and it was truly fascinating. Below is a snippet, but read the full transcript here:
“I tend to write off of whatever the vowel sounds I’m making when I’m just writing a melody. For me it always begins with an instrument and then the instrument gets a melody and then the melody gets a lyric. Sometimes whatever vowel sounds, mush mouth noises I’m making, when I’m singing in tongues so to speak, whatever vowel sounds arise from that determine the tone of the lyric and what the lyrics are to a pretty crazy extent…I’m really envious of people who seem to be always creating something. Who are always in the state of making something or dreaming on an idea. My experience as a song writer is it’s always been a rather labored experience. I’m content with the results, but I don’t tend to think about songwriting as this thing that’s just beamed down to you. I don’t constantly feel like a vessel for creative things. I feel I really have to work at it.”
Benjamin Gibbard Live on KCRW Set List
Something’s Rattling (Cowpoke)
You Can Do Better Than Me
Duncan, Where Have You Gone?
Everything Flows (Teenage Fanclub cover)
A Hard One to Know