Death Cab For Cutie at the Kool Haus (132 Queens Quay East), Saturday (October 15). $23 (sold out). 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard is one sensitive indie rock dude.
The sun doesn't just shine in Gibbard's world, it "cascades down his face." A heart is a "river that flows" from someone's chest, and "all is full of love." These lyrics display the sort of sensitivity that makes the less heart-on-your-sleeve among us stare at the floor, clear our throats and wish we were somewhere, anywhere else.
Is Gibbard really that sensitive? I approach the question cautiously, afraid that if I say the wrong thing I'll hurt his feelings.
"Well, I'm not clutching a fluffy bunny and crying right now," he says in a surprisingly jovial voice. "If that's what you mean." Yeah, that's pretty much what I mean.
"That sensitivity is either a plus or a minus for our band," he continues, "depending I guess on how [pause] dead your heart is."
It's 11:30 am in Boise, Idaho, which is early in rock time. And no, says Gibbard, the band does not spend its touring time drinking herbal tea and talking about their feelings.
"It's probably not like touring with Papa Roach, but we're not Peter, Paul and Mary either."
People have been referring to Death Cab as emo lately, which I guess fits in the I'm-gonna-rip-my-chest-open-and-bleed-for-you sense, but Death Cab is not emo. There's no hardcore screaming and growling followed by a tempo downshift to a nasal whine. If you like that crap er, stuff, you probably won't like this.
Their latest album, Plans, is their first on a major label, Atlantic. A mature, thoughtful, melodic series of songs about love and death, it's a melodramatic soundscape, a sweeping sonic experience for college boys to play on first dates with chicks they wanna bag.
The major-label thing is very exciting but that hasn't totally changed their situation.
"Maybe there are a couple more meals that people pick up. I certainly would never speak disparagingly about [original label] Barsuk, because they're wonderful and in a lot of ways I feel like they'll always be our home.
"But as we become more ambitious as a band, it's nice not to be, like, asking one of your friends to put his house up so you can have more money to record. That's basically what would have happened if we'd wanted to spend the amount of money we spent on this record. We would have been setting up a far more risky situation for Barsuk than for Atlantic."
And as if that weren't news enough, Plans is their first disc to have the same drummer as the previous one, Jason McGerr. Keeping a drummer around has not been Death Cab's strong point - until now.
"I've known Jason longer than I've known Chris [Walla, the guitarist] and it's nice to have someone so sane and grounded. In my experience, the drummer tends to be the wild card in any band."
Plans is also the first record featuring a tune "originated" by Walla, Brothers On A Hotel Bed.
"Chris has been writing music for as long as I've known him, but I feel like he never felt comfortable bringing anything to the band. It took a lot of not quite crying and pleading, but hoping he would bring something, and finally he brought the piano stuff and basically all the music for Brothers. I think it worked well; it certainly bodes well for the future."
Ah, collaboration. Partnership. And what about the other partnership? A little birdie told me that part of the deal with Atlantic is that Gibbard put the kibosh on his side project with Jimmy Tamborello, the Postal Service.
"What? That's not true. That's so false it's laughable. Eventually we'll do something again. Part of our arrangement with Atlantic is that the next disc has to be by Death Cab. I mean, it wouldn't make sense to put out a Postal Service record and then the major-label Death Cab record. It would send a mixed message about focus and where our priorities are, very much with Death Cab."