Death Cab for Cutie release new video for “Grapevine Fires”

Death Cab for Cutie
Death Cab for Cutie
Atlantic recording group Death Cab for Cutie has unveiled a must-see new video for “Grapevine Fires,” one of the stand-out tracks on their RIAA gold certified Grammy nominated “NARROW STAIRS.” The animated clip, directed by Walter Robot, a.k.a. the team of multimedia artist Bill Barminski and writer Christopher Louie.

“Grapevine Fires” was initially inspired by DCFC vocalist/guitarist Ben Gibbard’s up-close-and-personal encounter with 2007’s California wildfires. The song – which was recently included on “CHANGE IS NOW: RESTORING AMERICA’S PROMISE,” the official commemorative CD-DVD set celebrating President Barack Obama’s historic inauguration – motivated Walter Robot to create an animated short film which brilliantly relays the sense of devastating tragedy and forced optimism caused by the fire’s wrath.

Since coming together in 2007, Walter Robot have been hailed for their ingenious and imaginative work, blending live action and animation in a wide range of music videos, commercials, and experimental films. Among the prolific duo’s recent credits are collaborations with Gnarls Barkley and Modest Mouse as well as an animated alliance with journalist Joel Stein, entitled Joel Stein’s Completely Unfabricated Adventures, which was an official entry at the Sundance Film Festival 09.

“I have been an admirer of the beautiful art of Walter Robot from afar for a while, ” says Death Cab bassist Nick Harmer. “Working with them on this video is an amazing dream come true and I am in awe of the stunning video they have made for us.”

“We’re huge Death Cab fans,” says Walter Robot. “We had also heard from other directors how great all the Death Cab guys are and how really open they are to the creative process, which they were. They were extremely supportive and sincere.”

In other DCFC news, the Seattle-based band has just returned from a long awaited headline tour of Australia and Japan and is now set to kick off a spring schedule on April 7th at the Tower Theatre in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. The dates then continue through a May 7th show at Orlando, Florida’s Hard Rock Live. Support throughout the tour comes from Cold War Kids, Matt Costa, and Ra Ra Riot (see itinerary below).

Death Cab for Cutie is: Ben Gibbard: guitars, keyboards, vocals * Chris Walla: guitars, keyboards * Nick Harmer: bass * Jason McGerr: drums

Death Cab for Cutie
On Tour 2009
4/7-29 w/Cold War Kids and Ra Ra Riot
except * Cold War Kids only and **Ra Ra Riot only
5/1-6 w/Matt Costa and Ra Ra Riot except *** Matt Costa only
5/7 Special Guests TBA

7 Upper Darby, PA Tower Theatre
8 Washington, DC DAR Constitution Hall
9 Davidson, NC John Belk Arena/Davidson College
10 Louisville, KY Louisville Palace
11 Memphis, TN Orpheum Theatre
12 Tulsa, OK The Brady Theater
13 Omaha, NE Holland Theatre *
15 St. Paul, MN Roy Wilkings Auditorium
17 Chicago, IL Aragon Ballroom
18 East Lansing, MI Breslin Events Center/Michigan State University
19 Waukesha, WI Van Male Fieldhouse/Carroll College
22 Bellingham, WA The Mount Baker Theater **
24 Spokane, WA McCarthey Athletic Center/Gonzaga University
25 Boise, ID The Morrison Center
27 Sacramento, CA Memorial Auditorium
29 San Diego, CA RIMAC Arena/UC San Diego *

1 Austin, TX Austin Music Hall
2 New Orleans, LA Contemporary Arts Center ***
4 Nashville, TN Ryman Auditorium
5 Birmingham, AL BJCC Concert Hall
6 Atlanta, GA Fox Theatre
7 Orlando, FL Hard Rock Live

Death Cab For Cutie – biography

death cab for cutie

When asked to describe Death Cab For Cutie’s sixth studio album, Narrow Stairs, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Chris Walla characterizes it as “having teeth,” and we can’t think of a more apt summarization of the disc. While many bands in Death Cab For Cutie’s situation would try to recreate the success of hit songs like “Soul Meets Body” or “I Will Follow You Into The Dark,” instead the band have crafted the most ambitious and varied album of their career by simply doing what they’ve been doing since they formed in Bellingham, Washington a decade ago – made a brilliant record that refuses to pander, while stretching the artistic boundaries of what a Death Cab For Cutie record should sound like.

After spending much of 2006 in the midst of a turbulent tour cycle surrounding their RIAA platinum, Grammy-nominated album Plans, the band took a well-deserved break during the first part of 2007. Frontman Ben Gibbard embarked on his first-ever solo tour; guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Chris Walla released a solo album and produced records for acts like Tegan And Sara; drummer Jason McGerr constructed his own recording studio, Two Sticks; and bassist Nick Harmer, as always seems to be the case, worked on various projects. If Plans was a collection of firsts – Death Cab’s first album for a major label; the first disc to feature songwriting contributions from someone other than Gibbard; the first Death Cab disc recorded with the same drummer as the one before – Narrow Stairs feels more like home.

The decision to record the new album at McGerr’s Two Sticks, Walla’s studio Alberta Court, and long-time friend John Vanderslice’s studio Tiny Telephone allowed the band to abandon self-conscious tendencies in order to craft the most creative album of their career. “I wanted more than anything to create a professional studio that was also somewhere that was comfortable to hang out in,” says McGerr about the conception and construction of Two Sticks (which was designed largely with the Narrow Stairs sessions in mind). “To do that, I had to take into account what we all love and hate about the studios we’ve been to, and make it comfortable enough to spend five or six weeks there at a time without feeling homesick.” That environment, combined with the heightened amount of collaboration on the new songs, makes Narrow Stairs the climactic culmination of Death Cab’s first ten years.

While much of this is due to the musical and emotional relationship the current quartet have developed over the last few years of playing, singing, and touring together, it can also be attributed to the environment Narrow Stairs was tracked in. According to Harmer, the album was recorded “with all of us sitting in a room looking at each other,” making the sessions seem more like a typical band practice than a high-budget recording. And listening back to these eleven songs, there’s a level of intimacy that couldn’t have been attained any other way. “There was a lot of talk about what we wanted to accomplish as a rhythm section,” Harmer continues, adding that he took acoustic bass lessons in order to stretch out on the record. “I just wanted to think of my instrument in a different way.”

Recorded entirely on two-inch tape (thus limiting the amount of overdubs), the result is an album that captures Death Cab For Cutie’s live sound – a process that was scary for the band at times. “There’s stuff on this album that makes each of us uncomfortable performance-wise,” explains Walla, adding that the happy accidents – such as tripping over a cable and unplugging Harmer’s bass on “I Will Possess Your Heart” – turned out to be some of his favorite moments on the disc. “We spend an overwhelming amount of time as a band playing live together, so it doesn’t really make sense not to approach our recording the same way,” Gibbard adds. The live feel of the recording not only affected the way the songs were put to tape but also the way they were arranged, making for the band’s most aggressive record to date.

The opening track, “Bixby Canyon Bridge,” is an excellent overreaching metaphor for the sonic scope of Narrow Stairs: The song begins somewhat characteristically, with Gibbard’s singing about “descending a dusty gravel ridge” over an ebbing bed of subdued synthesizers and chiming guitars… but halfway through the track, the song unexpectedly veers into a syncopated drum-and-guitar breakdown aided by Harmer’s low-frequency melody line. These types of aural experiments take the approach of such Plans songs as “What Sarah Said” to dazzling new heights, whether it’s the eight-and-a-half-minute-long first single, “I Will Possess Your Heart,” or the carefree orchestral waltz, “You Can Do Better Than Me.”

“Narrow Stairs was the title Nick came up with, and I think it lends itself to a lot of the lyrical content,” explains Gibbard when asked about some of the themes of the record. “It doesn’t connate descension or ascension – and I think that by giving it some physical limitations in describing it as narrow, it leaves a lot more open to interpretation.” While subtle details like “softly snowing televisions” help the listener paint a vivid mental picture, ultimately the characters are the souls of these songs – whether the protagonist is giving away his Queen-sized bed out of desperation or searching under an abandoned bridge for a non-existent revelation.

Then there’s the aforementioned “You Can Do Better Than Me,” a lingering paean to relationship insecurities that shows how Gibbard has grown as a lyricist. “I think Ben’s lyrics will fall deep into the minds of many who think alike, but can’t find the courage to speak honestly and openly,” explains McGerr. “In other words, if the thought that you’ll never be worthy of a better mate hasn’t passed through your mind at some point in your life, no matter how fleetingly, you’re either lying or unable to articulate it.” While the content of the album is dark at times, Gibbard manages to express his melancholy musings with a sparkling – and sometimes subtle – dose of hopefulness.

“If you can’t stand in place, you can’t tell who’s walking away,” Gibbard croons on Narrow Stairs’ penultimate track, “Pity And Fear” – and while that’s true, Death Cab For Cutie have taken a giant step forward both creatively and conceptually with this album. While it hasn’t been an easy road to get to this point, Death Cab For Cutie insist that more than anything, this next chapter in the band’s evolution is due to the fact that they’re relating both as individuals and band mates. “To think that tension is adding to the music isn’t true for us,” Gibbard explains, citing notoriously at-odds acts like Fleetwood Mac and Metallica. “It’s easier for us to make good music when we’re all relating to each other and getting along.”

Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs – music review

Death Cab for Cutie has unveiled initial details of their new album. Produced by the band’s own Chris Walla, “Narrow Stairs” will be preceded by the single, “I Will Possess Your Heart.”

death cab for cutie
Artist: Death Cab For Cutie
Title: Narrow Stairs
Label: Atlantic Records
Rating: 7/10

Corporate line:
Death Cab for Cutie has unveiled initial details of their new album. Produced by the band’s own Chris Walla, “Narrow Stairs” will be preceded by the single, “I Will Possess Your Heart.” “I hope this album is a bit of a surprise for those out there that think they have us all figured out. We can’t wait to share these songs with the world,” states Death Cab bassist Nick Harmer.

The hits:
“I Will Possess Your Heart” – A stalker’s love song? I never thought being so creepy could sound so good.
“Cath…” – A beautiful song that even in its gorgeous splendor is a painful ode to a married woman who has “closed the door on many men.” It sounds as though the singer was one of those men.
“Grapevine Fires” – An odd, but compelling song. DCFC knows how to be odd and beautiful all at the same time. Who would have thought that you could sing about brush fires and make it sound so delicate and charming.

The rest:

“Talking Bird” – Not necessarily a bad song–just unremarkable.
“You Can Do Better Than Me” – A pretty song that goes by without much thought. It’s not fair to say it isn’t good–because it is the sort of song that with time may grow more interesting.
“Your New Twin Sized Bed” – A throwaway song.

Death Cab For Cutie follow with a formula that has served bands like The Flaming Lips very well. They create worlds with odd characters that often cross the line between cute and bizarre. The characters make for compelling stories. The band’s gift is that they can also make great melodies out of these stories. It’s not a perfect album, but it is wildly interesting. Without weeks its hard to tell how this album will grow on me. Admittedly “Ok Computer” and The Flaming Lips’ “The Soft Bulletin” didn’t appear to be masterpieces upon the first few listen. History will probably be a better judge of “Narrow Stairs” but right now its a good album. I’ll report back if it begins to engulf me more as time goes on.

Watch the video for “I Will Possess Your Heart”