Death Cab For Cutie’s ‘Sound’ Travels Farther Thanks To TV

'The O.C.' gives a lift to band's latest single, 'The Sound of Settling.'

If underscoring the emotions of angsty teens on television is the hot new medium for breaking bands, indie-pop darlings Death Cab for Cutie could be the movement’s poster boys.

Once a modest blip on the pop-culture radar, Death Cab’s presence has risen appreciably now that the Seattle band is being name-checked and discussed by characters on the teen drama du jour, “The O.C.”

“It’s a little surreal that our name has become synonymous with ‘The O.C.,’ ” frontman Ben Gibbard said of the show, in which emo-geek teen Seth Cohen (played by Adam Brody) makes it quite clear who his favorite band is.

Aware of the way fickle fans acquire cold feet when mainstream outlets co-opt underground culture, some indie bands shy away from such exposure, but the members of Death Cab weren’t so concerned.

“I’m happy to be a part of it,” said Gibbard, who also fronts the synth-pop outfit Postal Service, whose success also hasn’t hurt DCFC’s upward trajectory (see “Death Cab Singer Goes Postal With Electronic Side Project” ). “I feel like [the show's producers are] taking a chance with music and a lot of [deserving bands] that aren’t visible on a mainstream, pop-culture level.”

But anyone assuming the Cabbies (who took their moniker from a song in the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” film) have lost their indie cred should keep in mind that the quartet, originally from Bellingham, Washington, have turned down every major-label deal that has come their way and passed on a lucrative tour with emo stalwarts Dashboard Confessional.

And sure, while the group’s song are certainly delicate, sensitive and emotionally expressive, Death Cab insist they aren’t sentimental in their approach. So please, don’t use the dreaded “emo” tag.

“The way Ben wrote ['Transatlanticism'], it expresses melancholy without a lot of that sad, sappy sucker stuff,” guitarist/Death Cab producer Chris Walla said of the titular track and thematic centerpiece from the group’s fourth record. “There’s something sad, but it’s not bleak. It’s a real simple expression of need and needing to be loved. When things get hard, there’s always one person or one thing that will make it right at that very moment. But there’s no tragedy in that song.”

The heartrending piano epic develops into a climactic chorus at the song’s finale that induces poignantly triumphant and optimistic emotions in the face of despair. So it’s little wonder that Death Cab’s emotive music translates on TV so well.
“I’ve always been trying to [turn the] incredibly dull and drab elements of day-to-day life into something cinematic,” Gibbard said. “I want to walk around and have my own soundtrack. I want my life to be cut so there’s never a dull moment.”

And lately there haven’t been many, as Death Cab’s breakthrough single, “The Sound of Settling,” is making headway on radio. “Every once in a while a song gets written in five minutes and all of a sudden it becomes a song everyone loves,” Gibbard said. “It wasn’t one of those songs that [was] labored over, or [we] tried to make a heavy statement [with].”

“It’s a lot less like chemistry where you add a little this and that. It’s more like farming,” bassist Nick Harmer said. “You plant something in the ground and it grows and you’re like, ‘Hey, look at that — I’ve got food.’ ”

Death Cab for Cutie tour dates, according to their publicist:

  • 4/21 – Atlanta, GA @ Variety
  • 4/22 – Birmingham, AL @ Work Play Theatre
  • 4/23 – New Orleans, LA @ Howlin’ Wolf
  • 4/24 – Houston, TX @ Numbers
  • 4/26 – Dallas, TX @ Trees
  • 4/27 – Dallas, TX @ Trees
  • 4/28 – Austin, TX @ Stubbs
  • 4/30 – Tempe, AZ @ Marquee
  • 5/1 – Indio, CA @ Coachella
  • 5/3 – San Francisco, CA @ Fillmore
  • 5/4 – San Francisco, CA @ Fillmore
  • 5/5 – Portland, OR @ Crystal
  • 5/6 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox
  • 5/7 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox
  • 5/8 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox
  • 5/14 – Victoria, BC @ Sugar
  • 5/15 – Vancouver, BC @ Richard’s on Richards