Don't expect to see Ben Gibbard rifling though his glove compartment while rain beats down on his car in Death Cab for Cutie's new video for "Title and Registration." Although the song sets the scene as such, the clip instead finds the band giving Gibbard a heart transplant.
"Literal interpretations of songs make really crappy videos," Gibbard explained. "They're always really cheesy. Especially with the songs we write, the lyrics tend to be relatively descriptive, so there's really no reason to have the video mime whatever is happening in the song."
The operating room and the inside of a car may not have a thing in common, but the video, shot recently by director Patrick Daughters (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Secret Machines), is strangely suited to the band's sobering, introspective next single in tone and mood (see "Death Cab For Cutie Play Doctor In New Video"). It's a grim scene to see an immobile Gibbard poring over recent memories while helplessly coping with a completely separate incident. And even though Gibbard's insides are nothing more than accordion paper lanterns, the experience of being cut open by your friends — even in jest — does leave a slight psychological scar.
"Even though it's obviously not real, there's a very vulnerable feeling you get from lying down and looking up at all these people," Gibbard said. "It's really just creepy to have all these people looking down and poking and prodding. It's a little weird."
"When [drummer] Jason [McGerr] cut his ribs and they snapped open ... that had this real visceral response on me," said sometime surgeon/ fulltime bassist Nick Harmer. "Almost like, 'Ooh, did that hurt?' "
"Title and Registration" is the third and likely last single from Death Cab's fourth album, Transatlanticism. In the new year, the band will start working on its major-label debut. Recording is expected to begin in March, with an eye on a fall release.
After nearly six years on indie Barsuk, the Pacific Northwest quartet signed with Atlantic Records last month, following a brief bidding war. While that sounds exciting, Death Cab aren't exactly the type of band to be swayed by some iced chains and a Benzo.
"We just wanted to make sure we could get everything that we wanted, as far as creative control," Gibbard said.
But surely there were some perks, especially in being solicited by a label with a 57-year-old back catalog.
"OK," he confessed. "We got a few good lunches out of it, and some box sets that I probably wouldn't have purchased that I was able to procure for free. They showed me the Led Zeppelin catalog, and I was like, 'Where do I sign?' "
But Death Cab for Cutie aren't forgetting their roots. A live EP, reaching back to tracks off their second album, 2000's We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, will only be available through independent record stores when it drops January 25.
"It's a way for us, as a band, to give respect to where we came from," Harmer explained. "These were the stores that stocked our records before Best Buy and all the others."
Gibbard offered a different take on the EP: "To quote David Lowery from Camper Van Beethoven, it's greatest hits played faster."