Attention Death Cab for Cutie fans and savage Internet pirates: You might wanna stop downloading that version of Narrow Stairs you stumbled across on Torrent Finder or Mininova. And not just because illegal downloading is morally reprehensible and — gasp! — a violation of copyright law.
No, you should knock it off because despite what you may have heard, the version of Stairs that’s floating around on file-sharing sites isn’t legit — it’s not even by Death Cab for Cutie, for that matter. Basically, what you’re downloading is an April Fools’ Day joke that quickly spiraled out of control.
How do we know? Well, for starters, we actually heard Narrow Stairs last month , and the “leaked” version ain’t it. Also, we spoke to the guys on the album floating around right now, and they’re not Death Cab. They’re a German band called Velveteen — though they’re flattered by the comparisons (and the confusion).
“Yeah, I heard about this — someone sent me a MySpace message saying we had been part of an April joke,” Velveteen frontman Carsten Schrauff told MTV News on Thursday (April 3) from his home in Frankfurt, Germany. “Then we started getting more people asking us about it. We had no idea what was happening, but we heard it and started telling people it wasn’t Death Cab, it was us they were hearing. It’s pretty unbelievable.”
Schrauff said the songs people had mistaken as being from Narrow Stairs were actually taken from his band’s new album, Home Waters, though the mix-up is certainly understandable. His voice does sort of sound like DCFC frontman Ben Gibbard’s, particularly on Waters’ opening track, “Plastic Cups” (which is misidentified as Stairs opener “Bixby Canyon Bridge” on the purported leak), and Death Cab are listed as one of Velveteen’s influences on their MySpace page.
So how did the joke start? Well, it’s the handiwork of Jerome Holeyman, a blogger who goes by the handle Charlatantric, who posted a link to download Stairs as an April Fools’ prank. He then quickly watched things get out of hand for the second year in a row.
“I actually did this a year ago with Interpol and this Swedish band called Cut City. I heard them and thought they were good but realized they were remarkably similar to Interpol,” Holeyman told MTV News. “So I leaked it, and it got so big that according to Last.FM, the songs got something like 10,000 plays. Based on Cut City’s messages, it even got airplay on Portuguese National Radio. It was an astounding success.
“This year, I came across Velveteen, who were extremely similar to Death Cab for Cutie, so I selected specific tracks from their album, injected ’I Will Possess Your Heart’ [which had already been posted on DCFC’s MySpace page] and leaked it,” he continued. “And it’s gotten huge. I’ve received a slew of messages from people saying, ’You ruined Death Cab!’ I know it’s worked, because I manage a band [Moving Mountains], and one of the members actually downloaded it and listened to it in his car. When he told me about it, we started laughing at him.”
Holeyman said his intention wasn’t to mess with Death Cab or their fans, and that he only wanted to give Velveteen some exposure (when he posted the link to the fake Narrow Stairs, he gave the German band a shout-out by recommending them to listeners who liked the “new” Death Cab). He claims that if contacted by DCFC’s label, Atlantic Records, he’d gladly pull everything down, but he doesn’t see that happening anytime soon. A spokesperson for the label had no comment on the situation when contacted by MTV News.
“Typically, I avoid RIAA material, stuff that can violate copyright laws,” Holeyman added. “And I plan on doing a joke like this every year, because people will continually fall for it.”
And if you may be digging the dreamy, atmospheric pop of the fake Stairs, we’ve got some bad news for you: The real version of the record, which hits stores May 13, is remarkably different — more raw and loose, less produced — which the band made clear when we spoke to them last month.
“With every record, you go in with a framework, and the whole idea with this record was, ’We’re going to track as much of it as we can, completely live — and no one stops a take under any circumstance,’ ” guitarist (and Stairs producer) Chris Walla said. “Like, if something falls over, just keep going.”
“There definitely were a couple of moments where it got a little heated,” Gibbard added. “Like, I’d f— up, or someone would f— up and be like, ’Oh man!,’ and we’d all go, ’What are you doing?! Don’t stop a take!’ “