The last time MTV News spoke to [artist id="710356"]Death Cab for Cutie[/artist] about the status of their new album, guitarist/producer Chris Walla said things were still in the "scratchy, unfinished demos" stage but that the music was already looking to split the difference between the live-and-loose Narrow Stairs and the more polished Plans.
So, when we got DCFC frontman Ben Gibbard on the phone last week — to discuss his love of all things Seattle Mariner-y — we asked him for an update on the project. From the sound of things, the focus has sharpened considerably.
"We're going in the studio in June to start working on the record," Gibbard told MTV News. "We're going to be recording through the summer and into the fall, and all things being equal, we're probably looking for a spring 2011 release."
Echoing Walla's earlier sentiments, Gibbard said that the new Death Cab tunes do seem to be gleaned from a live setting or just a jam session in a roomful of friends.
"We all live in different cities now, but I strangely feel closer to my bandmates than I ever have before, and I think that as we move forward as a band, our only motivation is to make music that we enjoy, and to make music because it's fun," Gibbard said. "All of the accolades that we once hoped for — that we were striving for that were directly outside of the creative process — we've met almost all of those goals. So now, for us, it's more of, 'Oh, you know, I love hanging out with Chris and Nick and Jason, and talking about music and playing guitar.' It's just fun. We're only doing it because we enjoy it."
And in keeping with that vibe, some of Gibbard's early favorites for the album came from an informal e-mail he got from Walla that contained a couple of demos the guitarist had been working on purely on a whim.
"We've had a couple of songs where Chris has sent me music, and I've done some arrangements and lyrics and melodies on them, and in the batch of material we've got sitting in the coffer ready to go on the record, that to me is the most exciting stuff," he said. "They were a couple of tunes that he sent me that I've kind of finished, I'm really excited about."
More than a decade into their career, with both a platinum-selling album (Plans) and a #1 debut (Narrow Stairs) under their belts, Death Cab finally feel like they've reached a place where they can make the kind of music they want to, without worrying about impressing anyone other than themselves. And that appears to be the driving force behind the new album: complete, hard-won artistic freedom.
"I'd like to think a lot of inspiration comes from that being the motivation, rather than, 'Oh, this is our major-label record, we've got to do it great, or else people are going to say this,' " Gibbard said. "All those things you never talk about, but they're all in your mind. So for us now, going into this next record, we'll assess our accomplishments after we're done making them, and ... I feel like we have a lot more records to make.
"We've all kind of landed in a place in our lives, personally and professionally, where we can all get together and enjoy each other's company and enjoy making music," he reiterated. "I certainly feel a lot more confident as a songwriter and a musician, and confident in the ability of my bandmates to make things that we'd want to listen to ourselves."
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