On Monday afternoon, Death Cab for Cutie were holed up in a Hollywood soundstage rehearsing for an exceptionally ambitious music video project. The band plans to shoot a music video for their single “You Are a Tourist” in one take while being simulcast to the Web.
Unlike one-shot videos such as OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass” or Feist’s “1234,” Death Cab can’t re-do the “Tourist” clip several times to get it right. With “You Are a Tourist,” Death Cab have one chance to do it, and they’re doing it live.
Adding to the difficulty, the band has mapped out a complex arrangement of moves and visual effects — but describing the video’s treatment might be the trickiest part of it all.
“It’s kind of hard to describe because it’s kind of like … I liken it to a 5-year-old trying to explain their trip to Disneyland,” frontman Ben Gibbard said. “It’s sensory overload, so there’s a lot of things happening, and trying to kind of walk anybody through it would be very difficult. But there are lights and dancers, and smoke and projections, and it’s gonna be kind of a little bit of a Busby Berkeley-type of spectacle.”
And a spectacle it is. Joining the band are a bevy of background actors and a troop of a dozen or so dancers, and just about as many computers controlling the action. The entire set glows with a series of projections (an abstract cityscape, geometric designs and triangles that flicker in sync with the music).
But despite the entire performance being highly intricate, the foursome seemed pretty relaxed during rehearsal.
As Ben pointed out, “I think the trick here, or the balance here, is to try to have there be a legitimate amount of choreography involved, but not so much that if one thing goes wrong, the whole thing topples like a house of cards. And there are some very, kind of, tight moves throughout the video, but nothing that, you know, if I’m not standing here at this one point, the Rube Goldberg kind of thing falls apart and you’re standing there for the next three minutes looking like a moron.”