Maybe you can blame it on some indie-minded guilt. On March 1, Death Cab for Cutie — longtime independent stalwarts recently inked to Atlantic Records — will drop The John Byrd EP, the final release for them on tiny Seattle label Barsuk Records. The EP will only be available in two places: on Barsuk's Web site or in record stores who are members of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores.

It could be the result of a guilty conscience. But it's more than likely not.

"We just wanted to have a properly recorded live record out there, because bootlegs show up from time to time, and they sound pretty crappy," Death Cab frontman Ben Gibbard laughed. "It was recorded at different points along our spring tour. And we wanted to make sure we had a couple of older songs on there, from our second record [2000's We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes], plus a cover of Sebadoh's 'Brand New Love.' That's pretty much it."

The EP — named after the "bearded and mysterious sound guy" who recorded their shows — serves as a career retrospective of sorts, collecting songs from not only The Photo Album, but also 2000's full-length We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes and The Forbidden Love EP. The record will hit indie shops just as the band is heading back into the studio to begin work on the follow-up to 2003's Transatlanticism, which, despite being almost two years old, continues to spawn singles, as evidenced by the recently completed surgery-and-scissors clip for the song "Title and Registration" (see "Death Cab For Cutie Singer A Real Cutup Up In Latest Video").

So the new record will be a lot of things: their first for a major label, their first "hotly anticipated" release, and the first the band will put out since it became Seth Cohen's act of choice on FOX's "The O.C." So is the pressure to produce mounting for the group?

"It would be foolish of us to ruin the momentum we've built up by releasing an album as fast as we can," Gibbard said. "I've written as much as I've been able to given our touring schedule, and now we can go back to working on lyrics. Our goal is to have it out by the fall, but if it doesn't come out until January, that's OK too."

"We'll chip away at it, like Ben said, but we've got a good start on it. It's a matter of extra months," added bassist Nick Harmer. "A record is going to be around for years and years, so if it needs to take an extra month or two, then that's what has to happen. It's not like we're making Chinese Democracy or something."

One follow-up record that won't see the light of day anytime soon is Gibbard's just-as-popular electronic project the Postal Service. However, new music is on the way.

Almost two years to the day since they released their debut album, Give Up, the mail-order duo have issued a third single, "We Will Become Silhouettes." Featuring Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis on backing vocals, the upcoming Silhouettes four-song EP contains the new track "Be Still My Heart" and remixes by Michigan techno artist Matthew Dear and Danish electro-poppers Styrofoam. A video for "We Will Become Silhouettes" was recently shot by "Napoleon Dynamite" director Jared Hess.

Track list for The John Byrd EP, according to Barsuk Records:

  • "We Laugh Indoors"
  • "Why You'd Want to Live Here"
  • "Lightness"
  • "Photobooth"
  • "We Looked Like Giants"
  • "405"
  • "Blacking Out the Friction"/"Brand New Love"