Death Cab For Cutie Living Up To The 'Death' Part On Next LP

New album, due in August, marked by dark motifs.

Chris Walla was eating a burrito in rural Massachusetts when he had a

eureka moment.

"Maybe we should call the record Plans," the Death Cab for Cutie

guitarist recalled telling bassist Nick Harmer. They presented the idea

to the rest of the band, who lingered on it for only a few brief seconds

before agreeing.

"I swear to God, it was that easy," Walla laughed. Due August 30, Death

Cab's fifth album picks up where their 2003 breakthrough,

Transatlanticism, left off.

"They're in the same kind of ilk as [The Beatles'] Rubber Soul to

Revolver," frontman Ben Gibbard said of the companionlike nature

of the albums, stressing that he's not comparing their work to the Fab


"It has a lot of the spirit of Transatlanticism," Walla

explained. "Picking up there, yet moving forward. This is the first time

in the history of the band that the same four people have worked on two

records in a row."

While "The O.C." has famously been generous to the band's rising profile

the past two years, it's another show that has featured their music

-- HBO's "Six Feet Under" -- that has the most in common with

the new album's dark motifs. While emolike sentiments of love and loss

remain, existential questions revolving around life and death seem to

preoccupy the quartet on Plans. And despite Death Cab's most

fruitful times, a major-label debut, artistic autonomy and a huge

following awaiting their next move, Gibbard can't help but wait for the

other shoe to drop.

"When things are going great I can only think, 'When is this going to

end?' " Gibbard said. "[In a good relationship] it's like, 'One of us is

gonna die one day, and that's really gonna be a bummer.' Knowing that

there will be an eventual end to it is something I can't shake and

should probably seek therapy for."

However bleak it sounds, the record still retains optimism and walks

that patented DCFC line between where happiness ends and sadness begins.

(Or is it the other way around?)

The album opens with the anthemic and bittersweet "Marching Bands of

Manhattan," a soaring and classic Death Cab mini-movie. Commencing with

elegiac organs, a lyrical story builds to a Coldplay-esque

grandiloquence with the heartbreaking lyrics "Sorrow drips into your

heart from a pinhole/ Just like a faucet that leaks/ And there is

comfort in the sound/ But while you debate half-empty and half-full/

Your love is gonna drown."

Produced by guitarist/ studio whiz Walla in a barn in Longview,

Massachusetts, the album achieved a focus from the isolation. "It's got

a pretty cool sonic sprawl to it," he said. "But it's more concentrated

and more pinpointed than the other records, and I think that comes with

the clarity of being zeroed in -- being in a barn, not having

anything around you."

Plans' first single, "Soul Meets Body," is an uptempo track that

again grapples with existential questions and reconciling personal

needs. "It's a declaration of desire over circumstance," Walla said. "It

means, 'Here's where I am and here's what I want to be and how do I

bridge those two things.' I think it's a beautiful articulation of love,

friendships and relationships and everything you do over the course of

the day."

While a video has yet to be shot, Death Cab do have some humorous

ideas. "Cheerios," Walla said, "swimming through a bowl of cereal

-- you know, a whole General Mills theme."

Other key tracks on the 11-track Plans include the wistful piano

number "What Sarah Said" -- with its melancholy refrain "Love is

watching someone die/ So who's gonna watch you die?" -- and the

sparse, acoustic "I Will Follow You Into the Dark," which reprises the

death theme yet again.

"There's a lot of songs about love and death and how those two things

interact with one another, themes of finding love and being afraid of

losing it to a number of things and a sense of never being quite

satisfied," a reflective Gibbard said.

Antidotes to those heavy contemplative moods (at least musically) are

the upbeat "Your Heart Is an Empty Room" and "Crooked Teeth."

"[Plans] can be uplifting, but not in that new-agey kind of way.

It's certainly not a Christian-rock record," Gibbard laughed.

An October tour with Stars and Youth Group is expected to be announced

soon. Those who can't wait for Plans' August release can busy

themselves with the group's recent DVD, "Drive Well, Sleep Carefully," a

13-song collection of live performances from a 2004 spring tour plus a

handful of festival dates including a Lollapalooza appearance.

Plans track list, according to the band's publicist:

  • "Marching Bands of Manhattan"
  • "Soul Meets Body"
  • "Summer Skin"
  • "Different Names for the Same Thing"
  • "I Will Follow You Into the Dark"
  • "Your Heart Is an Empty Room"
  • "Someday You Will Be Loved"
  • "Crooked Teeth"
  • "What Sarah Said"
  • "Brothers on a Hotel Bed"
  • "Stable Song"
  • Death Cab for Cutie tour dates, according to their publicist:

  • 7/7 - Milwaukee, WI @ Summerfest
  • 7/24 - Chicago, IL @ Lollapalooza
  • 7/30 - San Diego, CA @ Street Scene
  • 8/6 - Bend, OR @ Les Schwab Amphitheater (Summer Camp!)
  • 8/18 - New York, NY @ Central Park Summer Stage
  • 9/24 - Austin, TX @ Austin City Limits Festival
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