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Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie

Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Thursday 24th December, 2015 6:46PM

2015 was a huge year for Washington group Death Cab For Cutie. They released their eighth studio album Kintsugi to critical acclaim, which kicked off a relentless touring schedule that has seen them on the road for nearly seven months of the year.

Following the departure of founding member Chris Walla, the group took on two new members to deliver a live sound that is bigger than ever. Even with 2015 behind us, Death Cab haven't quite finished making tracks around the globe and will be stopping by these shores for two shows later next month. In anticipation UnderTheRadar caught up with drummer Jason McGerr for a candid chat about life post-Kintsugi...

UTR: Hi Jason, where are you in the world at the moment?

Um, sitting at home on my deck enjoying the crisp air, just getting ready and doing everything I need to do before another three week tour. Sipping coffee, kids are jumping on the trampoline. Life's pretty good.

That does sound like a good. But you did draw the short-straw for doing interviews today...

Hmmm... haha we all do them.

So your album Kintsugi came out earlier this year, have you had much downtime since then?

Not much downtime at all. We've been on the road pretty much every month of 2015 - some months much longer than others. It's been pretty non-stop since April 3rd. I think before this year is over we will have been away for seven months of this year. It's been very very busy, which is a good thing because it means there's lots of people who have bought tickets to shows, and we are fortunate enough to have radio stations that want us to play their holiday shows and summer festivals so I'm not complaining. You know, if you're going to be away from home you might as well be working and enjoying yourself. So we have fun. Last year we had one of our original members Chris Walla made a change and decided not to be part of the band and tour anymore and we bought on a couple of people, so touring as a five-piece instead of four has been exciting, and it's been fun to present some of the songs from the back-catalogue that we felt like we hadn't been able to represent with just four sets of hands. So it's been a really fun year.

Oh that's great to hear. And I guess touring nowadays as opposed to a decade-or-two ago is quite fundamental to earning money as a musician, rather than just album sales...

Well, I don't think anyone should go into a band or making music thinking album sales is going to come back to take care of you, necessarily. The majority of the populous that is listening to music these days aren't buying physical records, and digital copies are being so passed around - or heavily discounted. It's just not what it used to be. So touring is a big part of our livelihood, and I think it makes you a better band. I mean, there's no way you can continue to be a band and not go on the road. To me, the real chemistry and evolution of a band is a product of blood, sweat and tears of being on the road all the time, and that kind of sacrifice. That raw energy is something that will never be lost. I see live music a lot when I'm at home and I'm not on tour, just to be reminded that it's important to get out there and evolve.

Oh what kind of shows do tend you go to? Local gigs, or big international shows?

Big international shows if there is something nearby, I don't want to travel three hours to go see a show 'cause I do it all the time. But definitely if someone is passing through town. I live in-between two major cities, one is Vancouver in Canada, and the other is Seattle, and so we have our pick of going to see people play. But it seems important. I can't imagine being a writer and not reading books, and the same goes for being a musician. You need to study it, and continue to be a fan.

You have run your own studio before, so when you went into the studio for Kintsugi, which was at Eldorado in California with Rich Costey I believe, did you find it hard to step back from the recording process?

No, no. I mean it's funny. I think both of us were a little bit, at times, stand-offish with each other. I think Rich, even though he's done so much more work than us and is a renowned producer, but I don't think he has worked with that many "career type" bands, on record number eight, who have a producer in the band - at the time. So rather than Rich working with brand new band and being like "okay guys this is what we are going to do", there were plenty of days where he would just say "hey what do you guys think we should do, what's the direction here". And we would do the same thing, and be like "we're here man, what do you want us to do?". So it was a little bit of back-and-forth, like a new relationship with two people who just want to get along and make sure that neither party is overbearing. So it was a nice easy start, and as the album went along I think Rich found out what he could ask for and what he wanted to hear. There were days when we felt pushed into a corner and would be like "nah nah nah, that's not us, that doesn't feel right", and he'd be like "cool, let's try something else". So it was a really great relationship and I really hope to work with him again. I don't think we could have made the record that is Kintsugiown our own. He really made us dig deep.

Oh cool that's great. So is there another album in the works?

It's not in the works. I mean, Ben is always writing, he's always got demos. Whenever he's at home he goes into his own studio and works on music, and we do the same thing as band members - we put ideas forward and pass them back-and-forth, but we generally just tour an album, take care of that for 12-18 months and then we think about recording the next album. So there is nothing we have started or anything yet.

Well, we will see you in February... which is a little way off

Haha, it is, but it will be great.

Death Cab For Cutie are playing Saturday 20th February at The Opera House in Wellington, and then Tuesday 23rd February at St James Theatre in Auckland. Head over here for more information. 


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