Tuesday, September 30, 2008

[Regina Walton's Expat Interviews] An exclusive with Death Cab for Cutie

Hot fun in the summertime ;)

Here is my Korea Herald interview with Death Cab for Cutie.

[Regina Walton's Expat Interviews] An exclusive with Death Cab for Cutie

Summertime in Seoul, as in most cities, is a great time for concerts and festivals. Seo Tae-ji's 2008 ETP Festival didn't disappoint; a wide range of rock acts were brought to Seoul. On the same day, there was Marilyn Manson, one of PETA's 2008 Worst Dressed, on the same stage as the PETA-friendly band, Death Cab for Cutie. For this band, which has been on tour to promote their latest album, "Narrow Stairs," such a study in contrasts isn't new.

They also played at this year's Pemberton Festival in British Columbia, Canada, which featured acts from Coldplay to Jay-Z.

After consistently recording and touring for over 10 years, Death Cab has finally reached rock-star status.

Before their show in Korea, I was lucky enough to get the chance to sit down and speak with two members of the band, Jason McGerr and Nick Harmer. The group took its name from a satirical song of the same name by the British Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

Death Cab started in Seattle over 10 years ago. Because I've been abroad for most of that time, I missed their rise to fame, until I ran across a video of theirs on YouTube and put it on my blog. I also missed the OC phenomenon in which Seth Cohen, one of the main characters, named Death Cab for Cutie as his favorite band. The OC featured the band's songs, and eventually the band appeared on the show.

When I asked them to describe their music, Harmer said, "At the core of our music, I guess, we're just kind of a rock band. We're just playing melodic songs. There is really nothing too overtly aggressive about the music that we play. I think that the themes of our music tend to be around relationships and the interactions between people and the journey that happens as you get older and figure those things out.

"I'd say that we're a little bit more intellectual than not, at times. I guess the hardest thing is to capture what exactly you sound like. We've been really fortunate to see our audience grow over the years since we started 11 years ago."

McGerr added that he sees Death Cab as a career band. He explained that the guys in the band have known each other for 13 years. "And, as much as we've been placed with certain lifestyles or television shows, we've still been that career band that spans beyond those things. It doesn't seem to be slowing down, and I think we're going to continue to do it as long as it makes sense," he said.

Harmer and McGerr played together in a band for three years before joining Death Cab. McGerr mentioned how "the Pacific Northwest is, in general, is a very small music community. We would be in other projects, passing in the night, playing the same shows and venues together, and it was only a matter of time before there was appropriate timing and our schedules lined up."

After their show in Seoul, the band immediately headed to Australia for a few concerts. While they were there, they also helped MySpace TV Australia launch their online TV channel by playing an online concert. Harmer explained: "It's definitely for Australia. Australian MySpace is just getting started in a lot of ways, so our connection, and the reason we're doing it, is mainly for the Australian fans.

"It will probably be available on MySpace worldwide because that's how MySpace is." That led me to ask them a question about Death Cab telling their fans to download music when they signed with Atlantic Records in 2004. "I've always encouraged downloading. I've never encouraged stealing, and I think there is a difference. A label sells albums.

We live in a world now where everyone is using the computer to discover music and to share music. That's an integral part of any band's career, any musician's career or any entertainer's career," said Nick. "You can't really ignore it. The internet has been invaluable in helping us grow and helping spread the word of our band."

The band also has blogs on their website, and both McGerr and Harmer admit that they've not really been able to keep them current.

McGerr adds, "We've been fortunate enough to be savvy enough to understand how important it is. But, for us, we're fortunate that we became a band before all that mattered. We actually had to work hard before anyone found out about who we were. We needed to physically drive across the country for someone to hear about the band. One writer called us a "pre-blog" band. I understand. I totally get that. You can have so much notoriety with a click of a button, but do you have staying power?"

However, for their autumn tour, Harmer said he'll use try to use Twitter for updates. "Twittering would be a lot easier because I can just do it when I can do it." That way, fans can keep up with what this hardworking career band is up to next.

You can find clips from Death Cab's Australia concert at my blog: expatjane.blogspot.com

For more information on Death Cab, see their website: deathcabforcutie.com, and their MySpace page: myspace.com/deathcabforcutie

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