Birmingham SlossFest profile: Death Cab for Cutie

Birmingham SlossFest profile: Death Cab for Cutie
Death Cab for Cutie is a three-man band following the departure of longtime guitarist Chris Walla. (Contributed)

Performer: Death Cab for Cutie

Type of music: Alternative rock

About: Since its inception in 1997, Death Cab for Cutie has made a profound mark on the alternative rock scene.

The popular band from Seattle has long been known by its introspective sound, unusual instrumentation and the distinctive voice of lead singer Ben Gibbard. The band started as a solo project by Gibbard, at the time a guitarist for the band Pinwheel, when he released a cassette entitled “You Can Play These Songs with Chords” in 1997. After its successful reception, Gibbard decided to expand the project and recruited Chris Walla as lead guitarist, Nick Harmer as bass player and Nathan Good, who later left the band, as drummer. Their first full-length studio album was released in 1998.

Death Cab has created eight full-length studio albums together, with Jason McGerr taking over drumming duties in 2003 and Walla lending his talents as producer. Eight Grammy nominations later (including four for Best Alternative Music Album and one for Best Rock Album), the band’s popularity has continued to climb.

Its eighth album, “Kintsugi,” represents a transition for the band. Ten days into production Walla stepped down as producer, but continued playing on the album.

“All four of us being on the floor together in the studio was something that hadn’t happened in years, because Chris was always behind the glass or in the control room,” says McGerr. “But this was more like when we’re onstage, where everyone has their eyes closed and we’re playing in the moment.”

“Kintsugi” was born — an album about renewal with a name suggested by Harmer. Kintsugi is a philosophy derived from the Japanese art of repairing cracked ceramics with gold to highlight flaws instead of hiding them. It speaks to the way an object’s history is part of its aesthetic value.

“Considering what we were going through internally, and with what a lot of the lyrics are about, it had a great deal of resonance for us — the idea of figuring out how to repair breaks and make them a thing of beauty,” says Harmer.

Following a co-headlining tour with Chvrches in June, Death Cab continues its own headlining tour with a stop at SlossFest. Now a band of three (Walla’s last show was in September), Death Cab is mixing its new album with nearly two decades of songs in its shows.

You can follow Death Cab for Cutie on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Discography: “Something About Airplanes” (1998), “We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes” (2000), “The Photo Album”(2001), “Transatlanticism” (2003), “Plans” (2005), “Narrow Stairs” (2008), “Codes and Keys” (2011), “Kintsugi” (2015).

You might have heard: “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” “Black Sun,” “I Will Possess Your Heart,” “Soul Meets Body,” “You Are a Tourist,” “The New Year,” “Title and Registration,” “Crooked Teeth.”

Playing at SlossFest: Death Cab for Cutie will perform on the Steam stage Saturday, July 16, from 8:45 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Sloss Music and Arts Festival takes place at the historic Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham July 16-17 and features 40 performers on four stages. Tickets can be purchased here.

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