Thank You for Today is the sound of Death Cab for Cutie both expanding and refining; a band twenty years into its evolution, still uncovering new curves in its signatures, new sonic corners to explore. The Seattle band’s ninth studio album, recorded in Los Angeles with producer Rich Costey in late 2017 and early 2018, stands alongside classic Death Cab for Cutie albums including their 1998 debut Something About Airplanes and 2003’s masterful Transatlanticism as a definitive collection — ten tracks that are by turns beautiful and dynamic and darkly anthemic and bittersweet. “I realized early on in the process that I wanted to write a record that is very much who we are,” says singer and guitarist Ben Gibbard. “I wanted to go more inward, and create something more personal.” On songs such as the kinetic “Gold Rush,” “Northern Lights” and “You Moved Away,” Gibbard ruminates on the flux going on in his hometown, and weaves a thread throughout the album about how interconnected geography is with memory, and how hard it can be to hold onto places, and to people, too.
Since the band’s fifth studio album Plans, Gibbard has employed the practice of going to the studio almost daily, to work on songs, even when they weren’t coming easily. “At first, I’m just throwing stuff at the wall, meditating on a number of different subjects, just trying to get lucky,” he says. Before he knew it, Gibbard had amassed more than thirty song ideas, sketched out in demos he’d share with bassist Nick Harmer, drummer Jason McGerr, guitarist/keyboardist Dave Depper, and keyboardist/guitarist Zac Rae as well as Costey. “At one point I had written so much I thought we might have two records,” says Gibbard. “But we wanted it to be concise enough that you can listen all the way through and then want to put it on again immediately.”
Although Gibbard’s initial creative process for this album was much the same as it had been on other recent Death Cab for Cutie LPs, there was an important change when it came time to start pre-production and recording: the addition of new members Dave Depper and Zac Rae, both of whom contribute guitar and keys. In the wake of founding member Chris Walla’s departure in 2014, Death Cab for Cutie had recruited Depper and Rae to join the band as touring players for the shows supporting their 2015 album Kintsugi.
After more than a year and a half of performances together, Gibbard, Harmer and McGerr felt confident enough in Depper and Rae’s creative instincts to invite them to contribute on the new LP, as well. Says Harmer: “The excitement and enthusiasm Dave and Zac had to be part of the process was just infectious. It helped add a playfulness that allowed us to take some risks and laugh if it didn’t work out and high-five if it did. There was a freedom in just playing with one another and letting these guys show us what they were capable of, and giving them room to create.”
“Not only do we love these guys, but it felt like it would be to our benefit to make the next record with them rather than as a three piece,” says Gibbard. “Dave and Zac bring such unbelievable skill sets to the band that we’ve never had.” He cites, for instance, the array of keyboards and synthesizers Rae had at his disposal, and his accompanying skills playing them, for “tiny melodies and ambient sounds” on “Summer Years” that he says give the song a weight and complexity that it wouldn’t have had otherwise. “There’s a nervousness about bringing new people into the creative process, especially if you have lost a seminal member of the band,” says Gibbard, “But Dave and Zac were fans of the band before they were members, so they have a unique perspective on the music that the other three of us can’t see.”
The five members of Death Cab spent several weeks with Costey in his Santa Monica recording studio in the fall of 2017, recording basic tracks live and later fleshing out additional layers. When they first arrived, Costey had recently finished working with another band, and had adopted their habit of closing each session by saying “Thank you for today” to each of the musicians. “We started saying it to each other every day, no matter what kind of day it had been,” Harmer says. “Whether it had been frustrating or a really great day, we’d all shake each other’s hands and say ‘Thank you for today.’ As time went on, it really started to mean something to us. It’s almost like a Rorschach test, in that it’s an oddly adaptable statement. And when we were thinking about what to call the album, it just seemed to fit so perfectly.”
Death Cab for Cutie
The Aztec Theatre
Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Doors at 7:00 PM / Show at 8:00 p.m.
Tickets on sale Friday, December 7 at 10 a.m.
Live Nation Pre-sale
· Starts: Thursday, Dec 6 at 10 a.m.
· Ends: Thursday, Dec 6 at 10 p.m.
· Password: CHILL