Interview Ben Gibbard is Not a Creep
posted by May 20 at 13:29 PMon
When interviewing Ben Gibbard for this week’s Sasquatch guide, I asked him about the new single “I Will Possess Your Heart,” which is probably the creepiest song the band has released to date. It’s not autobiographical, he says (thank goodness), but he did worry that putting a song like that out into the world would backfire.
So there’s been a lot of press leading up to the release of Narrow Stairs, interviews hinting that it’s more experimental, a different vibe, than any other Death Cab record, and then you release this eight-and-a-half-minute single, “I Will Possess Your Heart,” which is a really great but really eerie song.
Yeah, it kind of is. I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little self-conscious about putting a song like that into the world. I was talking to a friend about the authority singers have to sing certain types of songs—when Bruce Springsteen writes a song about small-town America or whatever, it’s believable even though Bruce Springsteen is a multimillionaire who hasn’t had to keep a day job since 1974. If I write a song like that, it comes off as posturing. So with “I Will Possess Your Heart,” I wanted it to come off as being creepy. I have dark moments just like everyone else, but people think of me differently. I worried people may not accept a song with such a creepy, menacing sentiment from me.
Or would you worry that the opposite became true and that they would believe it, therefore thinking you were creepy?
I wouldn’t necessarily mind being perceived as creepy by some people.
Read the interview, as it appeared in the paper, here. While we’re on the subject, I also wanted to share a tidbit that didn’t make it in to print, where he addresses the new crop of fans and the reluctance to play old material (no matter how much you might beg).
As you wrote in that essay you penned for Paste, you were one of the last bands to come along before the internet explosion. You had some time to hone in on what you wanted to do as a band and experiment a little bit in the early years. So it’s coming full circle, now you’re on a major label and you can still do that (ex: a nine minute single). I think it just goes to show you did it right.
Well thanks for saying that. I think every band has to make decisions that are based in the context in which they’re currently existing. I’m very happy with how we’ve been able to build over the years, and we’ve been very fortunate that every record has done better than the one before it. It’s been reinvigorating throughout the years to have new people come to the band every album. It’s weird that Plans, being our fifth record, is our first record for half a million people. That’s wild!
Are you finding that kids are going back into the back catalog at all? Are you privy to any of that information?
The only feedback I get is when we’re playing shows. I think we can dig into “the hits” from each record. Even though “Photobooth” was on an EP people know “Photobooth” because of the internet. But if we dip into “Fake Frowns” from the first record people look at each other and shrug.
Yeah, exactly. So we try to make an effort to span the catalog as much as possible but there’s always the guy who says “Dude, I wish you’d play more from Something About Airplanes!” Yeah, I know you do, but the other 4,900 people do not feel the same way. It’s a bummer to me that we can’t spend six hours playing every record but it’s impossible…
Is it? Would you want to play a six-hour show of songs you wrote in 1998? Is it really a bummer, Ben?
(Laughs) It’s really not, but I was talking to one of our road guys today when I got to the hotel and he was commenting that he read some review about the set we played in London and someone was super pissed that we only played one song from We Have the Facts. I get it, I like that record too, but we’re not dipping into “No Joy in Mudville” when we have a newer song that fits that same mood and it’s going to keep the crowd with us for more of the show. We can’t do it.”
So don’t expect “Fake Frowns” or “No Joy in Mudville” at Sasquatch, okay? Don’t even ask for it.
And for the record, I did ask him for Jim from The Office’s phone number (they’re supposedly buddies), but he declined, recognizing that Jim from The Office might not appreciate that very much. See? A perfect gentleman. Not a creep at all.
Death Cab for Cutie play Sasquatch! Mainstage Sunday at 7:15 pm. Illustration by Kathryn Rathke.