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.
Really quick, we should talk about your other wildly successful band, the Postal Service. Give Up is just tens of thousands of records away from going platinum.
Yeah, it's really wild.
Do you even think about that album anymore?
Well, I was in a bar a couple months ago and "Sleeping In" came on the stereo and, honest to God, I didn't recognize it for the first minute and a half.
That can't be true.
I swear to you. Of course, it was loud, there was background noise, but I heard it and I was like, "What is this?" and somebody was like, "Seriously?" They let it hang for a second and then they said, "This is your record." "Oh, fuck!" But that record came out five years ago. It feels like it kind of got away from us. It became this thing that was floating in the ether and soccer moms were hearing it on the TV.
I think the people who are fans of that record are probably more invested than Jimmy and I ever were. It started as a side project and it obviously hasn't shifted into being anything more than that for either one of us. There's not not a plan for another record, but if it hasn't been a priority for the last five years, I'd think that people would kind of get the hint that when we get around to it we'll get around to it.
So you haven't been secretly working on anything?
Oh we have three or four songs. We have one song that, if it ever comes out, I think it's really gonna blow people's minds. But the hardest thing is to find the time and the mental space to work on a record like that when I'm going to be living out of hotels.
Right. This is possibly going to be the biggest record of Death Cab's career.
I don't really know what to expect from this album. I think we all had far more fun and a far more inspired time making this record than we did Plans. Everybody's in so much of a better place than we were when we were going into promoting Plans, now that we've gotten over that hump of the first major-label record. We feel like we can have fun with each other. I think it's a far better record than Plans. You always want it to be critically successful, but given the fact that this band has done astronomically better than I ever could've imagined when we were playing Ground Zero...
Or the Kirkland Senior Center!
Or the Kirkland Senior Center! Exactly! I think we've always been a good band, but I don't think anybody at the Kirkland Senior Center ever thought we'd be sitting here a couple million records later, about to release our second album on a major label.
It's been such a long time since the last album; I feel like just the fact that Narrow Stairs finally exists is worth celebrating.
That's a really nice way of putting it. I can't wait for this thing to get out. This is the longest I've ever had to wait for an album. We finished recording in December; we were mixing in January and February. I felt like I was sitting in Seattle, sitting on my hands all through February and March just waiting to start rehearsing and playing new songs and doing press. It's as much because I'm really proud of this album but also we haven't taken that many breaks in 10 years. Having any kind of down time always feels like too much.
It's also a sign that you're a workaholic.
Musicians can only be so much of a workaholic. Whenever you hear about a band or a musician who's really busy, it's still just dicking around for 22 hours and then getting up and playing a show, which is superfun. Yeah, it's difficult at times. I'm exhausted right now, because I was in another country seven hours ago, but it's just a different kind of hard. It's way harder to be a teacher or a construction worker or a doctor, you know?
Thank God you're not a doctor.
I know, wouldn't that be scary?
I bet you've fixed some broken hearts, though.
You just had to go there.
Death Cab for Cutie play Sun May 25, Sasquatch Main Stage, 8:15 pm.