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Post Barack'n'Roll with Death Cab For Cutie

Posted by Jack Riley
  • Tuesday, 25 November 2008 at 11:10 am
Back in May, when Death Cab For Cutie front man Ben Gibbard did his best to drum up support for a man who, at the time, seemed a million miles from the White House, the crowd in which I stood to watch them play were unsure what to make of the political outburst for Barack Obama, sandwiched as it was between heartfelt ballads to broken relationships and pessimistic rocking-out. It didn’t help that we were in Camden, and that most of the crowd had no more than a passing interest in the fledgling presidential election.

Fast forward to today, and with the world’s media still catching it’s breath from the heady run-up to November 4th and its mind-bending outcome, the music community, all corners of which endorsed Barack Obama so wholeheartedly, are still adjusting to the sea change; the prospect of having a liberal president who might be on the side of the rebels themselves is as daunting artistically as it is politically. For eight years, bands like Death Cab have had privilege of an alignment of the everyday frustrations of their young, male audiences (girlfriend trouble et al), and the political frustrations of a disenfranchised liberal class who were having to endure George  W Bush’s right-wing presidency. So, when I got a chance to talk to Ben last week about the band’s new single “No Sunlight” (see the awesome black cabs session rendition below), I was interested in whether he felt the new climate of political optimism jarred with the dark subject matter of much of the band's recent work.

Ben: "It absolutely does. I can definitely see problems there; I've never been more proud of my country, to quote Michelle Obama, as I have in the last month or so. I was at my girlfriend's parents house and we were all watching the returns come in and when Ohio went to Obama it became clear that the west coast was going to come in for him. I get choked up just thinking about it now . There was only one person I talked to who wasn't a complete mess that night. I was really truly a really powerful moment. In the wake of the last 8 years of horrendous administration, and also facing these really dire economic circumstances that these last 8 years have directly been the cause of. For one night it was good to feel proud to be an American and going into this administration I would like to hope that everybody who so furtively supported Obama will become more involved physically than they have before. Now he is the president, it's going to take a lot of sacrifice and hard work to get our country back on track.

Do you think the wider political climate influence Death Cab For Cutie and the music you're making?

Ben: I don't know. I don't want to start to write Beach Boy songs but I certainly do feel that I'm in a very different place than I was writing this material, and I was dealing with a lot of things in my life that were very detrimental. I'm more interested to see how that will affect the tone of the next record than the political spectrum.

What about the new single in this context?

Ben: The new single is supposed to be a dramatic metaphorical take on the loss of innocence. As I grow older I've kind of lost a sense of optimism. Even though there's the line "the optimist dies inside of me" in the song, I think its got more to do with the sense that we start on particular paths in our lives and before long we look back and realise that the forks in the road are a bit further behind than they were a few years before . There's a kind of beautiful acceptance and giving yourself over to the past and the choices you have made, a sense of melancholy and the question of what could have been if you'd made a different decision.

Ben Gibbard performs the new single "no sunlight" (out now) for the Black Cab Sessions -



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