Death Cab for Cutie
Death Cab for Cutie knew immediately that Kintsugi would fit perfectly as the title of their eighth studio album. A philosophy derived from the Japanese art of repairing cracked ceramics with gold to highlight flaws instead of hiding them, kintsugi 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 bassist Nick Harmer, who suggested the name to singer-guitarist Ben Gibbard and drummer Jason McGerr. “Philosophically, spiritually, emotionally, it seems perfect for this group of songs.”
Long before they gave the album its name, the band embarked on a process that forced them to do things differently than they ever had before. For instance, in the course of making their seven previous albums, the Seattle band hadn’t written much in the studio together. They had always preferred to hone their arrangements separately, or with just two or three of them playing at once. But when it came time to record Kintsugi, Death Cab for Cutie went into the studio with the openest of minds. Their willingness to try anything -- including a twenty-minute exploration that evolved into one of the album’s finest tracks, “The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive” -- yields Death Cab’s most compelling new work in years: an album that packs as much sonic as it does emotional wallop.
Kintsugi is the band’s first time recording with a producer other than their own Chris Walla, the guitarist and multi-instrumentalist whose talents behind the board had helped shape Death Cab’s sound since Gibbard released the You Can Play These Songs With Chords cassette in 1997. For Kintsugi, they worked with Rich Costey (whose production credits include albums by Foster the People, Muse, Vampire Weekend, Chvrches), recording at his Los Angeles studio Eldorado over the course of twelve weeks in the first half of 2014. “He was all in in a way that I don’t think a lot of producers are nowadays,” says Gibbard. “We couldn’t have landed on a better collaborator for this record. He accomplished what we’ve always attempted, which is to make Death Cab sound on a record how we sound live. And we’re a rock band live. The difficulty now for the live show is making them rock as hard as they rock on the record. That’s a new quagmire for this band.”
Work on Kintsugi began back in early 2013, as all Death Cab LPs have, with Gibbard writing and demoing the songs on his own before arranging and recording them with his band mates. They initially convened in fall of 2013 at Walla’s Hall Of Justice studio in Seattle. Ten days into recording, Chris decided to step down as producer. Says Gibbard. “Nothing dramatic, he just said, ‘I don’t think I’m the right guy to do this album and we should find someone else.’” The band all felt that they needed to shake things up a bit. “We challenged each other more and left no stone unturned. That was as gratifying as it was frustrating at times, but I couldn’t be happier with the end product,” says McGerr. Walla has since decided to leave the band but participated in the recording process as fully and vitally as he had on their previous albums. In fact, Costey didn’t even know Walla was leaving the band until after Kintsugi was finished. Chris played his final show with the band in September at Rifflandia Festival in British Columbia.