Coping with life's cracks
Death Cab For Cutie bassist Nick Harmer reveals how guitarist Chris Walla's departure from the band has impacted them
For US alternative rock act Death Cab For Cutie, their latest studio effort Kintsugi was a turning point of sorts in their two-decade history.
It was the last album that frontman Ben Gibbard, bassist Nick Harmer and drummer Jason McGerr worked on with founding guitarist and album producer Chris Walla, before the latter left the band in 2014 to pursue a solo career.
So it is quite apt that the album is titled Kintsugi, as Harmer, 41, tells M in an e-mail interview that the album "deals a lot with the cracks and fractures in relationships as they fall apart". Kintsugi refers to a Japanese ceramic repair technique that finds beauty in the object's cracks and flaws.
These days, Death Cab For Cutie are a trio performing the same gut-hitting songs linked to the defining moments in our lives.
Harmer, who welcomed a baby girl with his wife four months ago, sheds light on the band's relationship with Walla and how his departure has impacted them, ahead of their concert in Singapore next month.
Rich Costey, who has worked with the likes of English rock band Muse and US multi-genre act Flying Lotus, took over the role of producer from Walla in Kintsugi. How was that experience different?
It was actually very similar to how we have recorded all our albums. But working with Costey brought out some new ideas and allowed us to explore musical areas that we might not have if Chris was producing.
The day-to-day of writing and recording with Chris was easy and inspired. I think we all were committed to making his last album with us one that he could feel proud of.
What is the band's relationship with Walla and has it changed in any way?
We have tried to stay in contact with Chris but it has been challenging. Maybe someday down the road, we'll be able to reconnect on some level.
Guitarist Chris Walla (second from right) left the band in 2014 to pursue a solo career.
What has been the impact of his departure?
The most noticeable and immediate impact is that we now have two new touring band members joining us on stage: Guitarist Dave Depper and keyboardist-guitarist Zac Rae. The combined talents of these guys have opened up so many more possibilities musically and personally - we are very re-enegerised as a band.
What are some of your memories of your gig in Singapore in 2012?
I remember walking over with the band and crew to the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel and ordering Singapore Slings. It was such a tourist thing to do but we had fun.
All of our shows in Singapore have been so amazing. We feel so thankful to have such great support for the music we make. The fans in Singapore are some of the loudest audiences we have played to in the world and it's definitely exciting to feel that energy on the stage.
What are some of the greatest challenges you have faced, having been in the industry for so long?
One challenge we always face and work on is finding balance between our professional lives and our personal lives. Being in an active, touring band for 20 years has meant making some sacrifices along the way that weren't easy, but we have each other to lean on and figure it all out. I think we are just hitting our stride now.
How do you feel about where Death Cab For Cutie is right now?
I could not be happier and more excited about what's to come. We have a year of exciting shows in some great locations and we are already beginning to talk about the next album and all that it will entail.
I am just so grateful for all the adventures and opportunities that have come my way on this journey playing music.
Death Cab For Cutie (Live In Singapore)
March 7, 8pm
The Coliseum, Hard Rock Hotel, Resorts World Sentosa
$99 (Standard) or $190 (VIP) from dcfc.peatix.com