Death Cab For Cutie

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Death Cab For Cutie Joined by Orchestra at the Opera House

:: Death Cab For Cutie ::
:: Ellie Caulkins Opera House:: April 10 ::

By Timothy Dwenger

Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks? If old is fifteen years (and it is in dog years), and the dog in question is Seattle’s emo-pop darlings Death Cab For Cutie, then recently they have been out to make it clear to everyone that they have more than a few new tricks up their sleeve.

First off, they burst onto the radar of the electronic music world in November when they released a collection of remixes from their most recent album Codes and Keys. “We live in such an awesome time with people’s access to be able to make and record music. With almost every album that we’ve made I have heard remixes, mash-ups, and different versions of our songs that people have done and we have been totally interested in all of them,” said bassist Nick Harmer during a recent interview with The Marquee from his home in Seattle as the band was starting to get ramped up for their spring tour. “Finally, we just got to the point where we wanted to encourage it.”

 

With contributions from Cut Copy, Ulrich Schnauss, Dillon Francis and more, the record showcases some eye opening reinventions of tracks like “Some Boys,” “You Are a Tourist,” and the title cut. “When we heard the RAC Maury remix of ‘Some Boys’ we were all immediately like, ‘That’s so cool! Why isn’t that the version on the album?’” Harmer said before expanding on his statement a bit. “All of the remixes that came in had a similar lightning effect where we hadn’t even thought about hearing the song move in the direction the artist took it and that was really exciting for us.”

While the remix project took their music in an electronic direction, their upcoming spring tour adds some classical flair to the traditional Death Cab sound. Rather than going out on the road as a four piece, as they usually do, this time around the band has invited Magik*Magik Orchestra to join them on a tour that includes some very different venues, including The Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A., a church in Montreal, and the Opera House here in Denver. “We wanted to play in new venues to keep this entire experience as fresh and as new feeling as possible,” Harmer said. “Not only for us as a band, but for people coming to the shows who have maybe only seen us at rock clubs, or in theatres. Suddenly they are going to get to experience us in a brand new environment. I think it’s gonna be a really unique thing.”

Fans might be familiar with the name Magik*Magik Orchestra because they contributed strings to two songs on Codes and Keys, the title track and “Stay Young, Go Dancing,” and the experience went so well that the relationship has flourished into a full-fledged tour. “We had been kicking around the idea of using strings on an album for a long time now, but for some reason we had never really found a song where they would really stand out, so we kept putting it off,” Harmer said. “Suddenly, when we were recording this album, we had these two songs where we could all instantly hear strings and we said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’ before turning to each and saying, ‘Wait, how do we do it?’”

Fortunately, Death Cab has been on the scene for years and they have friends all over the music industry, one of whom came to their rescue. “A friend of ours, John Vanderslice, had played some shows and done some recording with this woman named Minna Choi, who is an excellent conductor and arranger,” Harmer said. “She has been working on this idea of bridging the gap between classical music and indie-rock or rock and roll with Magik*Magik Orchestra, so John forwarded her name on to us and Chris [Walla] and Nina hit it off and made plans to bring a quartet of strings into the studio.”

Things went so well during the studio sessions that a couple of months later, when Death Cab was getting ready to record an episode of VH1’s Storytellers that would air in conjunction with the release of the record, they thought it seemed fitting that the band give their fans the opportunity to see a string section on stage during the episode. “Minna joined us with a quartet and we did a few songs on Storytellers together, but while they were there we had them write some string parts for a couple of extra songs. Those went really well so we thought, ‘Why don’t we just go for it? Why don’t we have Minna write parts for an entire set with a bigger orchestra and take that on the road?’ The rest is, as they say, history. It was a really organic process,” said Harmer.

While it’s not history quite yet, when the tour kicks off right here in Colorado on April 10th, it’s sure to be an historic evening. This incarnation of the Magik*Magik Orchestra will be nine members strong and Harmer estimates that they will spend about 75 percent of the show on stage with the band. “We’ll be playing some familiar songs that people have seen us play a few times, but they will be presented in a fresh and compelling way,” he said. “We are also looking at playing a few songs that we have never played live, or songs that we have only played a very few times that people have been wanting us to play more. I think there are going to be some great surprises like that and then, possibly, some covers and other interesting things as well. I wouldn’t say it’s going to be a new set from top down, but it’s certainly as new feeling as anything I’ve experienced in this band in a long time. It’s awesome after this many years as a touring band, that something like this can come along and make things feel 100 percent brand new again. I’m really inspired by that as a player and think it’s going to be great for everyone involved.”

 

:: Death Cab For Cutie ::

:: Ellie Caulkins Opera House :: April 10 ::

 

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