Death Cab for Cutie is playing it safe in a couple of ways. The Bellingham alt-rock band, which has managed to be a commercial success and a critical darling, isn’t rushing its next full-length album.
“We’re sitting on a lot of new material,” guitarist-keyboardist Dave Depper said while calling from his Portland, Oregon, home. “But we’ve pushed back tracking of the album to the end of the year or next year. There’s no need to rush it.”
So Death Cab for Cutie fans, who will catch the band Wednesday at the Pavilion at Riverfront, will not experience unreleased material. “We won’t be previewing songs,” Depper said. “We will be playing the hits. We have so much to draw from. There are so many songs to play. I’m looking forward to the jams.”
Expect a song or two from the band’s “The Blue EP,” which dropped Friday. Perhaps the somber but catchy “Kids in ’99,” one of five new songs to sate fans, will be played. But Depper said familiar cuts such as the poignant “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” and clever “I Will Possess Your Heart” will be part of the setlist.
“We have more than enough in our canon to do a show and then some,” Depper said. “It almost doesn’t matter to us what we play as long as we are playing out. It’s been so long since we’ve played shows that I’ve actually gone back on YouTube to our old shows and played along with myself to reconnect to Death Cab songs. We can’t wait to get back out there and play cities like Spokane.”
Depper isn’t just giving lip service. Since the former member of Menomena and the Fruit Bats grew up in Bend, he knows what it’s like to perform in towns that are often bypassed for big cities. “I remember what it was like as a kid living in Bend and seeing that my favorite bands would be touring, but they would only play in Portland or Seattle,” Depper said.
“I remember what it was like before I could drive, and I was just stuck in Bend not being able to see whoever it was that was touring the Pacific Northwest. I know what cities like Spokane and Missoula experience or actually haven’t experienced. I love Spokane. I’ve been hanging out there after shows at the Baby Bar since I’ve been playing Spokane as early as 2005. I love the Baby Bar, but is it still open?”
Yes, the Baby Bar is open, but you will not see Depper or any of his Death Cab bandmates, including vocalist-guitarist Ben Gibbard, bassist Nick Harmer, keyboardist-guitarist Zac Rae or drummer Jason McGerr, at the cozy downtown watering hole. The band will be playing it safe while on the road.
“I love hanging out after shows, but we’re in a very different world right now,” Depper said. “We hired a COVID consultant who deals with tours like ours. We will not be able to see our wives and girlfriends while we are on our (three-week) tour. I can’t hug my parents after our Red Rocks show. I can’t hang out at the Baby Bar after our Spokane show. Instead, I’ll be in my bunk reading Russian literature.
“It’s unfortunate, but the consequences are dire if anyone from our two tour buses gets sick. If that happens, shows will be canceled, and that would be catastrophic. So we hired this immunologist who I was just on a 90-minute Zoom call with. We have so much protocol to follow to make this tour work.
“We’re in a new world, and we just don’t know what the future will be during the pandemic. The only choice we have is to play it safe and hope that when the time comes, we’ll be able to perform in Spokane.”
Depper emphasized that the Pavilion show will be fresh for local fans. “Please know that when we do perform in Spokane, it’ll be a cool show thanks to Ben, who will make sure the set list will be great,” Depper said.
“Ben is super nerdy when it comes to checking on the database. He looks at the past couple set lists from Spokane. He’ll cross reference those to make sure the shows are different. It’ll be a memorable show. All of this will be memorable to us since we’re going to such great lengths to perform again.”
The hope is that the members of Death Cab, which formed in 1997 and has nine Grammy nominations, can hang again at bars when their next album, their 10th, is released in 2022. “That’s what we would like to see,” Depper said. “However, we’re a ways from finishing that album, and we still have a way to go with this pandemic.”
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