0806gibbard.jpgDeath Cab for Cutie hit the scene before most of the well-known music blogs even registered a URL -- and even though they've made the major label jump (moving from Barsuk to Atlantic in 2004), become prime time sweethearts (with their music soundtracking shows like The OC) -- they've maintained their indie cred. On May 13th they released their second album on Atlantic, their seventh in total, called Narrow Stairs, and tomorrow night they play a sold out show at McCarren Park Pool. Last week Ben Gibbard talked to us about the new album, the old days, and a questionable recipe for peanut butter veggie sausage toast.

How does Narrow Stairs differ from your previous work? I think it's far more loud and more raw than the last handful of records. I think there are some things on it that are certainly more reminiscent production-wise of some of the older albums, given the fact we did it on 2-inch tape and did a lot of it live, and there are a lot more guitar tunes on it this time. I'm really proud of it, I think it turned out well.

What motivated the choice to record it that way, on the 2-inch tape? While we didn't want to admit it to ourselves at the time, I think the nerves were running a little bit active, given the switch to Atlantic and trying to anticipate everyone's moves. I think we just kind of, between records, all of us independently decided this is something we wanted to do, and it would make for a lot more inspired record and would certainly be more fun to make.

So do you feel like this album establishes your harmonious relationship with Atlantic? Have you settled in? I don't think we had a bad relationship to begin with, but after seven years of dealing with a label that was four people and a desk in Seattle, Washington...I think whenever you start a new relationship you have to learn to communicate with those people and you have to suss out their motivations and you have to learn how to dance around each other to get what you want, and vice versa. You know, I think that we've become a lot less guarded in our relationships with them because we realize that, at least with our band, they have our best interests at heart and have allowed us to make two records in a row now completely independently.

Now that you're so well known do you feel that the internet world doesn't effect you as much as younger bands because you're so established now? I certainly think that we don't live and die by it. I think if our first record were coming out now I think maybe the trajectory of our career would be determined a little earlier and quicker than if things hadn't happened the way they have over the past 10 years. One of my favorite quotes comes from Mike Watt and he says, "You can't blame everyone for not being born at the same time."

The way things are now, some bands you wish would be more successful are not given the opportunity directly because of a lack of insane internet buzz. Or maybe some bands that you're not feeling all of a sudden become huge and you're wondering, "Why does everybody think this band is the most amazing band ever?" But I think that time will be the great equalizer on all of these things. I think bands that are truly meant to have formidable careers together... you can weather just about anything.

You recently took over Stereogum for a day. Yeah we all kind of contributed to the columns they run every day. I've always been a really big fan of that blog. I think it's no secret with the rise of internet media, the snarkiness has been turned up pretty high across the board. It's not just in relation to music journalism, it's in all forms of journalism. But I really do appreciate that blog, they have a sense of humor, they take people down a peg or two, and they have fun with it but they don't get mean. I really like their site, they post great music, videos, they're really up on their news, but they don't go out of their way to be nasty to people. It's a kind of sad state of affairs that that's a rare thing -- to have a popular website that doesn't make their headlines by slagging people off all the time. And I think they're really great, and the writing is great, too.

After that day did you feel you'd gotten bitten by the blogging bug and wanted to do more of it? Not really, I find that, you know, there's a handful of times that I've signed on to do some kind of relatively short period of blogging and I just can't keep up on it. I would like to think that probably the most interesting things that I have to say tend to be in the records we make. I feel like I'm getting enough exposure with that, that I don't think it's necessary that I spend any more time vying for people's attention -- I think I'm taking up enough people's time, and the fact that i get to talk to people like yourself on the phone and kind of babble about whatever happens via my mind is my form of blogging. If that means just kind of unfettered opinion spraying.

A long time ago you did an interview centered around cooking and gave the recipe for for peanut butter veggie sausage toast. This has sort of haunted me. Does this actually taste good? It actually, you know, you'd be surprised. It depends on, well I don't think the word palate should even come into this conversation...but you know, somewhere along the line, I think we were on tour in Australia, and Chris and I are vegetarians, though I went through a brief period of what we like to call Meat Wave a couple years ago, where I got back into meat, but Chris just had it with whatever we were eating. And decided to buy some toast and peanut butter and start making these sandwiches. And they're actually pretty good. I wouldn't serve them in a restaurant but as far as kind of a really savory comfort food they're pretty delicious. And also I don't really cook so I didn't have anything valuable to add to that website. I can barley make spaghetti.

This was a big week politically. I know you were involved with the Vote for Change tour, are you going to be doing anything coming up with the general election? You know I hope so, but I don't think we quite know what that's gonna be. I think that now that Obama's going to be the nominee I think the best thing is to settle everyone's camps before people start rallying together and determining what there is to do and how to go about lending some support to the campaign. But you know I think that at the very least we will certainly be doing our part, like last time, to make sure in every state we're in we have booths for registering to vote and info leading them to places we think have the right ideas. I guess we'll kind of determine what kind of involvement we'll be able to take given the opportunities that present themselves.

It must be fulfilling to facilitate involvement a little bit like that, but do you ever miss anything about being an unknown band? Oh sure, I think it's important to know that even though the numbers and the accolades around this band seem very large, I'm still astonished, I guess not astonished, but it's comforting that the four of us individually, as we work our way through the world, are pretty anonymous. Even after selling a million records, I very rarely get recognized on the street or when I'm shopping for groceries. I think part of the benefit of being in a nerdy, bookish, indie rock band is that you blend into a crowd pretty easily. It'd be one thing if -- you know, I'm not dressed like Steven Tyler or someone like that, so it's pretty easy to blend in.

But every once in a while we'll get in a conversation about some of the weird little shows or crazy drives we did back in the day, that bands are going through right now as we speak on the road. We played a show in Detroit a couple days ago at this really beautiful theater, and we had this band Sea Wolf who was going to be opening for us. And they were coming in from Canada -- and their van had broken down and they went through the wrong border crossing. It was all the stuff that happened to us back in the day, pretty typical van touring trials and tribulations. Which set off many conversations of some of the weird stuff that's happened to us. I think we did a lot of character building back then. And I certainly look back at those days fondly, and some of the crazy things we had to go through. But you know, we kind of had our time to be that band, and now we are the band we are now, and the best thing to do is keep looking froward and not reminiscing about the past. Especially when the past involves having a van broken down on the side of the road.

Does one of those crazy stories come to mind? I think our proudest and craziest moment was a series, actually it was two days long -- we made a drive from Bellingham, WA to Austin, TX straight in 1999. It was like a 52-hour drive, and we were going to play SXSW for the first time and we were young and dumb and were so Johnny Jump Up to get to SXSW that we were like "we'll just drive straight, we don't have money for the hotels anyways." And we drove our rickety Ford '82 Econoline all the way straight there; two guys slept in the back in shifts. And looking back it's a miracle nobody got killed. Two days of straight driving is pretty insane. By the end of it I think Chris and Nick, who held the night shift, were kind of hallucinating a little bit. Using their lighters to spark their skin to keep them awake. And the fact that we made it made for a great story. Strangely, that's one of the accomplishments in my life I'm most proud of. Which is kind of fucked up.

What are you listening to these days? I've been kind of big into vinyl, really singer/songwriter stuff. I recently got the new Black Mountain that I'm really liking, Ruby Sons, and I got the new Elvis Costello which I think is pretty good. I've been listening to a lot of weird, nerdy singer/songwriter stuff like Emmett Rhodes and Billy Nicholls, a lot of Graham Nash. A lot of 70s singer/songwriter stuff. I've been kind of spending a lot more of my time digging through dusty vinyl crates than trolling the internet for music in the last handful of months for some reason. I'll find my way back to the internet at some point.

What's the status of your acting career; you had a part in Brief Interviews With Hideous Men? Yeah I had a small part in this film adaptation of David Foster Wallace's book. It was adapted and directed by John Krasinski from The Office, but every time I ask him the status he's been busy doing real big movies or he's doing the show. I have a feeling I've sort of exhausted the amount of times I'm able to ask without sounding a little too excited about it.

It was fun, I think that it was one of things where, on my way out, I was getting a little bit too, "Maybe this could be something I could kind of do" -- just anticipating it. And it was a lot of fun, but it was also kind of... I think the thing I learned from it was that, you know, these people are professionals and they know what they're doing -- I think I held my own enough to not embarrass myself, but I learned my lesson that I should just stick to the music and let these people do what they do. I had never spent that much time around a movie set, and never seen the inner workings and how that stuff goes, and it was an eye opener. I had a blast, I had so much fun, but unless someone comes to me needing me to play myself or something perfect comes along, I'll probably stay clear of that stuff. Who knows, this thing could come out and I could totally embarrass myself and I won't have to worry about the phone ringing ever again.

Or maybe you'll get a lot of offers...this could really be good for you. I'm not banking on it! But you never know.