Ben Gibbard could have been one of the saddest men in the world. The Death Cab For Cutie frontman’s surprise 2009 marriage to actress Zooey Deschanel (for which he left his native Seattle for a surreal new life in Hollywood) ended in divorce two years later, right before longtime guitarist-producer Chris Walla announced his departure from the band. Yet the resilient singer has shrugged off defeat. He returned to his comfortable music community of Seattle, married group tour manager Rachael Demy, and, with keen-eared producer Rich Costey, recorded one of DCFC’s rosiest albums. “Thank You For Today,” its ninth, is optimistic all the way through to its title. Being grateful is a good way to go through life, he says, “Although I haven’t always been friends with gratitude in the past.”
Without Walla, you seem creatively liberated on this album.
It felt so free because no one had a particular agenda other than just making sure the songs were as great as they could be. I’m not insinuating that there was some nefarious agenda I had or Walla had before. And (new members) Dave (Depper, guitars, keyboards) and Zac (Rae, guitars, keyboards) came in with this unique perspective of having been fans of the band for 15 years. So some of the songs came from ideas like, “You know what? As a fan of this group, I’d want this song on the record.” I’d never been able to see it from that point of view before. So every day we were walking to the studio together from our apartments we were renting, then walking home together and having dinner together, too. So much of the internal conflict that had built over the years did not exist, and we could just get down to making music.
The single “Gold Rush” has the clanking rhythm of a chain gang.
Well, we certainly didn’t track any chains. But I admit that this was just a really fun album to make. And the whole time we were making it, I tried to temper my enthusiasm and maintain my objectivity as much as possible. I was telling myself that simply having fun doesn’t mean that we’re making a good record. But I knew that every album that we had fun making turned out to be a record that fans really cared about, so time will tell. But I can stand by this album more than any record we’ve made in the last 10 years.
There’s the old adage that says, “Don’t be sad that it’s over, be glad that it happened.”
Which is an adage that I love. I just love that, and it certainly applies to me.
IF YOU GO
Death Cab For Cutie
Where: Greek Theatre, 2001 Gayley Road, Berkeley
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 27