Death Cab’s frontman can’tget away

It was a great artistic experiment — author Jack Kerouac’s getaway to Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s remote California cabin to pen his 1962 classic “Big Sur.” If it worked for his beat-poet hero, it could work for him, thought Ben Gibbard, when he rented the same retreat a few months ago.

The Death Cab For Cutie frontman, who plays with his band at San Francisco’s Fillmore tonight, wanted to ditch his Seattle surroundings to compose the high-pressure follow-up to the band’s Grammy-nominated 2005 breakthrough “Plans.”

“I thought it would be rather romantic, being there … in this beautiful, idyllic place in a canyon,” he says. But being creative wasn’t easy on the road.

Gibbard, 31, had discovered — and been offered — the place while taking part in a Kerouac documentary.

“But it’s funny how nature in its purest form is a far more terrifying sound — or lack thereof — than being in a bustling city, where people are smoking crack out in front of your apartment,” says the intellectual, who ditched cell phone and computer lines for the trip.

Alone in the wilderness, he says, “My mind immediately turned to thoughts of ‘What if there’s a mountain lion out there? What if there’s some crazy, deranged lunatic who lives in these woods?’ And all of a sudden, all of my fears became these weird horror-movie scenarios, where just the creaks that happen in an old house had me going ‘What was that?’”

That might be what made “I Will Possess Your Heart” — the first single from Death Cab for Cutie’s forthcoming album “Narrow Stairs” on Atlantic — turn out as a nearly nine-minute Pink Floyd-esque epic about an unhinged stalker.

Despite that, Gibbard’s retreat was an oddly unproductive period.

He says, “I had this idea that I was going go to that location and just reel off 20 amazing songs, but the hit-to-miss ratio was more like one in five.”

Unlike Kerouac, who cracked under the weight of his own notoriety, Gibbard seems remarkably grounded. Stardom for DCFC has been a slow decade-long build, the band finally catapulting out of the indie scene with the ethereal platinum-selling “Plans” and its flagship radio hit “Soul Meets Body.”

All over the world now, fans approach the singer on the street.

“And you have to adjust to that, because it can run counter to what’s important in your life,” he says.

IF YOU GO

Death Cab for Cutie

Where: The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. today

Tickets: $35

Contact: (415) 346-0600 or www.ticketmaster.com

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Those who stick around San Francisco on long holiday weekends can enjoy a slower pace, uncrowded streets and beloved institutions like cable cars. <ins>(Kevin Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
These empty San Francisco streets: A holiday dream

We’re here because we can be, and because we have nowhere else to be

It’s disheartening to see that Bill Graham Civic’s marquee isn’t announcing upcoming concerts. (Screenshot/Bill Graham Civic Twitter)
A cruise through The City with the ghosts of rides past

I take my time and don’t even mind the occasional traffic jams

A ban on smoking or vaping in multi-unit buildings has drawn opposition from cannabis advocates, who say it would leave users with no legal place to consume a legal substance. (Shutterstock)
Cannabis group slams Yee’s proposed apartment smoking ban as ‘classist’

Legislation would impose fines of $1,000 a day on repeat violators

The most dangerous behaviors by drivers include failing to yield right-of-way at crosswalks, unsafe speeding and failing to stop at red lights or stop signs. <ins>(Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite, which supplies water to San Francisco, is among the concerns of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which is undergoing a change of leadership. <ins>(Courtesy SFPUC)</ins>
Changes in leadership at SFPUC spark concern, hope for future water policy

Will agency’s new commissioner continue to support Big Ag?

Most Read