Death Cab for Cutie isn't just [Ben] Gibbard's band," drummer Jason McGerr says, speaking about the group's lauded lead man. Sure, Gibbard is a great songwriter; that's obvious with the success of his electronic side project, The Postal Service. But Death Cab is different. It's the sum of its constituent parts, not the product of one man's genius. Like each of his bandmates, McGerr fancies himself a significant contributor to the whole that is Death Cab.
McGerr has known the members of Death Cab for more than a decade, but he didn't joined the band until 2003, for the recording of Transatlanticism. He arrived just in time. 2001's The Photo Album -- the album before McGerr joined the band -- sold just 60,000 units. Transatlanticism went on to sell over 400,000.
Yet the band never sought commercial success. "I don't think it was anything conscious at all," McGerr says. "Maybe it was just timing." Indeed, their timing couldn't have been more impeccable. Unbeknownst to the band, writers of the hit television show The O.C. had written them into its script as a favorite band of hipster character Seth Cohen. The show introduced the band to a whole new audience, and the upshot was tremendous.
How did Death Cab respond to their new found fame? According to McGerr, they hardly responded at all. He claims that their approach hasn't changed on their new album, Plans. They recorded it in the same old studio, with the same old crew.
And yet McGerr likes to think that the product shows evidence of an evolution. "I just wanted to make this record better than the last," he says. "We try to do something a little different each time. Transatlanticism was the first time I recorded something I was truly proud of, and I wanted to do that again with this record."
Death Cab is a touring band, and McGerr can't wait to get back on the road in support of Plans. "We love to gear up," he says. "We can't wait to perform every night. It's way too much fun."
McGerr is proud to be a part of the show every night. He knows he's an essential part of the new Death Cab sound, and he wonders, in part, if the band would still be together if he hadn't filled the void on drums. "Maybe if I hadn't joined the band," he deadpans, "maybe Death Cab wouldn't be a band [anymore]." And maybe he's right.
Death Cab for Cutie will be playing at the Electric Factory (421 N. 7th St.) on Tue. at 8 p.m.