What is it about Ben Gibbard that inspires a celebration of depression? The singer-songwriter’s sadness certainly has a twisted currency in the indie rock community. When his divorce with his now ex-wife Zooey Deschanel was announced, I scrolled through a number of comments on this very site that rejoiced in the split. “Yaaaaay! More sad Death Cab songs. Awesome!,” one poster exulted. I felt exactly the same way. Gibbard’s pain meant wonderful things for me, for anyone, really, who has spent the last decade fixated with his band’s arc, a bedroom indie rock band from Seattle that became a successful pop outfit, eventually selling out arenas and writing songs for the Twilight Saga soundtrack.
Fiona Apple opened one of the biggest shows at South by Southwest this year, at Stubb’s. She came on stage dressed in a lacy pink and black tank top, her long, dirty blond hair pulled back in a high ponytail, her voice edged with gravel and smoke. She didn’t address her audience much, except to tell us, a few songs in, that we were imaginary. “You’re not real,” Apple said.
It was an odd thing to say, but no less odd than the hundreds of odd things Apple has said over the course of her sixteen-year career. That night, she performed, for the first time, a selection of new tracks from her latest record, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (which is officially released today via Epic). The record is a brilliant continuation of the various emotional atlases Apple began inking on her debut, Tidal, which came out in 1996 when she was 19.
Mike, this is a fantastic History of The Strokes, and the way you unpacked the Strokes’ cultural influence was great — but one thing I wish you went into even more was their effect on the New York music scene, beyond being THE sound of a post 9/11 NYC. Weren’t they a huge reason why Williamsburg became what it is now? Also, once the band left NYC as a collective and dispersed to LA etc (how many of them live here anymore?), they failed to match the pinnacle of This Is It. Do you think not being here had something to do with it? Or is it more about RCA and all of them getting older and sober?