Ben Gibbard & Travis Morrison Talk Shop: Staying Off Twitter, Bad Festival Timeslots, & What Animal Collective’s Popularity Says About The State Of Music

Death Cab For Cutie and the Dismemberment Plan had a mutual respect for each other, so much so that they embarked on a joint Death And Dismemberment Tour in early 2002. This weekend sees the two bands reuniting on the same lineup for Chicago’s A.V. Fest, though they’ll be playing consecutive nights. In anticipation of the event, festival organizers The A.V. Club got frontmen Ben Gibbard and Travis Morrison together for a long phone call. In the interview, they both touch on their dislike of Twitter, festival timeslots, and Animal Collective. Read below for some highlights and check out the full interview here.

Ben Gibbard on the new Death Cab album, which will be their last with Chris Walla:

It feels like it’s a much more powerful record than we’ve ever made. We’re working with this guy [producer] Rich Costey. It’s all of the adjectives that one would use for a well-produced record, but without “slick” as one of them. Everything sounds so fucking good, so crisp, but broken where it needs to be broken. Everything’s just right in your face. I don’t want to jinx it, but I think it’s the best record we’ve made in a while.

On Twitter:

AVC: Sarcasm doesn’t work well in print, so be careful.

BG: That’s one of the many reasons I decided to get off Twitter. I quit in the spring. I have a Twitter account just to read the news, but I don’t think such a reactive media is good for somebody like me, who’s very reactive. It’s a medium that can bring out the worst in people—I found myself using it when there’s something I wanted to bitch about. Or when there’s a sports event I’m watching that nobody cares about and I’m yelling. This is not information people need to have. I think there’s something about Twitter—people need to go away. When you have somebody who’s constantly tweeting about everything, you never get a break from this person. Even if they might go years between records, you’ve never been given a break as to what’s on their minds. I’ve certainly destroyed a lot of the mystery around my own life, via social media and otherwise. Part of being a creative person is getting out of the way and letting other people express themselves. And then when you have something to say, and you’ve formulated your thoughts, then step out in the world and say something. Say things around the thing that you made, not just tweeting 20 times a day about random bullshit. I don’t want people to burn out on me because I’m tweeting all day.


AVC: How do you feel about it, Travis? You’re still tweeting.

TM: I haven’t tweeted in a couple weeks, though. I’m making a record here in New York with a band I play with called The Burlies. I decided to not log on to Twitter. I started to suspect that it fucked up your poetics a little bit. For one thing, you blow really good material on Twitter. You should put it in a song if it’s that funny or cool. And then the feedback—there’s favorites and likes and you start getting coked out on that metric, that feeling. It can distract you from being like, “Do I think the song is good?” This tweet got a lot of likes, so it must be good! I look forward to getting done with this record and rejoining the party, but the experiment has helped me. I think it’s going to be a regular practice, to go underground. I still use Instagram.

On festival timeslots:

BG: We played after HAIM at Outside Lands. We have seven albums, and they have one album, and everybody knows every song on that album. You can’t win when you’re going up against a band with one album that’s very popular. [Laughs.] Every song they play, everybody’s going to know that song.

TM: We got moved to the end of the night at Coachella. I have my theory of who wanted to play at 4:30 p.m., in the heritage zone, that got us bumped, but I won’t say who. In the heritage zone, we’d do good. But instead, we played at the same time as Skrillex, Nas, Pet Shop Boys, and Muse. BG: You’re fucked.

TM: So we’d finish a song and I’d hear bits of “West End Girls,” then we’d finish another song and I’d hear bits of “The World Is Yours.” It was a nightmare. I’d never done the festival circuit, it’s fun! You see the same bands again and again.

On the Internet music scene and Animal Collective:

BG: I think this is truly the best time ever to be a musician. There are certainly some things that we have lost in the last 20 years, since we started playing music, like how communities and local scenes developed. The Internet is the local music scene. I saw Animal Collective at The Wiltern, which holds 2,400 people, they were doing two shows and it was sold out. It was this moment where I was like—name-drop: I was standing next to Lou Barlow, and we were both looking at each other like, “This is incredible, right? That 2,400 people showed up to see this weird band?” And they’re a weird band. I’m a fan. They’re fucking weird! And a fact that a band like that has found such a massive audience—the Internet has proved that if you give people access to this music, a lot more people than you think are going to connect to it. Pre-Internet, it was like, “Fugazi is the greatest band ever, but only a thousand people in this town know about them, so they can only be so great.” If Fugazi was out now, they’d be playing arenas, because people would know about it!

TM: The Animal Collective example is a really good one. I’d compare them to Brainiac, who I saw with like 45 people. And they’re like, “We’re doing better, some places there are 200 people.”

Read the whole interview here, which features a lot of great tidbits including a look back on the Death And Dismemberment Tour and their views on the state of music culture today.

[Photo via A.V. Club.]