Death Cab for Cutie began as a side project by frontman Ben Gibbard. Gibbard was playing in a band called Pinwheel in the late '90s when he decided to make some recordings under the name All-Time Quarterback. He eventually recorded a cassette called You Can Play These Songs with Chords with Death Cab guitarist Chris Walla in the basement of a house he was living in while attending university.
Death Cab for Cutie got their name from a song performed by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band in The Beatles' 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour. Lead singer Ben Gibbard says that if he knew people would be referencing the name 15 years after the band began, he would have went with something more obvious.
The band had considered offers from labels for years before signing with Atlantic Records in 2003. The success of their album Transatlanticism led to a bidding war between several major labels. The record had already sold over 300,000 copies on the tiny label Barsuk and the band was finally ready to expand their distribution. Atlantic released their next album, Plans, the following year.
In 2005, Death Cab for Cutie gave away copies of their new DVD Drive Well, Sleep Carefully to promote animal rights. DCFC are also long-time supporters of PETA. Drive Well, Sleep Carefully premiered at the band's hometown Seattle International Film Festival in 2005.
Death Cab for Cutie's song "Cath..." was inspired by Emily Bronte's famous novel Wuthering Heights. The song is about the character Catherine Earnshaw and her torment over marrying Edgar Linton. The phrase "well-intentioned man" in the song refers to Linton.
Their 2008 album Narrow Stairs was their first to hit #1 on the US Albums chart. Despite the disc's success, frontman Ben Gibbard called Narrow Stairs the band's "most depressing record."
In 2009, Death Cab for Cutie wrote a song for The Twilight Saga: New Moon soundtrack. "Meet Me on the Equinox" was released as the album's first single. The band was able to see scenes from the film before it hit theatres for inspiration. Guitarist Chris Walla also read two books in the Twilight series to get an idea of what the movie would be like.
Death Cab for Cutie was scheduled to play at the Ottawa Bluesfest in 2011, but their performance was cancelled after the stage collapsed due to strong winds. Cheap Trick was about to go onstage when the structure supporting the stage gave in. Fortunately, nobody died in the accident and the band posted a message on their website reading: "Our hearts go out to those that were injured and we're so thankful that nobody was killed."
Ben Gibbard married actress and one half of folk duo She and Him, Zooey Deschanel, in September 2009 at a ceremony near Seattle. He told The Wrap
that the couple enjoy the simple things in life. "We kind of watch a lot of TV," he said. "We get really excited every week for Top Chef
and pretty much anything else on Bravo at this point."
Deschanel filed for divorce on November 27, 2011, citing irreconcilable differences. "I Could've Been Your Girl
" is one of several songs on She & Him's Volume 3
album that are believed to be inspired by the breakdown of their marriage.
Gibbard is an enthusiastic long distance runner - he has completed the LA Marathon in under four hours.
Chris Walla parted ways with Death Cab for Cutie in 2014, after 17 years with them. His last show with the band was on September 13, 2014, at Rifflandia Festival in Victoria, British Columbia.
Ben Gibbard's first band in high school were called Oddfellows Local, named after the REM Document
track "Oddfellows Local 151
Gibbard tries to maintain a regimented schedule of writing. He told American Songwriter: "I treat it like a job. I literally have an office in downtown Seattle and with a small pro-tools rig, a couple of small amps and a piano, and I treat going there like I'm going to work and writing music."
Many were made aware of the band around 2003, when the O.C. character Seth Cohen started giving the band weekly props. Death Cab's first charting single "A Movie Script Ending," which reached # 123 on the UK Singles Chart, was the first of three songs by them to feature on Fox's teen soap