Backstage with Death Cab’s bassist

Nick Harmer of Death Cab for Cutie supplies no story but offers some honesty

by Frederic Hanson

Death Cab for Cutie’s Nick Harmer sits on a couch backstage next to some Baked Lays and a lot of bottled water.

He keeps fidgeting around like he is nervous or on drugs. But he is not on drugs. And that’s not boring.

Before the band’s Tuesday night show at First Avenue, Harmer, bassist for the Seattle quartet, took some time to talk with The Minnesota Daily.

So tell me about “Plans.” How are the songs being received?

I think the new material is being received pretty well. We’re still trying to figure out which songs off the new record are resonating.

With going with Atlantic ñ what was that like? When you walk into a studio with a giant label having your back?

Surprisingly, there was not a lot of a change in how we make our records. People think that all it is all about glitz and glamour, but I mean, we recorded it in a barn in the middle of nowhere.

So after you make it, do you take it to those people, and do even they listen to it? Criticize it?

One of the only reasons why we ended up on Atlantic Records was that we had a pretty specific list of creative control issues – points we really wanted to make sure were in writing.

You had to put them in writing?

Oh, absolutely. Yeah. If you don’t put them in writing, you’re in trouble.

Does it piss you off when people ask you about “The O.C.”?

Oh yeah, totally. I mean, it doesn’t piss me off – but it gets tiresome.

You just gave them a song, and people can screw themselves if they don’t like it, right?

Yeah, exactly. But if they were going to do that thing, I would rather they had called us a “Six Feet Under” band, just because we’ve done work with that show too and I happen to enjoy that show more. But for some reason that didn’t stick with the journalists.

So you’re a depressing band then?

I don’t know what we are.

So what do you make of the idea of selling out, or “indie credibility” then?

It’s so weird because Bright Eyes has been on the show, Modest Mouse. But we’re somehow the ones who get attached to it. It’s hard because we’re kind of a band who doesn’t have a story. We’re just kind of four guys who are kind of nice who make music together.

You’re engineering majors.

Yeah, I mean, Ben has a biochemistry degree. But there always has to be a story, right?


Well, I agree. There doesn’t. But for a lot of journalists there does. At the end of the day it’s kind of boring, I imagine, to read about a band full of guys who don’t have drug problems.

Some people don’t like rock ‘n’ roll for what it is when it is just music.

Yeah, exactly. Like the myth and fashion around a lot of that.

So what is more important, love, or losing love?

So much of our music deals with losing love. But I think ultimately love is the most important thing – it’s the only thing you really have.

Do you think you could still create this music if you were happy all the time?

I do. I think that there’s a bit of a misnomer that all artists are tortured and in pain.

Well, love is torture too, right?

Yeah, exactly.