About This Event
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“For a band in its third decade... Death Cab hasn't lost its gift for pairing Gibbard's soft ruminations with propulsive arrangements that know just when to sparkle and sway. But even more importantly, Gibbard himself still sings with a sense of purpose, keenly articulating a distinct swirl of nostalgia, loss and hope for new beginnings.” —NPR Music
At Death Cab for Cutie's inception, was an engineering student at Western Washington University who split his time between school and music. Taking a break from his local power pop band, Pinwheel, began recording an album's worth of solo material during the summer of 1997. Producer lent his help to the sessions, which resulted in an eight-song cassette entitled You Can Play These Songs with Chords. When the tape became a local hit, reached into his circle of friends to form a band, hoping to play the new songs live. Bassist Nick Harmer ('s roommate) and drummer Nathan Good climbed aboard, and was enlisted as the group's primary guitarist. He would also go on to produce many of the band's future releases. With a lineup in place, 's group rechristened itself Death Cab for Cutie (named after a song by ) and, within a year's time, signed a contract with the Seattle-based .
The quartet made their studio debut with 1998's Something About Airplanes, an album that featured several re-recorded tracks from the You Can Play These Songs with Chords cassette as well as a dreamy, pop-oriented sound reminiscent of . and both continued to pursue their own projects (including 's successful stint with ), but that didn't keep Death Cab for Cutie from returning to the studio for a second album, We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, which appeared in 2000. Nathan Good left the group just prior to the album's completion, and We Have the Facts introduced Michael Schorr as Death Cab's new drummer. The Forbidden Love EP arrived that same year, while a third full-length effort, The Photo Album, was released in 2001. By this time, a sizable audience had gathered around the band's emotional music, and re-released You Can Play These Songs with Chords in 2002 with ten additional songs.
The polished, hook-laden Transatlanticism arrived in 2003 and announced the arrival of drummer Jason McGerr, who had previously played in a band with Nick Harmer before Death Cab's formation. The album also proved to be a very important step in the band's career, gathering positive attention from consumers and industry execs (including television producer Josh Schwartz, who prominently featured the group's music throughout several seasons of The O.C.). It marked their debut on the Billboard 200, reaching number 97. With their popularity growing, the bandmates issued a live disc, The John Byrd E.P., and later signed a worldwide major-label deal with in November 2004.
Plans was released the following August and debuted at number four, remaining on the Billboard charts for nearly one year and achieving platinum status on the strength of three singles, including the acoustic ballad "I Will Follow You into the Dark." Death Cab for Cutie graced the cover of Spin magazine, appeared on an episode of Saturday Night Live, and earned a Grammy nomination for their major-label debut. Work on a follow-up album coincided with the release of 's solo effort Field Manual, and Death Cab returned in May 2008 with Narrow Stairs, a darker set that debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 and also charted internationally. The band proceeded to tour throughout the remainder of the year, while a deluxe version of Something About Airplanes (which was packaged with a recording of their very first show in Seattle) was released in November to introduce newer fans to Death Cab's early material.
The band continued touring throughout the first half of 2009, visiting Japan and Australia as well as an additional slew of American venues. The Open Door EP arrived that April, featuring several scrapped songs from the Narrow Stairs sessions and a demo version of "Talking Bird." The guys incorporated some of those songs into their live sets, all the while preparing to return to the studio after the tour's completion. After a short hiatus, they reconvened for 2011's Codes and Keys, which found them relying less on the electric guitar and more on moody, -inspired song textures. The single "You Are a Tourist" performed well on the rock and alternative charts, and the album peaked at number three in the U.S. Later in 2011, Death Cab released an EP of remixes of songs from the album titled Keys and Codes Remix EP.
Touring consumed much of 2012, although found time to record and release Former Lives, his first official solo album. The band began recording in earnest for their eighth studio album in October 2013. Midway through the following year, however, announced that he was departing the band prior to its completion. Appearing in April 2015, it was named Kintsugi after the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery. Recorded for the first time with an outside producer (Rich Costey), it also marked a return to their core guitar-driven sound after the keyboard-led experiments of its predecessor. Guitarist/keyboardists and Zac Rae joined the group to tour in support of the album and became official members for the recording of Thank You for Today. Released in August 2018, it welcomed Costey back as producer. Thank You for Today debuted at 13 on the Billboard Top 200 upon its release.
A year later, the band unveiled The Blue EP, a five-song set that included the single "Kids in '99." In late 2020, Death Cab recorded a benefit EP of covers by Georgia-bred artists like , , and . Released in December, proceeds from the Georgia EP went to Democratic politician Stacey Abrams' voter rights organization Fair Fight Action. A 20th anniversary reissue of The Photo Album followed in October 2021, featuring demos, outtakes, and other rarities. Around that time, they ended an 18-month break from live performance with shows with and .
Death Cab for Cutie's cover of "Waiting for the Sunrise," for the tribute album Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono, appeared in early 2022. A project curated by , some of the other participants included , , and . In May of that year, the band returned with "Roman Candles," the lead single from their tenth studio LP, Asphalt Meadows. Featuring production by , it arrived on in September 2022 and was accompanied by a North American tour with and . ~ Andrew Leahey & Marcy Donelson, Rovi
Following Momma’s beloved 2020 LP Two of Me, which introduced the world to the symbiotic writing style and profound creative intuition of founders Etta Friedman and Allegra Weingarten, the band’s third studio album Household Name reveals an exciting new chapter marked by both personal and artistic growth. Now based in Brooklyn, New York, after relocating from hometown Los Angeles, the duo upgraded from GarageBand and took their time writing and recording in a proper studio alongside multi-instrumentalist/producer Aron Kobayashi Ritch and drummer Zach CapittiFenton. The resulting album, mastered by Grammy-winning engineer Emily Lazar, is a tightly-stitched collection that is magnetic and dynamic, and also marks their debut for Polyvinyl Record Co./Lucky Number—who signed Momma in the midst of the pandemic before the band members had even finished college. In chasing their idols and embracing personal storytelling, the band has skillfully carved out their own path. Household Name showcases an unfettered vulnerability elevated by serious alt-rock bombast, and is an album that tells the world: This is Momma.
Across the 12 songs, Weingarten and Friedman, who met and formed Momma in high school, cull lyrical inspiration from their own lives for the first time–a contrast with the conceptual fiction of Two of Me. “I went through a lot of changes as we were writing and demoing this record. The biggest was that I was going through a really messy breakup, which was motivation to make this record the best it could be. I really felt like I had something to prove,” Weingarten says. “I wanted to write about heartbreak, which isn’t something we normally focus on in our lyrics. Etta and I ended up writing several songs on our own because we were having two really different experiences during this time. It’s the first record where we each have three songs that we sing solo on.” Friedman adds, “After making Two of Me, I think this album couldn’t help but to get personal. This was the first time all of us worked together throughout the entire process of demoing, recording, etc. We’ve never had the luxury to work this intimately together for such a prolonged amount of time.”
Bygone heroes also helped inspire a lyrical theme throughout Household Name: the rise and fall of the rock star, and the tropes and tribulations that come with that arc. The theme allowed the group to celebrate (and, in some cases, directly reference) icons like Nirvana, Pavement, Smashing Pumpkins, Veruca Salt, and the Breeders’ Kim Deal, while weaving in their own perspective and experiences. “It became a little game like, ‘Oh this is the ‘Cannonball’ moment or the ‘Drain You’ moment,’” Weingarten recalls of the writing process. “Having that, because we’re all nerds, gave us motivation to keep writing different kinds of songs, and also created focus so that we’re not just presenting scattered ideas. Our guitar chords aren’t classic grunge chords; as Momma, we have our own style.”
“Lucky,” one of the album’s standouts, was written when Friedman was across the country from their partner, and draws inspiration from Liz Phair’s “Nashville.” “She so perfectly put into words how mundane life can feel the most blissful when the person you love is around,” Friedman remembers. “I think harping on that thought, and missing my partner so much, is what helped write ‘Lucky.’ I can be lazy, boring, brushing my teeth, naked, half awake, and still get butterflies from them. I just felt like a real winner to be in love with my best friend.” Meanwhile, “Motorbike,” sung by Weingarten, expresses a different, illusionary side of young love. “I was hung up on this guy who I thought was super cool,” Weingarten recalls. “The song ended up being purely fantasy - I was writing about all of these scenarios that didn’t actually happen, because this guy really wasn’t giving me the time of day. But it all felt real in my head - once you write out the lyrics, rewrite them, demo, and redemo a song, you forget that these weren’t real experiences. It becomes a part of you."
Although Household Name was mostly inspired by the musicians’ own lives, much of the album embraces a satiric sensibility with its tongue-in-cheek rock culture references. “No Stage” is told from the point-of-view of a jaded rock star who desperately wants to make it big ("If I’m famous for the night / I’ll be lonely all my life"), and the triumphant highlight “Rockstar” is about a reverent fascination with Tenacious D’s over-the-top, comedic preoccupation with being ‘The Best Rock Band of All Time.’ Co-written with producer Kobayashi Ritch (whose indelible guitar riff demos served as the song’s foundation), “Speeding 72" details a fast burning romance between two kids who meet at a show and then go for a ride, referencing Pavement’s “Gold Soundz” with nostalgic admiration.
After collaborating on every aspect of the songs—from writing to arrangements—Momma recorded Household Name at Studio G in Brooklyn and Kobayashi Ritch’s home studio in Los Angeles. Kobayashi Ritch took on the roles of producer and mixer—like Flood on Smashing Pumpkins’ seminal Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness—aiming to embrace all the band’s ‘90s influences while also bringing the sonics forward with a contemporary freshness. “Artists like Nirvana and Liz Phair were obviously huge influences for this record, particularly in the songwriting, but I drew just as much inspiration from artists like Frou Frou, Linkin Park, Pinback, and Garbage. That era of popular music was really inspiring to me because those artists celebrated the production instead of hiding it away, and it made the music feel energetic and daring,” he explains. “I wanted to bring that mentality to Momma, and make this album feel intentional and complete. I also wanted to make sure we weren’t just making a throwback record. While our influences are definitely noticeable, I think the different sounds and vibes and songwriting help it read as something new and exciting that only Momma could make.”
Household Name perfects a balance of heavy riffs, deep emotions, inviting sonic production, and a lighthearted, wry sense of humor, creating a singular lane for Momma in today's world of alt rock. The album introduces a thrilling new era of the band to not only listeners, but also to the members themselves. “There have been so many times where I have begun to write words to a tune, just out of pure emotion from something I experienced, and I don’t actually realize how I feel about the situation until I listen back to the lyrics after a few days,” Friedman notes. “So, when an artist gets personal in their music, it seems to me that the listeners and the artist are having the same experience at once, which is a better understanding of the writer as a whole. That’s what I want these songs to give to the listener: a true introduction to all sides of Momma.”