Fifteen years ago, up in Bellingham, Wash., Ben Gibbard started the alternative-rock band he dubbed Death Cab for Cutie, while in Honolulu, some of us were too young to know much about music beyond what we heard on Krater 96. Fast-forward to 2012: DCfC has released seven albums, including their latest, Codes and Keys, and been nominated for multiple Grammy Awards for hits such as “I Will Possess Your Heart.” They’ve certainly won ours. The Weekly spoke by phone with bassist Nick Harmer about DCfC, time off and upcoming shows in Honolulu.
What took you so long to come here?!
Surprisingly it’s a little more challenging to get to Hawaii than you might think . . . we’re not a band that can bring just any gear and show up with it. To get our amps and guitars and things like that there, [we’ve] never been able to . . . quite work it out financially. It hasn’t been for lack of wanting to, definitely. I think every band has sort of dreamt of playing a show in Hawaii.
These two shows are your last for a while. Are you planning on staying here for a bit?
We actually have a little time on either side of the show to hang out and just kind of explore and . . . just relax and do nothing. There’s nothing quite like it, swimming in the water there, so I think we’re definitely going to all be doing some version of that.
When you go on tour for so long and you just constantly go go go, the time in between must be really boring.
[Laughs] I mean that’s the challenge, right? You could find yourself doing nothing very quickly if you weren’t a motivated person but we all try and stay pretty active . . . [we] start thinking about other creative endeavors and also just enjoy being at home. Gardening and things like that are always nice . . . when you’ve been away for so long. It won’t be just kind of like wide-open free retirement or something like that [laughs].
How do you pick what songs to play when you have so many?
Normally we play cities enough that we’re able to call up all of our old set lists and then have a Word file . . . that has every set list from every city that we’ve played . . . and then we sort of cater our set based on what we’ve played the last time. But when we’re coming to Hawaii, where we’ve never played before, we can kind of pick from . . . any of the songs which makes it a little more difficult. We’ll probably play a little bit longer of a set to say thanks for waiting for us for so long [laughs].
What’s your favorite song to perform?
I really like to play “Doors Unlocked and Open” from the new album.
You’re from a military family. Did moving around make it easy for you to be a touring musician?
I think so, actually. I really feel like my nomadic childhood definitely sort of prepped me in the sense of being used to . . . packing light. I love coming back to Seattle–Seattle feels like home to me and it’s a wonderful thing to be away from it for so long and have that familiar feeling of coming back to a place that you love. But I . . . loved moving and seeing the world, seeing different places and living in different places, and the touring lifestyle has really matched a lot of the ways I was raised. It feels very comfortable.
You guys have been together as a band for 15 years. Do you celebrate anniversaries? I think 15 is crystal.
We haven’t celebrated anniversaries but that’s a really good idea. Crystal, huh? [Laughs] I mean we definitely acknowledged it amongst ourselves and we’re always kind of smiling and feeling really grateful that we’ve been able to be a band for this long. But that’s interesting–maybe we should . . . pick a page out of a wedding anniversary gift list.
Maybe you can get, like, a chandelier made out of crystal for your bus, I don’t know.
[Laughs] Totally. I think I should get–[from] Hallmark stores or at airports and stuff–a little crystal animal of some kind. Like a mouse or . . . something that moms collect.
Anything else you want to add?
I’m just excited to be in Hawaii–I hope the weather’s nice. It’s been a while since I’ve actually spent any time in the ocean so I feel like when I get to Hawaii I’m going to spend like 5 or 6 hours . . . [laughs]. So hopefully it’s nice and I can have a nice long swim.
I’m sure it will be–even when it’s not nice it’s still nicer than pretty much anywhere else.
That’s a good point. Actually that’s a very good point, I gotta remember that.