Music Features

Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard Really Hates the Word "Moist"

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He has more important things on his mind, anyway. For instance, training for 50-mile trail races whilst touring the band's eighth album, Kintsugi, released March 31. The album's namesake refers to a Japanese method of using precious metals to reconnect shards of broken pottery into a new form. It's a fitting title. With founding bassist Chris Walla stepping down, the band is taking on a new form. It's breaking in two new musicians -- Dave Depper (keyboards, guitar) and Zach Rae (keyboards). Though Walla plays on Kintsugi, this is the first album he hasn't produced. That role was filled by Rich Costey, who has worked with Foo Fighters, Muse and Fiona Apple, among others.

"I think what the next phase will sound like creatively, it's too soon to tell," Gibbard says. "The new album just came out two days ago, so the clock on record nine just started, so to speak. We have a lot of work to do promoting this record and I have very good feelings about Dave and Zach being a part of the group for some time moving forward. What that looks like will become much more clear as we get out on the road and see what that looks like and play together more and get a clearer sense of what they can bring to the creative process."

Phoenix has a front-row view to one of the first Death Cab for Cutie gigs with the new material and new band, so Gibbard took some time, love, to promote DCFC's mainstage role at 93.3 FM's FestivALTAZ music festival on Friday, April 10, at Quail Run Park in Mesa.

Up on the Sun: I was just listening to a podcast you were on -- Grantland. It's about an hour long, but I just have one followup question: What's your deal with moist?

Ben Gibbard: It's just a horrible word. It's just a really offensive word. The way it sounds coming out of someone's mouth, what it connotes, it's just kind of icky to me. I think, we, as English language speakers need to come up with another word for what it connotes that doesn't just sound gross. I know I'm not alone in this. Maybe you have no problem with it and I just sound crazy to you, but I know I'm not alone in this.

I'm with you, but I don't have an alternative. Do you?

It's really hard. If you're eating a piece of cake and you're like, "This cake is delicious." And someone asks, "What is so great about it?" And you're like, "Oh, it's really..." You can't say it's wet. You can't say it's damp. That's even worse. My girlfriend and I joke about it as using the m-word. That's kind of pathetic. I'm sure we'll have to go back to the drawing board.

I read an interview you did with Runner's World years ago [2011], and I remember you talking about how difficult your first few miles used to be. It definitely got me through some crappy runs of my own. If you have the resources handy, would you mind sharing some tracks from your running playlist?

I tend to not listen to music on training runs. Music is [what I use] when I'm running an ultra and I get to that point when I'm just exhausted and need a boost. That's when I pull out headphones. How many do you want? I just pulled up the thing and I have a lot on here.

Let's say five.

Sounds good. Right now I have a song off the new Dan Deacon record called "Feel the Lightning." I've got a couple songs off the Run the Jewels' record [Run the Jewels 2] on here. I have "Close Your Eyes" from the Run the Jewels record -- the one Zach de la Rocha is on. It's killer. A song by The Au Pairs, "It's Obvious." I love that one. I also find that running ultras is the only time I listen to "Sister Ray" by The Velvet Underground in its entirety. It's 18 minutes long. One of the many reasons I don't listen to music on training runs --and I do most of my training runs on trails -- is that you're very unaware. You don't know how far you've gone until you look at your watch. It's like miles disappear. If you're listening to music, every two to three songs is a mile usually so you're able to count how many miles you've done. They're almost like their own mile markers. But, "Sister Ray" is so long, you're like, "Yeah, I'm going to run two or three miles during 'Sister Ray.'" It kind of devolves in the end and becomes unlistenable for the last five minutes, but I make myself listen to the whole thing so I feel good about myself afterwards. "I Think I'm in Love" by Spiritualized is on every running mix I make. The first couple minutes is very languid, psychedelic chunk and then this driving four or five minutes of no chord changes, just this very krautrock-y thing, which I love. I love running to it. When that one starts, I get that introspective chunk at the front and then I get that driving piece at the end.

Are you doing any training now?

We're starting this tour -- obviously we're playing in Phoenix next weekend -- but I'm trying to get a couple of races in before we start touring for real. It won't be impossible, but I won't be able to train on the proper terrain a lot of the time (while on tour). I'm running a six-hour race this Saturday and then in two weeks, I'm running the Leona Divide 50-miler. Later in the summer, when we're home, I signed up for Squamish50 in (British Columbia). It's really fucking brutal. That's the kind of race where I'm going to try to train for it on tour. If I find myself come up short, I'll pull out. That race is not to be fucked with. You do not fuck with it. I'll play that one by ear. I have a 50k around Mount St. Helens two weeks after that. A 50k, I can pretty much jump into. That's a distance, where I'm at now, where you can kind of just fake it. You just suffer for a couple of hours and say, "Eh, I'll just finish it." But, you can't fake a 50-miler. If I can't prepare for it properly, I'll bail on it, but I'm feeling strong right now. Before we get in a bus for the next three months, I want to get out on the trails, you know?

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Amanda Ventura