Ben Gibbard on The Importance of Teenage Fanclub, Mourning Musicians Like Chester Bennington and Death Cab's Next Record
publish date: 2017-07-27
In 2016, Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard was asked to put his twist on a full album of his choice. The 41-year-old quickly said yes, and almost immediately knew which one he’d cover: Teenage Fanclub’s landmark third LP, Bandwagonesque.
For Gibbard, Bandwagonesque is a record that came to him at a time when he was starting to discover music beyond what he learned from his parents. The Scottish lo-fi band’s tunes spoke to him, and his interpretation of the 1991 classic plays with its tonality, with Gibbard making his re-work a bit more hushed than the original.
The Bandwagonesque cover is technically Gibbard’s second solo album — his debut, Former Lives, came out in 2012. Before Bandwagonesque comes out this Friday, we caught up with Gibbard about the personal impact of Teenage Fanclub, celebrating 20 years of Death Cab for Cutie and the human connection of music.
Why did you decide to cover Bandwagonesque in full?
I was approached about a year ago by a label based out of Seattle called Turntable Kitchen. I’ve been struggling to describe exactly what they are, which is probably what makes them so unique. They.had started this series where they were contracting out bands to cover whole albums. They.had reached out to me via management and I just thought the idea was fantastic.
So I was contemplating a couple different records to do, until I kinda had that no-duh moment: Well, of course you would do Bandwagonesque! It’s a record that made such a massive impression on me when I was 14 years old, and Teenage Fanclub to this day is my favorite band, due in large part to that album.
What other albums were you considering covering?
The one I was planning on doing initially was the first Emitt Rhodes album. I don't know if you’re familiar with him. He’s a really amazing songwriter that was in a garage band called The Merry-Go-Rounds in the mid-60s, and made this brilliant album where he played all the instruments himself. It was a very Beatles-esque kind of pop record.
But I realized he recorded the whole thing in his garage, produced it himself, and it seemed kind of counterproductive for me to do the exact same thing: to just recreate an album that somebody had done by themself. That’s an album that means a lot to me, but Bandwagonesque is a record that really changed me at a point in my life that I really needed it, you know? Not to say that Emitt Rhodes’s albums have not meant a lot to me, either. But these are records I discovered as an adult, and Bandwagonesque was a record that I fell in love with when I was 14.
What’s your first memory of this record? You said it came to you at a pivotal point in your life. What was happening at that time for you?
In 1991, I was 14 or 15 years old. I think a lot of people who become music fans have that moment where they break from their parents’ music, they break from the radio and MTV — at least in my generation, they did, and MTV isn’t really a thing anymore. And you discover something that defines you, that is outside of the mainstream. You are now discovering your own culture — you’re creating your own cultural mosaic of yourself that is not just what has been prescribed to you by mainstream culture.