What? We can't find thick-rimmed glasses for all four of these guys?Chris Walla isn't merely a guitarist and songwriter in one of the most successful "indie" rock bands of all time, his solo career and record producing acclaim (Tegan and Sara, the Decemberists) have also transformed him into a major player in the Northwest music scene. The soft-spoken charmer chatted with us about Death Cab's new record, entitled Narrow Stairs, Britney Spears, and how he hopes his band breaks up before they start sucking.
How does it feel to have a new album out?
I just forgot about it weeks ago. I mean we had a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant and all that on the release day, but the record is made, and it's out, and I'm happy it's out, but it's not like I've been holding my breath for the last three months.
This record is somewhat of a divergence from Plans. Does the band view it as a departure from what you did on that record?
It's less of a departure from Plans as it is a continuation of (2003's) Transatlanticism. I feel like Plans was the detour. This record fits so much more squarely in the line of records that came before it. This album is so much more like Transatlanticism and it feels like we picked up where we left off with that record.
This album is a shade darker than other Death Cab records, but it's still melody driven. It seems like these poppy melodies are becoming standard for indie rock bands.
I don't know why it's happened beyond the fact that these are still songs and melodies that get people. That's the thing that makes people tick a lot of the time. It's not the case with every genre or every record, but we're all lovers of pop songs. We grew up on Hall and Oates and Billy Joel and those are songs and melodies and that stuff doesn't go away. I don't know where I'm going with this, but I guess I'm saying that I'm not afraid of pop songs.
Is that pop element still in what you're listening to these days?
You would be amazed by the collection of shit we come out of a record store with. It's kind of incredible. I think the last time I was at the record store I ended up with an Oasis record and Blackout, the new Britney Spears record. It's all over the map.
You've also been producing records in your hometown of Portland for bands like Tegan and Sara and the Decemberists, right?
Yeah, I just recorded an album for an Australian band called Youth Group. I did a record for So Many Dynamos, a band out of St. Louis that's coming out soon. It's kind of whatever I can do whenever I can do it.
After 10 some years of being a band, how does Death Cab fit into the solo projects both you and Ben Gibbard have going? What's the plan for the future?
I don't know. We'll keep doing this until it doesn't make sense to keep doing it anymore. I would never want to put an expiration date on it, but I feel like we'll know when it's time to not do it anymore. I just desperately hope that we break up before we start to suck. I'm really proud of what we've done and what we're doing now, but I just don't want to be one of those bands that's making shitty records 25 years into their career just to do it. I think that's collectively our biggest fear.
Death Cab For Cutie, The Decemberists, The Breeders
5pm doors, 6:30pm show, Saturday, May 24. Les Schwab Amphitheater, 344 Shevlin Hixon Dr. $33. Tickets at the Ticket Mill or ticketmaster.