Aidin Vaziri | Death Cab for Cutie is on a break, which means Ben Gibbard should be on a beach somewhere sipping on cocktails that taste like suntan lotion. Instead, the group’s frontman is back on the road, playing a handful of benefit concerts and career-spanning solo shows that cover everything from his band’s most popular tunes (“Soul Meets Body,” “Line of Best Fit”) to his own recordings and songs by his side project the Postal Service. Gibbard, who performs at Davies Symphony Hall on Thursday, June 8, spoke to us from his home in Seattle.
Q: What made you want to do these solo shows when you should rightfully be taking some time off?
A: It’s really a small footprint to do these solo shows. I just need a guitar and piano. I really enjoy them, as well. I just pepper them in throughout the year in places I like and that I’m either going to be traveling through or just want an excuse to go.
Q: Do you use them as a way to workshop new songs or reconnect with old ones — or are you totally working without a plan?
A: Because I can pull from everything I’ve ever done, I certainly have to go in with a plan so I can make sure I remember the songs. Every one of these shows I try to create a corner in the set list that’s unique for that show. I might slip in a new song here or there, if I’m feeling it and the night is asking for it. But for the most part I like to avoid songs we’re currently working on because in today’s age, I would prefer the first version they hear of a new song to be the album version. Otherwise when it comes out, people will be like, “I liked the version he played acoustic in June 2017.” It’s fun to go through and play songs I haven’t played in a super long time, or surely the audience hasn’t heard me play. It’s kind of a fun exercise.
Q: You’re politically minded. How are you dealing with the current state of the world?
A: I found after November that I ended up writing a number of songs that will probably not see the light of day because I don’t think they are particularly good, or that they are in a voice that isn’t particularly appropriate for me. I’ve always come back around to this notion of authority when it comes to being a songwriter or an artist. One has to ask the question as they branch into a new voice, “Do I have the authority to use this voice?” I can write songs about what’s going on in the world, but I don’t have a lot of practice doing so. While somebody like Springsteen definitely has that authority and that voice to carry a song like that, I don’t have confidence writing in that voice. … The first thing I do in the morning when I’m having my breakfast and coffee is to read a piece of fiction or something that feeds my brain intellectually, that is not some crazy s— that Donald Trump said the night before. You are going to find that out eventually — might as well put it off for an hour or so.