Ben Gibbard doesn't completely buy the idea of happiness. "I dislike the term 'happy,'" said the lead singer of Death Cab for Cutie. "I think happiness is not a state that you attain and then sustain. I don't feel that happiness is the kind of thing where you accomplish A, B and C and then you are just happy."
Ben Gibbard doesn't completely buy the idea of happiness.
"I dislike the term 'happy,'" said the lead singer and chief songwriter of Death Cab for Cutie. "I think happiness is not a state that you attain and then sustain. I don't feel that happiness is the kind of thing where you accomplish A, B and C and then you are just happy."
So if Gibbard wasn't "happy" following his marriage to actress/singer Zooey Deschanel, to what do we owe the more positive tone on Death Cab's latest album, "Codes and Keys"? Why fewer stories tinged with indifference, disappointment and angst?
"I've reached a level of contentment in where I am in my life and how I'm able to go about doing my work," Gibbard explained.
Deschanel's influence on his music extends beyond the lyrics. "Codes and Keys" - a diverse set of songs that were recorded at various studios along the West Coast - tends toward vocal harmonies and effects more than previous albums.
"How I listen to music has changed a lot since I've been married," Gibbard said. "Zooey and I's record collection stands together. I've become aware of a lot of music that I didn't spend that much time listening to. She listens to a lot of vocal music, a lot of harmonies. That was a whole new world for me to be opened up to."
While listening to musicians such as George Jones and The Everly Brothers, "I just kind of found myself starting to for the first time appreciate singers and appreciate the sound of the human voice," he said.
The new album also is more texturally rich than the band's older work, layering gentle electronics, keyboards and occasional strings. When it came time to translate those recordings on stage, the band decided they weren't interested in adding musicians to recreate the studio sound.
"We've always stressed that we want the band on stage to just be the four of us," Gibbard said, so they've been using samples to beef up the instrumentation.
The band's success helps them stick to their artistic guns on ideals such as that, freeing them from constraints they faced earlier in their career.
"As a band, we've gotten to a point where we're only doing this now because we love doing it," he said. "In a way, that's a much more pure place than, say, where we were when we made 'Photo Album,' which was, 'Oh we're so broke, and if we don't finish this record right now and if we're not on tour in the fall then we're going to have to go get jobs again. I don't want to get a job, so we should really finish this record even though it's not ready.'"