As an experienced solo artist and newly inducted full-time member of the legendary Pacific Northwest rock group Death Cab For Cutie, Dave Depper has had quite the share of experiences in his musical career. Between the release of his first solo record in the summer of 2017, Emotional Freedom Technique, and preparing for the release of a new Death Cab album and tour this coming fall, Depper has a lot going on.

After playing Travelers’ Rest in Montana this past Saturday with Death Cab, he was having so much fun that he decided to hitch a ride with his friends in The Decemberists instead of flying home a day earlier. Casual enough, right?

Fortunately, Dave was able to sit down and have a conversation with the Daily over the phone, and talk about his latest album, songwriting and working with a band like Death Cab For Cutie.

The Michigan Daily: So, your website describes you as the “go-to guy” in the Northwest music scene. Tell me about how you built yourself up as a musician to become this in demand player in the Northwest. How did you establish yourself as this prominent multi-instrumentalist as both a soloist and a collaborator?

Dave Depper: Well, it was not by design, it was sort of accidental. I moved to Portland in 2003, and I had a background of playing guitar and piano and bass, and it all sort of happened accidentally when I fell in with this group of people that were based around a record label called Hush Records, who actually were the first people to sign The Decemberists.

I joined a band called Norfolk and Western, and at the time their drummer Rachel Blumberg was also the drummer of the Decemberists, which is apropos because I was sleeping on their tour bus last night. the singer of Norfolk opened up this studio called Type Foundry, which is still here today. It was kind of a focal point for Portland music and recording. And for whatever reason, I sort of became his go to session guy.

I was just very open to wanting to collaborate with anyone, and I never said no to an opportunity. And it wasn’t some big ambitious plan to be “the guy” or anything, I just genuinely loved working with new people. It didn’t happen overnight.

TMD: And now you’ve got your own album out and you’re playing with Death Cab For Cutie. I’d say that’s a pretty good run.

DD: Thank you. Yeah, when people ask me like, how do you make it, I tell then to work hard at what you do, but also being the guy or gal that people want to ride in a van with for hours at a time is just as important in this industry.

TMD: So now that you’ve had these experiences working as a solo and touring musician, what sort of takeaways have you gotten from working in one area that have benefited the other?

DD: Ah, good question. I would say that working on an album like Emotional Freedom Technique sharpened my skill set all around, because I was really committed to playing everything on that record. I was a confident guitarist, but not a super confident singer, and okay keyboardist, but I also didn’t know too much in synthesizer, so I did my best to level up in all of those areas.

And then right when that album finished, we started on the Death Cab album, so I went into that album feeling a lot more confident musically. So if I wasn’t confident going in the studio writing with the band, at least I had this musical confidence, and the rest sort of caught up.

And the other way around, I feel like Death Cab really hasn’t influenced me too much besides I’ve just been listening to them forever. I put out my album before I joined the band officially, and it was just this bedroom project that seemed to have no finish date. And then when I did join the band, I realized that I wouldn’t be putting it out as this moderately successful Portland session guy, I’d be putting it out as a member of Death Cab, which seemed like a bigger thing to me.

TMD: What’s it been like writing with Death Cab compared to your solo stuff?

DD: It’s been a pretty amazing opportunity. I’ve been playing with them for four years as a live guitarist, but then like a year and a half ago, I started getting demos from Ben in my inbox, and I was like, woah, these are new songs that have never been heard, this is very surreal.

Then I sort of had to find my place in writing, like, is it my place to say I don’t like the bridge on this song, or whatever. But we sat down and had some pretty frank talks about what was gonna be expected, and he [Gibbard] said, “look, we brought you into this band because we like your musicality and trust you… you don’t get to produce the record but your ideas will be taken in just like anyone else’s”.

It did take a minute to get used to, but at the end of the day, I got to play a big part in how the album sounds and I’m super grateful for that.

TMD: Yeah, and that’s coming out really soon isn’t it?

DD: Yeah, it’s coming out next Friday, it’s surreal.

TMD: And then after the release, you’ve got your upcoming tour for the album. What’s it been like preparing for the tour, especially compared to preparing for live sets of your solo music?

DD: Well, obviously Death Cab has a much larger infrastructure around it compared to Death Cab, my own things is just me and my friend doing our own things, putting things together and doing our own sound, while Death Cab has this big crew and guitar techs and stuff like that. So yeah, they’re pretty different.

I do find my own shows to be much more intimidating than Death Cab shows although there’s a fraction of the people there just cause… I don’t think I’m a natural front person, and I get very nervous about having all the crowd’s attention on me the whole show. So props to people like Ben that carry on two hour rocks shows with people staring at them the whole time. But yeah there’s just a  lot of moving part to Death Cab.

But we’ve really delved into the tech side of things, there’s been a lot of sitting in dark studio rooms on sunny days dealing with computers and pedals and things, just getting it all ready to go. But I think it’s all gonna pay off. The tour this fall, I think, is going to pretty spectacular.

Emotional Freedom Technique is out now, and Death Cab for Cutie’s new album, Thank You For Today comes out on August 17.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *