mp3 premiere & interview: "A Lack of Color" (Death Cab for Cutie) - Coping Skills

poster: Michael Smaczylo

poster: Michael Smaczylo

The music of Coping Skills went straight to my heart when I first heard Relatable Web Contentand today we're excited to bring you a special premiere from the band. Beginning on January 16, Coping Skills will hit the road for their "Fuck Me Up Ben Gibbard Tour," a journey so-named for their previously released single and the chance to see Gibbard in Chicago during their tour. Ahead of the tour date, the band shares their gorgeous cover of "A Lack of Color" and answered a few questions!

The Grey Estates: When did you first fall in love with the music of Ben Gibbard and what, if any, inspiration does their music have on you?

Rachel: I would hear my older sister listening to Plans through the wall between our bedrooms back when I was in high school. I’d heard a few of The Postal Service tracks around the same time, but didn’t know it was the same person until years later. 

Lauren: I got into Narrow Stairs when it came out in 2008. That was the first album of theirs I heard and the only one I listened to for a long time, but I really liked it a lot. I didn’t get into their classic albums like Trasatlanticism or Plans until much later in college.

R: It took me awhile to delve through most of the Death Cab discography too (there are still a few early albums I haven’t spend enough time on). But by going back and taking one album at a time, I always feel like I’m finding something new with his music. It’s constantly affecting the way I look at songwriting, storytelling, and production. 

TGE: When did you start recording this cover song and how did you decide which DCFC song to cover? Was it scary to cover the music of someone you admire? 

L: “A Lack of Color” is one of my favorite Death Cab songs because of its simplicity and its ability accomplish so much emotionally without a lot of instrumentation. I think some of our songs are similarly simplistic, so it was easier for us to add our own spin on it. It’s always scary doing a cover of a song you love and feeling like you need to do it justice, or play it exactly right, but we ultimately have way more fun doing things however we want and not how they necessarily “should” be done, and I think that made it way less scary for us.

R: It had been on our long “list of songs to eventually cover” for a while, but we didn’t started working on it until last week. We demoed it Thursday and recorded/mixed the song Friday night/Saturday afternoon. We’ve also been working on two other Ben Gibbard songs to play during the course of the tour! But you have to come to a show to see what else we picked.

TGE: When did you start planning this tour and how fun was it it to think that it was all for getting the chance to be in Chicago?

R: On October 18th of last year, Ben Gibbard announced two solo shows in Chicago with Julien Baker for January 2017. I immediately started scheming of ways to go and frantically began texting Lauren. Tickets went on sale the next day. We figured, if we were able to get a pair, we’d tour to the show and back. I snagged the tickets with ease and started booking the tour right away. As things typically do with us, the whole thing began to snowball. We named the tour after our song “Fuck Me Up, Ben Gibbard.” We commissioned our friend Michael Smaczylo to illustrate a portrait of Ben in the style of the Trasatlanticism cover and used it as the tour flyer. We know it’s kind of a silly thing to be doing, so half the fun for us is taking the joke as far as it can go.  

L: I think a lot of the fun of being in this band is doing things that sound kind of ridiculous or like things that bands don’t usually do. Planning a whole tour just around going to see some of our favorite musicians sounds crazier the more we explain the concept to people who ask about it, but I think having big theme like this makes the whole tour more interesting. Plus, I’ve never really been to Chicago and I’m excited for that too!

TGE: What is Coping Skills at work on next? 

L: We are in the process of writing for our next record which will hopefully come out later this year! We have a few songs written already that we’ve been working into our live sets recently.

R: We also plan on doing a bit more touring later in the year. I want to go back down to Florida again soon and up to Canada for the first time. 

TGE: If you could karaoke with Ben Gibbard, which song would you wanna sing with him?

L: None, that would be terrifying! I love karaoke too, but I don’t think I could handle it with Ben Gibbard standing next to me.

R: I need a karaoke binder in front of me to flip through to feel prepared to answer this. I’d probably let him choose. Maybe Cafe Mustache will have it after one of the Chicago shows… 

TGE: Does Coping Skills frequently tour and is it something you enjoy? What goes into touring and how do you also use that time to plan new material or just live your life outside of being in a band?

R: We tour quite a bit for a band that’s existed for less than two years. Last year we went on 3-4 tours, each ranging from five days to two weeks, and we played a few one off dates in the northeast as well. It gets difficult to plan the time though. I’ve started tour managing other bands, affecting when I’d otherwise be home for us to work on material together. 

L: I am the kind of person who hates leaving the house for almost any reason, so touring for extended periods of time can be draining. But having an excuse to travel and see parts of the country I would never go to otherwise is an opportunity I am incredibly thankful for! We have been trying to put a lot of time into practicing and preparing new songs and covers before we leave for tour.

TGE: What other band/artist might you consider planning a tour around? And if you could tour with any band, who would it be?

R: I’m not sure if I would plan a tour around someone else. Kind of a one-and-done scenario for me. Plenty of bands I’d tour with if given the “realistic” opportunity, but I don’t want to say them out loud and jinx it. So… Ben, if you’re reading this, we’d love to open for you one day. 

TGE: For the Death Cab newbies out there (bless their little hearts) what songs are the essential listens? 

L: Death Cab has a couple of really great hits that people have probably already heard like “I Will Follow You Into The Dark”, “Soul Meets Body”, and “I Will Possess Your Heart”. I really love “Home Is a Fire” from Codes and Keys and “Pity and Fear” from Narrow Stairs too.

R: Picking favorites has never been my strong point. “Crooked Teeth” from Plans. All of Trasatlanticism - some really wonderful lyrical metaphors. “No Sunlight” and “The Ice Is Getting Thinner” from Narrow Stairs. The Photo Album has been taking a lot of my attention lately. Even their newest record Kintsugi has really worthwhile tracks, like “El Dorado” and “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive.” Try em all out. There’s something for everyone. 

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