Peel back the layers of emotional hyperbole, hype, and critique, and Death Cab for Cutie are really just a remarkable and unassuming indie pop band. From the muscle of Ben Gibbard's songwriting and the band's solid, dynamic delivery, they've gained a cult following without subscribing into any kind of overcooked force.

But with great fan-power come specific obligations, as Gibbard admits, Death Cab for Cutie finds it impossible to please every music listener. "I think that the first thing one has to do as they move deeper into their career, is to cut bait with the idea of trying to recreate a moment in time, you just have to be who you are now."

Gibbard is as emotional accessible and articulate during a conversation over the phone, as he is singing one of his deeply personal lyrical lines. Even after going through a public divorce from international star Zooey Deschanel, and watching fellow founding member and guitarist Chris Walla quit the band, Gibbard feels it would be out of touch to write a record that deals with a very public and painful period in his life, and not share his thoughts about everything. "Well if I don't want to talk about it, why did I write about it?" he says.

Gibbard talked with us recently about their newest venture, Kintsugi, the band's first album since 2011's Codes and Keys, being yelled profanities at from a woman in a moving car, and finding a sweet spot between hope and despair.

Just before you head out on tour I can imagine the press run feels a little overwhelming.

You know I've been doing a lot of talking about myself which is not something I like to do, but I feel like at this point I've done this enough times that I have a particular stamina for it now. I'm just excited for people to hear the record, we were sitting on it for about six months or so just waiting to be able to put it out, so now people finally get a chance to hear it.

Does it ever get a little exhausting being that emotionally open all the time?

I feel fortunate that people even want to talk to me about the music that I make! There are a number of people that would love to be asked about their songwriting, so I don't quite think of it that way. I would never say that being asked about oneself is a chore; it's part of the job. I'm just glad somebody wants to talk to me after all these years. I could be working in a law office or something like that you know. I'd much rather be where I am now.

When you started did you ever envision how long you would be an artist for?

At that time we could never have imagined having the career we've had, we play a lot of songs from when we were first starting out and nightly I'm reminded of my 22-year-old self and how I saw the world. I wouldn't say it's exactly like looking at an old photograph, but sometimes a lyric will go by and the flash of someone who that line is about makes me start wondering where they are right now!

It's beautiful how the feeling you have when revisiting those songs, feels similar to the what happens to a listener when they hear your back catalogue - memories flash in your mind just like a photograph.

I would hope for that! I think that what makes not only the lyrics that I write work but just songs in general, when the listener can see their own lives in the songs. It doesn't really matter who these songs are about, or what they're about for me, it really matters most what they mean to the listeners and how they integrate the songs into their lives otherwise there is so much less power.

Death Cab For Cutie

I mean, The 405 is named after one of your songs...

Yeah it's funny, I was commenting to my girlfriend earlier saying how I'm doing an interview with the 405 and this is the second British website named after a Death Cab for Cutie song! I'm very flattered that someone would name their music site after one of our songs; it's a real honor.

Tell me about that song title in particular...

It wasn't my intention when I wrote 405 at all, there is an interstate highway that goes from Canada all the way down to Mexico along the West Coast of America. There are beltways around Seattle called the "405", I didn't realise at the time that there's a 405 in Portland, one Los Angeles too, so all of a sudden people were seeing the highway in their own city in that song and it worked out nicely - it's an unintended point of relation that I like.

Well, your song titles are always incredibly detailed and descriptive too, which makes sense as you've had a career marked by milestones; like getting successful in the indie niche, major label hopping, side projects, solo projects, splits etc., How do you feel about people classifying this particular stage of your career?

I haven't been following this stage of the band's existence in the eyes of everyone else very closely. One of my favourite quotes by a musician is a violinist called Itzhak Perlman, where once he played this concert and broke a string, then broke a second string and finished the concert with only two strings. It was kind of shambolic that he did it, and asked later about it he said, "It's the artists job to do what they can with what they have left." I feel that resonated with me to such an extent you know? We are fortunate enough to have made albums that people care very deeply about and the reality of that is we cannot make Transatlanticism again, as much as the listener cant be the age they were when they first heard it. It's not possible, so everyone who comes up to me telling me they wish we made a record like that again, yeah, that's just never going to happen. That was a moment in our lives and it resonated in a way that it creates a zeitgeist that can never be recreated. I think that the first thing one has to do as they move deeper into their career, is to cut bait with the idea of trying to recreate a moment in time, you just have to be who you are now.

As you said, whether or not your fans have divisive ideas, the fact that they have an opinion about your music is crucial.

Well totally, I'm glad that we are in a band that people feel so strongly about either because people love the band and they get really passionate about the records we're making, or that people just dislike us [Laughs]. I may sound like a crotchety old man, but I think that we live in a world now where there's just more music than there's ever been before, music that just doesn't stick. It's not bad, it's not good, it just is. Then Stereogum puts up a "Best 40 Bands in the first half of this year" list? It's like, there aren't even 40 good bands ever anywhere active right now let alone 40 new bands that started yesterday! I would never insinuate that music's gotten worse, it's never been better, but with our choices being larger than they've ever been it just means there's more you can take or leave.

It poses a new challenge for bands to stand out, but you have a footing with those of us who came of age when Death Cab started making music. There's an issue of overconsumption in general, it's not limited to the music industry.

I think it's a better world we live in where anybody who has a creative idea can share it with the world immediately. I like the fact that unlike, say the '70s, you were beholden to a record label to release your music. We experienced a little bit of that around the first and second record where we would go on tour in South of America and play to 150 people, because the record stores wouldn't have the record, and no one knew we existed. I think it's much more a egalitarian world now. I remember conversations I had with friends in bands in the '90s that frankly weren't that good, and they'd ask why they couldn't get a show, but you just didn't have the heart to tell them. Now, we live in a world where they'll let you know exactly what they think of you.

Sometimes I wish things were as accessible the other way around - that you could write an article, someone would comment and then you can pick up the phone and say "hello, but is everything really okay in your life?"

Here's a great story, well I don't know if it's great but it encapsulates my feelings about the internet. Years ago, Jenny Lewis, and her boyfriend and I, were outside her apartment in Los Angeles waiting on a cab and this car passes by us. They kinda recognize us, slow down and then suddenly the car turns around, spins passed us and this woman sticks her head out of the window and yells, "You guys fucking suck! I hate your music you guys are awful!" We all looked at each other and just started laughing as the car sped off. You know what the weirdest thing is? I have much more respect for the person who to my face told me that I suck, than somebody who would anonymously say it on a message board. Please don't think I'm inviting people now to come up to me saying horrible things, but in some ways that's almost strangely more respectable in today's world.

Death Cab For Cutie

Where you'd take anything real, no matter if it's painful, over dehumanised internet robots. There's a number of ideas you discuss on the record, this being one of them, would you agree that there isn't one main theme tying the whole album together?

Oh yeah, there are definitely songs that relate to each other, because these songs encapsulate my life from early 2012 to early 2014 where a lot happened in that time. Some of it is fairly public, and some of it is fairly private. I think people gravitate toward the songs that deal with my private life, but I do feel like there's a lot more to it than that.

It's tempting to point towards literal events that happened when you see titles like this - from Chris Walla departing, to this being the first album since your divorce from Zooey Deschanel.

That's totally fair for people to do. I think when you live a somewhat public life, certainly with someone who is well known, when things go badly you don't get to say stay out of my private life! I feel it would be very out of touch for me to go through what I've gone through, then write a record that deals in parts with a very public and painful period in my life, and then tell people that I don't want to talk about it. Well if I don't want to talk about it, why did I write about it?

We're finicky sadists demanding that our artists reveal their pain without being way too emotionally obvious about it, and people love it when you're heartbroken Ben!

I might be getting this wrong but Fyodor Dostoevsky said something about no man wanting to hear of another man's joy! When you're going through something painful one can feel alone in that sorrow or pain, and when somebody is writing about it makes you feel like you're not alone.

Sometimes your melody hints at something brighter, then you delve into the opaque. I really love how you start the album with, 'No Room in Frame'. Were you trying to inject some levity into your work after personal things happened?

The demo I turned in for that song was just an acoustic guitar with open tuning and it was really folky sounding. It was a song that we kinda laboured on and it was a difficult song to finish, but as we were thinking about album sequencing it seemed like an obvious choice because the song literally starts, "I don't know where to begin." As I'm writing about my life, I like the fact that I can say hey look this is what this records about, so let's get the elephant out the room. It speaks about when you're trying to see the arc of a relationship in your minds eye, but there's a lot of things you cant remember and it's disconcerting, but crucial to the experience.

I think that's the brain working toward mending the heart. You start off heartbroken, but then end with the hopeful line in 'Binary Sea'; "There's something brilliant bound to happen here."

That's a song I'm really proud of and we initially thought to start with that song, but ending with that particular lyric gives a loaded gun and points it right at your face. For me it represents more a tale of the digital age. In the song there's this mythic figure that has this virtually impossible job of holding the weight of the world on his shoulders and if he makes a mistake everyone will mock him. That represents how we view people on the Internet. If someone makes a mistake, their body of work, no matter what they've contributed to society, gets ridiculed.

That's what we were talking about earlier and I didn't make that connection

And a binary sea to me is the Internet, it's the 1's and o's - this flattened sea of information.

With that said, I feel like the most Death Cab-y sounding song is 'Little Wanderer' which represents your strengths as a songwriter. How was the process writing that?

I think so, in fact, when we were on tour a couple of years ago I would be in sound-check playing that guitar part, and Jenny Lewis would be like, "that's a very "Gibbardian" guitar line!" I was like yeah I suppose it is. I just wanted to write a song that comes from the perspective of the person at home, and not via a classic rock song like 'yeah baby I'm on the road and I miss ya'. In my own life being with somebody who travels a lot and being home a lot last year, I found myself having the tables turn and being in the position of waiting for somebody to arrive. I got a taste of my own medicine!

Kintsugi is out now. They play the following UK dates in November:

  • Mon 2 November - Glasgow Academy
  • Tues 3 November - Manchester Academy
  • Wed 4 November - Brixton Academy, London
  • Thurs 5 November - Birmingham Academy