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Death Cab for Cutie turns “game of telephone” into new album, ’Asphalt Meadows’

Atlantic; Credit: Benjamin Gibbard

Instead of following each other into the dark, the members of Death Cab for Cutie followed each other musically to create their new album, Asphalt Meadows.

As bassist Nick Harmer tells ABC Audio, the music for Asphalt Meadows was written through a sort of “game of telephone.” Every Monday, one member would come up with an idea, which was then sent to another member to change or build on as they saw fit. That process would continue throughout the week with the three remaining members each having a day to take a crack at it, resulting in a new song by the end of Friday.

“You had complete editorial control over everything that was sent to you,” Harmer explains. “You could delete it all or you could add to it, you could change the key of it, you could do whatever you wanted, but you had 24 hours to do it, and then you had to pass it along to the next person.”

Though Harmer admits the band was “a little unsure” about the method, it soon produced “some really great results.” The single “Here to Forever,” for example, followed in the process, albeit in an unexpected way.

After Harmer started the song with a bassline on Monday and guitarist Dave Depper added some chords on Tuesday, it was frontman Ben Gibbard‘s turn on Wednesday.

“[Gibbard] got our submissions and was, like, ‘No way, I don’t like anything that you guys did,’ and erased what Dave and I did and wrote ‘Here to Forever,'” Harmer laughs.

“That was cool, that was part of how things worked,” the bassist adds. “Sometimes you worked in reaction to what you got … in subtraction to what you got, versus an additional, sort of adding to it.”

Asphalt Meadows is out now.

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