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This Death Cab for Cutie song helps band “stave off the autopilot” during live shows

ABC/Randy Holmes

The members of Death Cab for Cutie have been playing together for a long time, but there’s one song in particular that continues to keep them guessing.

The eight-minute “I Will Possess Your Heart” has been a staple of Death Cab’s live set ever since it was released as the lead single off the band’s 2008 album, Narrow Stairs. The track begins with a long intro jam that nearly reaches the five-minute mark on the recorded album version. As for the live version, the length of the intro depends on how frontman Ben Gibbard is feeling that particular night.

“The directive is we play it until Ben gives the nod,” bassist Nick Harmer tells ABC Audio.

“Each night, we kinda feel it out,” Harmer adds. “That kind of unplanned-ness really keeps us really cued in and listening to one another and keeps [my] eyes on Ben.”

That bit of spontaneity, Harmer feels, keeps him and his bandmates “on our toes.”

“I think sometimes [Gibbard] goes a little shorter, sometimes he goes a little longer,” Harmer says. “That, to me, just kinda keeps us in contact in a way that staves off the autopilot.”

That’s especially important for Harmer, whose repeating bassline on “I Will Possess Your Heart” forms the backbone of the song. Which raises the question: What percentage of Harmer’s life has been spent playing the “I Will Possess Your Heart” bassline?

“Probably a much higher percentage that I would ever care to admit,” he laughs.

Death Cab for Cutie is currently on tour supporting the band’s latest album, Asphalt Meadows, featuring the #1 Billboard Alternative Airplay hit “Here to Forever.” The fall outing concludes Thursday, October 27, in Seattle.

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