A couple of days ago I was reading a 2002 interview with one of my favorite directors, Gone Girl's David Fincher, who somewhat surprisingly revealed that if he "could be anyone, it would be Brad Pitt." It was surprising to me to read that one of Hollywood's finest filmmakers might not be perfectly comfortable in his own skin—that he might sometimes lament the qualities that he thinks he lacks but wishes he embodied—and it got me wondering who I would want to be if I were any songwriter in music.
And I think that my answer is Ben Gibbard.
To be clear, I don't want to live Gibbard's life, or sing like he does (which, I admit, I already kind of do) and I don't fantasize about fronting Death Cab For Cutie. Rather, I aspire to have the kind of storytelling ability that he demonstrates in his songs; the ease with which he shapes simple events into nuanced, evocative, relatable narratives is, well, brilliant. And it should come as no surprise to anyone who has listened to Geography that his influence can be heard all over the record I made.
"To Remember" demonstrates this influence perhaps more than any other in City States' catalog. Thematic devices aside, it probably sounds more like a DCFC track than any other I've written**, and I will fully admit to having listened to lots of Transatlanticism while working on the arrangement. As for the song's subject: I've devoted a lot of time in previous blog entries and interviews discussing the story behind "To Remember", so I don't want to spend this post belaboring the theme of my father's death. However, I don't know that I've ever been as forthright in my emotions via City States as I am here, and the songs on Death Cab's first four albums, for better or worse, really helped give me the confidence to push forward with that.
I'm not without reservation in doing so. Sometimes I listen to "To Remember" and cringe a little, its sentimentality grating on the more measured aspects of my songwriting tastes; I certainly struggled with this issue while writing the lyrics, but I specifically recall having a "to hell with it" moment where I decided that the risk of looking foolish wasn't greater than the song's thematic importance to the album as a whole, or its personal meaning for me.
Which leads me to another quote I recently read from Fincher about embracing the imperfections of one's work: “I never fall in love with anything. I really don’t, I am not joking. ‘Do the best you can, try to live it down’, that’s my motto."
Do the best you can, try to live it down. After finishing this record, I can certainly relate.
**Much to my chagrin, lots of people hear traces of the Postal Service on "To Remember"; while I do indeed recognize this song's parallel with many cuts from Give Up, I have generally made a pointed effort to avoid danceable, disco-oriented beats that many people think of when imagining what electronic music sounds like. Much moreso than the Postal Service, the electro-pop influence people are hearing was far more influenced by The Notwist, 13 & God, and R.E.M.'s album Up than from Gibbard and Tamborello's collaboration.