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Aimsel Ponti

Aimsel Ponti is a Content Producer at MaineToday.com and a music writer for MaineToday.com and the Portland Press Herald. She has been obsessed with - and inspired by - music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She bought her first Rolling Stones record at a flea market when she was in 7th grade and discovered David Bowie a year later. She's a HUGE fan of the local music scene and covers it along with national musical happenings in her "Face the Music" column and with artist interviews that appear in print in the Portland Press Herald and online at Mainetoday.com. You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets. Aimsel is also the host of Music from 207 on 98.9 WCLZ and appears monthly on the News Center Maine TV show “207” to talk about...music of course.

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Posted: May 6, 2015

Death Cab For Cutie’s Nick Harmer on their new album, music videos & collecting vinyl

Written by: Aimsel Ponti
Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

Indie rock band Death Cab For Cutie is playing a sold-out show at Portland’s State Theatre on Saturday night. Tickets evaporated almost instantaneously as they’ve never played Portland before and have just released their eighth studio album, called “Kintsugi,” to glowing reviews. The album was mastered in Portland by Bob Ludwig at Gateway. Death Cab For Cutie is Ben Gibbard on vocals, guitar and piano, Jason McGerr on drums and Nick Harmer on bass. After “Kintsugi” was recorded, lead guitarist and founding member Chris Walla departed amicably from the band. Standing outside Nashville’s famous Ryman Auditorium before a gig, Harmer spoke about the record, the band’s new additions and impending fatherhood.

Congrats on “Kintsugi.” How’s the tour going so far?

It’s going great. You know, in some ways I feel we’re just getting started. We started last week in Kansas City and then we played in Atlanta and tonight starts a good run of shows, and it really feels like the momentum and routine of the tour is finally ours to have, which is great.

Do you have a favorite song on the new record?

It’s changing. From one of the first times we ever played “Black Sun” it just felt like it’s been a part of our catalog forever. It really fits in nicely, so it immediately became kind of a favorite just in its kind of immediate familiarity to me – it felt like I’d known it longer then I really have. I think one of the songs that has been fun for me to play live is “Everything’s a Ceiling.” I’m playing keyboards on it, which is a little bit different for me and the band. I’ve always kind of touched on the keyboards now and again live, but I really get to hold down the main key line for that song, and that’s kind of exciting. So that’s slowly creeping up as a favorite. It’s a nice stretch in the set.

Speaking of “Black Sun,” the video for this song is more of a short art film rather than a traditional music video. How did the idea for it come to be?

We were lucky. We found a video director that we’d been really excited to work with for a while named Robert Hales. When it comes time for videos, we end up casting a wide net out into the video-making community and see who’s interested and who’s got ideas and treatments. Robert was one of a few that sent back some really good ideas. He understood the spirit of the song and had some creative ways of integrating us into the video as well. We had one of the easiest and most rewarding video shooting experiences we’ve ever had. It was a really fun day, and it was the first time that the three of us in the band had ever worked with a true dyed-in-the-wool stunt team. There was a stunt driver and a stunt man in the video. As a profession, those stunt people, they’re kind of their own creatures. It takes a particular kind of person that will willingly throw themselves into harm’s way just to get a good shot. Watching this guy getting smashed by a Dodge Challenger all day long, it was crazy but we loved it; it was really fun.

With Chris Walla gone from the band, you now have Dave Depper and Zac Rae playing guitars and keys. How did the band find these guys?

We’ve known Dave for a good chunk of time, and he’s always been a friend of ours and a friend of our friends, and he’s one of those guys that you know in your musical circle of friends. We’ve always had a lot of respect for him as a player, so it’s kind of fortuitous that we ended up in a place that where we needed his particular skill set and we already had a built-in friendship with him. Zac is a session player in L.A. who Jason, our drummer, had done a few sessions with and for whatever reason they just kept ending up on the same albums and in the same studios and they struck up a friendship. We’ve been toying around with adding a fifth member to the band for a while. For whatever reason, we never did while Chris was in the band, so when Chris left we thought it would be a good opportunity for us to expand our abilities on stage. Just having an extra set of hands and ears has really added a lot to our ability to recreate, not only this album’s sounds, but melodic parts and sections from the back catalog as well.

Is it true that you’re going to be a dad for the first time later this year?

I am. It’s still a little early in the process for us, but all signs are pointing to that so hopefully we don’t have any complications and things are going well. That’s a big shift in my life that’s looking on the horizon. Thankfully our tour manager and our drummer’s got a couple of kids so there’s a little bit of a road map for me. I’ve got a good support network for my momentary freak-outs. I’m really excited. It’s gonna change everything in the best way.

We’re several years into the vinyl revival but now, seemingly all of a sudden, there’s a bit of a cassette revival happening, including with your new record. What’s the deal?

I think it’s just a nostalgia thing. The Internet has sort of torn down all of the experiences that come from physical objects. I think we’re starting to see a slight return back people recognizing the intrinsic value of physical objects in the world. Being able to hold an LP or drop a needle on an album, press play on a cassette or dog ear a book and underline your favorite passage. I think there’s a slight return back to that. I feel that people are recognizing a quality in the material, physical manifestation of art and content. I grew up collecting cassettes. There is also a little bit of a novelty aspect to it, I totally recognize that.

You’re participating in fan contests at some of the stops on this tour where the winner gets to go record shopping with you before the show. Are you a record store guy?

Totally. I grew up working in record stores. I love and collect vinyl. I’m always scouring. It’s a fun contest because it’s something that I would be doing anyway. It’s gonna be fun. Unless it’s weird.

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE WITH THE ANTLERS

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: The State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland.
HOW MUCH: Sold out
INFO: statetheatreportland.com

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