Ben Gibbard slides into a booth at Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles with news from his Seattle hometown. “City Hall is fucking insane right now,” the Death Cab for Cutie frontman tells bassist Nick Harmer, drummer Jason McGerr and guitarist Dave Depper. He’s referring to a protest to save the landmark Showbox theater -- which has hosted everyone from James Brown to Pearl Jam -- from being torn down to build a condominium. The timing is impeccable: With three weeks atop Billboard’s Triple A chart, Death Cab’s recent single, “Gold Rush,” off its ninth album, Thank You for Today, is an anti-gentrification rallying cry. On it, Gibbard, who lives in the rapidly upscaling Capitol Hill neighborhood, sings, “Our haunts have taken flight and been replaced with construction sites.”
For all the resistance to change on “Gold Rush,” Gibbard, 42, is buoyant about some radical shifts in his own life. Two years ago, he married photographer Rachel Demy (his first marriage, to Zooey Deschanel, ended in 2011). And the new album, released earlier in August, is the first without founding member Chris Walla in Death Cab’s 21-year career of otherwise unassailed consistency, marked by eight Grammy nominations and nearly 600 million U.S. streams, according to Nielsen Music. Walla had produced almost all of the band’s projects, including its major-label debut, Plans, which spent 50 weeks on the Billboard 200 in 2005, but left the group ahead of Kintsugi’s 2015 release, after handing over the reins to current producer Rich Costey (Muse). Walla later said in an interview that he had stopped connecting with Gibbard’s songwriting.