Multi-instrumentalist for Death Cab for Cutie, Dave Depper, has been the most popular sideman for a number of bands throughout the years, but now he has come through with his own highly anticipated album Emotional Freedom Technique. With a slew of synthy beats and pop sounds, this album contains a complexity that was achieved through years of hard work.
The album has a very strong pop feel, but you can sense the underlying alt-rock vibes within the guitar and percussion. “Your Voice On The Radio (Feat. Laura Gibson)” is a great example of this and one of my personal favorites on the record. This track contains a toe-tapping beat and some sounds that are reminiscent of an old video game such as Zelda. Depper and Gibson sound perfect together and the music makes you want to get up and sway.
Dave honed his craft by working alongside Menomena, Fruit Bats, Mirah, Corin Tucker, and Laura Gibson. States Depper: “Throughout my career, though I’d played with so many different people, I constantly struggled to find a style of writing and voice that seemed authentically my own. Suddenly, and almost by accident, it found me.” This turned out to be the best accident possible and led Depper to create an experimental masterpiece that came from a dark place of loneliness and a battle of coming to know oneself.
In honor of the album release, we actually got to spend a few minutes with the man of the hour to talk about it all, delving deep into each track on the album. Plus, we get a little insight into his life now. And hammocks.
What was the first song or album you remember listening to, and who introduced it to you?
I was raised in a very musical household, and my parents are definitively responsible for exposing me to much of the first music I ever heard. The Beatles catalog as a whole figured very heavily into my childhood.
Does that song or album have any bearing on your sound now?
Absolutely. I don’t know if the music I make sounds particularly Beatlesque, but my approach to songwriting and harmony is most certainly informed by them. And as a bass player, Paul McCartney is the alpha and omega for me, in terms of both playing approach and tone.
Was there a defining moment when you realized you wanted to pursue music in your life?
Not really! I’m fairly convinced that it all happened quite accidentally. I do remember thinking at age 12 that I should learn to play the guitar because it would be my only chance to get a girl to go out with me.
What are you most excited about with this release?
The process of writing and recording a complete album all by myself was scary, uplifting, endless, frustrating, transcendent, and ultimately freeing. I spent most of my life up until this point convinced that this would never happen for me, and I proved myself wrong. That in itself was the most exciting thing for me. All the rest is icing on the cake.
Any fun or interesting anecdotes from the production process of Emotional Freedom Technique?
I’ll give you one fun fact about each song.
– For about a month “Do You Want Love?” just consisted of a 20 second loop of the main piano riff. I created a loop of this that lasted for an hour and I would go running every single day, along the same route, only listening to this loop, in the hopes that a song would come out of it. It took a few excruciating weeks, but eventually it did.
– “Communication” was written and recorded in two days, the fastest of any track.
– The chorus chords of “Lonely With You”‘ were written in 2007(!) and I’d tried to put them into dozens of songs over the years – never worked until now.
– “Your Voice On The Radio” was originally intended for an abandoned album of pop genre exercises and sounded like Chic.
– “Never Worked So Hard”, unlike most of the tracks, features a vocal I recorded back in 2012 on a terrible mic. I tried replacing it but was never able to better the crappy sounding vocal take from back then, so it stayed.
– “Anytime, Anywhere” originally featured auto-tuned vocals and a hair metal guitar solo. I might release this version sometime.
– “EZ-101″‘ was entirely created (with the exception of the drums) on a Casio CZ-101 synthesizer, hence the name.
– “Summer Days” was unfinished until literally the moment that the record was mixed. I was flying to LA to mix it with Thom Monahan, and I recorded the reggae-ish synth part on the choruses while sitting in my seat, tens of thousands of feet in the air.
– The vocal take for “Hindsight/EFT” actually features me choking up at one point. Fun!
Wow! Thank you. It’s so wonderful for you to be so open to sharing about each song. Do you have a favorite track off the album?
It’s a three-way tie – I’m sorry!
I feel like “Do You Want Love?” is the musical accomplishment I’m most proud of in my career thus far – I worked tirelessly on that song for weeks, and it seems to have resonated with a lot of people, which means more to me than I can say.
“Lonely With You”, more than any other song, translated to a recording exactly the way I heard it in my head, and it’s the song I’m most proud of sonically. I dig the lyrics, too.
“Hindsight” is the most nakedly honest moment on the record and I was pretty scared of putting it on there. I’m glad that I did. I’m planning on recording a lot more music, but I don’t know if I’ll ever create a song more purely emotional than that one.
Perfect response, in our opinion. What’s your idea of the perfect venue/performance day? (Have you experienced either of these?)
Well, there are a lot of different factors that go into what makes a show great – the sound of the venue, the mood of the band, personal energy level, the vibe of the crowd, etc… and I could name a whole lot of memorable shows that check various boxes like that. That said, hands-down the most awesome performing experience of my life was headlining a sold-out Madison Square Garden with Death Cab a couple of years ago. It was surreal and perfect from beginning to end and I’ll think about it for the rest of my days.
There is a lot going on right now, politically and otherwise. It can be overwhelming for many. So let’s narrow it down to something that we talk about a little less. What do you think is the greatest obstacle facing the music industry these days?
It’s hard to know where to start with this one, but I’ll give it a shot: there’s simply so much music being produced by so many people all at once that it’s extremely difficult for any artists to stand out from the pack and establish themselves. My hat is off to anybody that manages to rise above the noise and be heard.
Also, for the good of culture at large this isn’t really an obstacle… it’s kind of a wonderful problem to have, in general. But it’s tough for individuals trying to make it happen.
What’s on your plate for the rest of 2017?
First up is kicking this awful cold I have right now. Then: playing few release shows for Emotional Freedom Technique as well as the Bumbershoot festival in Seattle. Playing a handful of festival shows with Death Cab. Recording a new Death Cab album later this summer and fall. Recording another album of my own, which is already underway. Falling in love. Swimming in rivers. Laying in my hammock.