Music

Premiere: Death Cab For Cutie’s Dave Depper Channels Prince On His Somber New Solo Track ‘Communication’


Dave Depper never really planned to release his own music. For years, he’s spent time as a multi-talented touring and studio musician for the likes of Menomena, Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker, Robyn Hitchcock, Ray LaMontagne, and Fruit Bats, and recently joined Death Cab For Cutie after the departure of guitarist Chris Walla. It wasn’t until Depper was challenged to the “20 Song Game,” which sees four musicians attempting to write and record twenty songs in twelve hours, that he realized that he had a knack for songwriting.

“There were some joke-y country songs and there were bad Elliott Smith rip-off songs, but a couple of the songs were these really intriguing synth pop things that happened,” Depper told me over the phone. “And when we were all listening back to each other’s stuff, everyone kind of seized on those and were like, ‘Dude, you should follow that thread.'”

In that moment, Emotional Freedom Technique was born, though it would take nearly five years to complete. It’s a record about love, though Depper attempts throughout to grapple with the confusion and longing that comes with the lifestyle of being a touring musician that renders every relationship effectively long-distance. The thesis of the whole record comes with album-opener and lead single “Do You Want Love,” which tells the story of a breakup after extended time apart. “I was breaking up with somebody and she actually asked me, ‘What is it that you want? Do you want love?’ and I actually said, ‘I don’t know what that means anymore.’ And that’s what that song came out of.”

This thematic overtone continues into the record’s second track “Communication,” which we are happy to be exclusively premiering above. It was written the day after Prince’s death, which left Depper in what he called a “melancholy feeling-sad-about-Prince mood,” and a desire to recreate something in Prince’s image.

“Something I’ve always enjoyed doing is trying to recreate sounds by people, then trying to twist them to be something else. But I’ve always been inspired by trying to exactly recreate the vibe of something. So I set out to make a Prince song, and to figure out what makes a Prince song tick.” Depper started playing around with drum machines and synth sounds, always keeping the question “What would Prince do in this case?” lodged in the back of his mind.

Though some tracks on Emotional Freedom Technique took years to wrangle, “Communication” took Depper only three days to write from start to finish. Lyrically, the track tells another story of a failed long-distance relationship, one that Depper thought he’d be able to overcome with the incredible technologies available to him to overcome the distance.

“It was driving me crazy because I had told myself that this one was going to work, because technologically, we have the tools to surmount this,” he said. “This will let us stay in touch better than anything. But in reality, it was just totally a facsimile of real interaction, and we had just become these blue bubbles that were badly communicating with each other. So I was in the midst of being really frustrated about that, and the lyrics just came out in an hour, the easiest thing I’ve ever written. And it fit the music exactly, and that was that.” Check out “Communication” above.

Emotional Freedom Technique is out June 9th on Tender Loving Empire. Pre-order it here.

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