Spotify Studios’ new podcast UnderCover lifts the curtain on why artists pick what song they cover in their recurring Spotify Singles series. The first episode begins on a melancholy note, with Death Cab for Cutie covering Frightened Rabbit’s forlorn rocker, “My Backwards Walk,” recorded one month after its lead singer Scott Hutchison was found dead at the age of 36.
“Walking down here, I said … this is going to be a very hard thing to do,” Death Cab’s singer Ben Gibbard said on UnderCover. Not only was Gibbard a fan, but the pair had become friends after Death Cab invited Frightened Rabbit on numerous tours. Gibbard hopes that his band’s cover will catalyze their listeners to dig into the Rabbits and appreciate the depth of Hutchison’s songwriting as it inspired him.
“When you’re younger, music has a power more frequently over you — I had noticed as I’d gotten older it happens less frequently than it once did — but when [Frightened Rabbit’s] The Midnight Organ Fight came out … it made me feel the same way I felt when I heard the Cure’s Disintegration or Superchunk’s Foolish — records that were really important to me at a younger age,” Gibbard said.
Death Cab for Cutie’s cover is remarkably close to the original, which Gibbard said was intentional. The recording is sparse and ethereal, recorded live with just a piano and acoustic guitar at the beginning. There is no chorus, so the instrumentation gradually builds — an acoustic guitar is doubled with an electric one, slight percussion comes in, as well as a sub bass — reflecting the subtle gravitas that picks up in the verses.
The only notable differentiation is Gibbard singing in his own voice as opposed to Hutchison’s prominent Scottish accent. “One of the things I always appreciated about Scott is that he always sang in his own voice,” Gibbard said. “He wasn’t trying to hide his accent, he was singing with the voice he grew up with.” Gibbard singing in his own voice was his nod to Hutchison’s authenticity.
“Whenever someone takes their own life as Scott did, you hope that someone falling into such despair will pull some people back from the edge,” Gibbard said of mental illness at large. “It’s just unfortunate that in this country [America], these services are not as widely available as they should be.”