Seattle indie darlings Death Cab for Cutie will ring in 2006 by releasing a series of short films, Directions, inspired by songs on their fifth album, 2005’s Plans. The idea was sparked by the many talented people the band met while on the road. “It was just a matter of making some phone calls,” explains bassist Nick Harmer, “and saying, ‘Hey! If we get together a small budget, would you make a video for a song on the record?'”
After putting out the word, the four-piece selected twelve cinematic treatments for their songs from a range of submissions. The group chose a diverse group of contributors — including P.R. Brown, known for his work with Marilyn Manson and Motley Crue; graphic novelist Jeffrey Brown, whose work is being animated for the first time; Lance Bangs, who has directed videos for R.E.M. and Green Day; and Autumn De Wilde, who has photographed Death Cab, Beck, Fiona Apple and the White Stripes.
“We just wanted to pick the best [concepts] and let people do what they wanted to do,” says Harmer, whose production company Otaku House, co-owned by his childhood friend and video director Aaron Stewart-Ahn, realized the collection. Since the band members do not appear in the films themselves, the filmmakers — including Stewart-Ahn — were left to their own devices. “That’s something we really wanted to offer to them,” says Harmer, “to make a video and have complete creative control.”
The completed shorts, which are rolling in, will be screened on the group’s Web site, deathcabforcutie.com, early in January. The band is already thrilled with the results. “Autumn de Wilde turned in one for ‘Different Names for the Same Thing,'” Harmer says, “where she went to a middle school’s orchestra and band practice and filmed the kids playing the song.”
Following their debut appearance on NBC’s Saturday Night Live on January 14th, Death Cab for Cutie will hit the road for a U.S. tour in support of Plans early next year. And they’ll have the films on hand — perhaps for live presentation, or on offer as a DVD set. Says Harmer, “Ideally, they’ll be a perfect companion piece to the record.”