In the clip – directed by Robert Hales, who helmed their “Black Sun” video and has worked with the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Kid Rock and, uh, Britney Spears – the band pile on board one of L.A.’s omnipresent celebrity tour buses, where they lead a load of starstruck gawkers on a guided trek through the city’s well-heeled neighborhoods. Frontman Ben Gibbard narrates the tour, drummer Jason McGerr takes tickets and bassist Nick Harmer drives the bus, and if they all look a little weirded out, well, Harmer assures us that wasn’t an act.
“For every great thing about the city and the experience of living there, there is an offsetting negative that, for me, makes my feelings about L.A. a net zero in terms of personal connection,” he says. “The culture of celebrity tours feeds into this…it leaves me feeling cold and indifferent, and we wanted to make a video that captures that feeling of detachment.”
Of course, Death Cab’s star tour wasn’t real – “Doing a fake tour was icky enough,” Harmer says – but Hales based several moments in the video on experiences he had while riding along on an actual tour of celebrity homes, most notably the scene where a security guard emerges from behind a gate and showers both the band and the bus of tourists with a hose.
“That was staged, but it came about as a result of an actual celebrity tour that Robert took while doing some research for the video,” Harmer says. “He said that the bus he was riding on was actually sprayed a few times by local residents, and it happens quite often.”
Harmer was quick to point out that Death Cab didn’t want to make a video that came off as “judgmental or negative,” rather, they wanted to explore the sense of separation that’s so prevalent in a city like Los Angeles, where societal divides are often as apparent as the ivy-covered walls surrounding a Bel-Air mansion. Though perhaps that’s an overly depressing reading of things; after all, even a cynic like Harmer will admit that these celebrity tours aren’t quite as soul crushing as you might imagine.
“I will say, according to the guy who ran the real celebrity tour company we rented the bus from, there are definitely a few celebrities on the tour who actually come out and say hello, so it’s not all gross all the time I suppose,” he says. “Still, it’s definitely not for me. I guess I’m not that interested in houses, much less celebrity landscaping. I can confirm, however, that there are a lot of really nice gates and tall, manicured hedges in L.A., so it’s got that going for it, which is nice.”