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Portlander Dave Depper Steps Onto World Stage With Death Cab For Cutie


Death Cab for Cute asked Dave Depper to be the band's guitarist for the world tour of its newest album, "Kintsugi."

Death Cab for Cute asked Dave Depper to be the band's guitarist for the world tour of its newest album, "Kintsugi."

Rachel Demy/Courtesy of Atlantic Records

There are musicians in Portland who seem like they’ve played with everyone. And then there’s Dave Depper. His resume is a who’s who of local acts: Menomena, Loch Lomond, Fruit Bats, Laura Gibson, and at least 18 others. He’s also toured with national names like Ray LaMontagne.

But now he’s stepping onto a bigger stage — much bigger stage. Last year, Death Cab for Cutie announced that Chris Walla, its original guitarist and primary producer, was leaving after 17 years. The band asked Depper to take Walla’s place for the world tour of its newest album, “Kintsugi.”

Depper just returned to town after a month of sold out shows in Europe that culminated in the mammoth Glastonbury Festival. He has a few days off before playing July 8th at Edgefield and July 9th at the Les Schwab Ampitheater in Bend, and then hitting the road for the rest of the year. State of Wonder producer Aaron Scott sat down with him to find out what it’s like to be an overnight rockstar.

On when he first listened to Death Cab For Cutie:
I was a sophomore in college. My girlfriend’s roommate had “We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes.” I just appreciated the songwriting and the production a lot.

On entering the equation of a band that had played successfully together for some years:
It was pretty intimidating. After I was offered the job, I kind of felt like the weight of the world was crashing down on me, a bit. It’s such a legacy and a body of work that I love. I was very aware of the fan base and the pressures.

Musically, it was a very cool opportunity to get inside Chris’s head and learn what he’s done. It’s amazingly educational to pick up on another player’s skill set. 

On how the band received him:
Obviously they [said], “There are some things on these records that are the riffs for songs. and we expect you to play those, but aside from that, do whatever you feel like doing, and if we don’t like it we’ll tell you.” There’s been almost nothing they haven’t liked.

On having to come up with stadium-size moves onstage:
When I started playing with Ray [LaMontagne] last year and then going on to Death Cab, I instantly was playing places that were orders-of-magnitude larger than I’d ever played before. There are people who are a quarter-mile away from me in some instances. … I’ve been the fan in the nosebleed seats; I know what that’s like.

Doing things like the Pete Townsend windmill, you’re sort of playing for the cheap seats in a way, in a way I remember appreciating as a fan. The other guys in the band are also very animated onstage. Ben is a whirling dervish up there, Nick is the most badass-looking bass player guy. I feel kind of obligated to join in. It’s the most rock-and-roll band I’ve ever been in.

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