Ben Gibbard talks about remaking Teenage Fanclub's 'Bandwagonesque'

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Death Cab for Cutie
Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard in The Current studio (MPR / Nate Ryan)
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Ben Gibbard has a piece of advice when looking up song lyrics on the internet. "Never ever trust any of those websites," he says. "Do not trust them. They are wrong a lot of the time."

Gibbard, best known for his work as the frontman of the band Death Cab for Cutie, had been doing a fair amount of lyrics research because he was working on a new record — which is also kind of an old record: he's just released a track-by-track cover of Teenage Fanclub's 1991 album, Bandwagonesque.

Seattle-based label Turntable Kitchen had approached Gibbard through his management about doing an album for its series, Sounds Delicious, which is bands covering whole albums. "I just kind of jumped at it," Gibbard says. "I thought it was a really fun opportunity and something cool to do in between Death Cab records."

And as for the lyric research? Fortunately, Gibbard is friends with Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake and was able to go right to the source. "As I was starting this project, I let him know he was doing it, and he was very supportive," Gibbard says. "He's one of the kindest men I've ever met."

Norman Blake
Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub performing in London in 2005. (Jo Hale/Getty Images)

Recording a song-by-song covers of Bandwagonesque carried with it a deep personal connection for Gibbard. "I was a 14-year-old kid living in Bremerton, Wash., which is this little Navy town just west of Seattle across Puget Sound," he recalls. "This being the early '90s, we were very isolated from music culture and art culture over there. You could take an hour-long ferry over to Seattle and go to record stores and listen to KCMU [now KEXP] … But we were kind of resigned to the faint signal of KGRG, which is a college station at Green River Community College, and then basically, MTV's 120 Minutes. That was how we got a lot of our music at that time."

It was during that time Gibbard first heard Teenage Fanclub. "I just fell in love," he recalls. " Bandwagonesque specifically felt like an album that could have existed at any time in the annals of rock history, but also the production and the presentation was something that was very palpable to a kid."

Gibbard makes clear that his take on Bandwagonesque isn't a reimagining so much as a love letter. "It's important to note that my version of this record does not exist in the world as some kind of an attempt to perfect an already-perfect record as much as it is a tribute and something I really wanted to do," he says. "It was such an enjoyable experience."

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  • Ben Gibbard, 'Bandwagonesque'
    Ben Gibbard, 'Bandwagonesque,' a track-by-track covers album of Teenage Fanclub's 1991 album of the same name. (Turntable Kitchen)
  • Teenage Fanclub
    (L-R) Raymond McGinley, Norman Blake and Gerard Love of Teenage Fanclub perform on stage at "The MOJO Honours List Launch Party", the launch event for MOJO's second annual awards, at HMV Oxford Street on May 4, 2005, in London. The party sees the announcement of the first 2005 nominees. The Honours List recognizes career-long contributions to popular music, with last year's winners including Morrissey, Ray Davies and The Clash. (Jo Hale/Getty Images)

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