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The Postal Service: Special Delivery

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: April 24, 2003

The Postal Service
w/ Fizzle Like a Flood, Cex
Saturday, April 26
Sokol Underground

13th and Martha



The Postal Service is Ben Gibbard, the mastermind behind dreamy indie pop band Death Cab for Cutie, and Jimmy Tamborello, the mastermind behind electronica-style indie project Dntel. Together, with just the U.S. Postal Service as their ally, they made a long-distance recording that mixes the best of both their worlds to create something altogether new.

Gibbard, who has his hands more than full keeping Death Cab for Cutie on the road (seems like they were just in Omaha a few weeks ago), says keeping pace with two bands is killer, but the work couldn't be any better.

"I've been in Austin three times in the last two months," he said. "I'm feeling the treadmill this year, going on tour in the spring, and then going out again on tour in the spring."



A morning guy, Gibbard is already up and at 'em by 8 a.m., huffing it up a Nashville street trying to find coffee. You can hear the traffic whizzing by in his cell phone, the wind distorting his voice like a space-bound astronaut.

"Time wasn't an issue at all for this project," he said. "Jimmy just sent me stuff in the mail as he put it together, and I worked on it in whatever spare time I had. It was just a fun project. And Death Cab is in this place where we're not doing a band seven days a week. We make sure we schedule out time for other things. Chris (Walla, Death Cab guitarist / organist) is working on Travis Morrison's (Dismemberment Plan) solo record. It worked out that I could do this tour now and Death Cab later."

The project began when L.A. resident Tamborello asked Seattleite Gibbard to lay down some vocals for a track on the 2001 Dntel album Life Is Full of Possibilities. It worked out so well, the two agreed to cut an album together… but separately. Every few months Tamborello sent a CDR loaded with his electronic wizardry to Gibbard, who added melodies, lyrics and a few other touches.

The final product is the Postal Service's debut CD, Give Up, released by Sub Pop Records in February. Death Cab for Cutie fans will liken it to an electronica version of that band's last couple CDs. Instead of Death Cab's warm, tonal guitars, you get bleep-bloop electronic noises that dance from speaker to speaker and percussion that sounds more like tiny explosions than drums. Still, there's plenty of Gibbard's cooing, yearning vocals singing not-so-sad lyrics about relationships and love. Backing him up is the warm voice of Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis, who also is part of the Postal Service touring band.

"I thought it would be cool to have a girl do the harmonies," Gibbard said about making his acquaintance with Lewis. Though her band now records for Omaha's Saddle Creek Records, back when it first formed it shared the same label as Death Cab for Cutie -- Seattle's Barsuk Records. "So I knew her from our label connection. She lives in L.A., and so does Jimmy, so I cold-called her and she said she'd love to do it. We met the first time last July and hung out."

Also touring as part of The Postal Service is Death Cab bassist Nick Harmer, who will be in charge of the band's visuals, which include small films for each song. Live, the band features Tamborello behind a laptop and keyboards, with Gibbard and Lewis handling guitars and a small drum set.

So will all of Tamborello's electronic doo-dads make their way somehow onto the next Death Cab CD? "Not at all," Gibbard said. "Death Cab is a militantly analog band. We'll continue moving forward with our sound, but there will be no crossover."

Look for a new Death Cab for Cutie CD next fall.

"Death Cab is a militantly analog band. We'll continue moving forward with our sound, but there will be no crossover."



"My live show is like watching me paint a picture in front of a crowd. I'm not an entertainer."


Opening the show will be an ensemble version of Omaha's ultimate one-man act, Fizzle Like a Flood. Joining singer/songwriter Doug Kabourek are bassist Travis Sing (ex-Darktown House Band), keyboardist Bobby Carrig (ex-The Movies), and drummer Matt Bowen (Race for Titles).

Kabourek said the combo came together quite naturally. He and Carrig both were in The Movies, while Bowen is an old pal from the Omaha scene. "I want to do a concept album filled with songs about Bowen," Kabourek said. "One song will deal with how he spent forever one time playing the Dance Revolution video game."

His connection to Sing goes all the way back to Kabourek's days as drummer with Iowa City power-pop trio Matchbook Shannon. "A long, long time ago, Dark Town did a gig with Matchbook Shannon," Sing said. "I went online and downloaded some Fizzle Like a Flood songs and said, 'Wow, someone's actually making real pop music around here.' It was very melodic, not just guitar, bass and drums. And it had real keyboard parts. It was pop with a capital P."

So shortly after moving back to Omaha from Portland, Maine, Sing contacted Kabourek and the rest is history.

The band will be playing new arrangements of songs from Fizzle Like a Flood's full-length debut on Earnest Jenning Records, Flash Paper Queen, a collection of mostly acoustic "demo tracks" recorded for an imaginary, never-released CD, along with a "radio single," "Like Wind Like Rain," which features Kabourek's multi-layered recording technique, heard on his self-released LP, 2000's Golden Sand and the Grandstand.

With a band in tow, will Kabourek actually try to tour? Don't count on it. "I don't like playing live. Never have, never will. I have stage fright," he said. "My live show is like watching me paint a picture in front of a crowd. I'm not an entertainer."

Also opening the show is Baltimore laptop rapper Cex, a.k.a Rjyan Kidwell, who has the reputation for putting on truly dance-worthy shows. Says The Seattle Stranger, "Cex is the Ferris Bueller of lo-fi, white-kid computer rap; the nerds, the geeks, and the freaks all worship him, in part because he raps about stuff like being a 20-year-old virgin and working at the one-hour photo store."

I can't wait.

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Portions published in The Omaha Weekly-Reader April 24, 2003. Copyright 2003 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.