By: Jessica Grose
Not content to merely make videos for their singles, Death Cab for Cutie has invited 12 directors to make short films for each individual song off their most recent album, Plans. At the helm for the project, dubbed Directions, are Death Cab bassist Nick Harmer and director Aaron Stewart-Ahn, proprietors of their own video production company, otaku-house.
Stewart-Ahn — who directed the Decemberists’ “16 Military Wives” — and Harmer worked hand-in-hand with the rest of Death Cab as well as Atlantic Records when envisioning the project. “We just asked people to write for whatever song they wanted,” said Stewart-Ahn. “[Death Cab’s] songs are really cinematic to people and anyone who is a fan of them has a cinematic vision of the song in their heads…It wasn’t much of a stretch to get people to do that for an entire album.”
Directors slated to work on the project include Lance Bangs, who has worked on videos for R.E.M. and Green Day, P.R. Brown, who has worked on videos for Matisyahu and Motley Crue, and graphic novelist Jeffrey Brown, a first-time director. “I’m ridiculously happy about Jeffrey Brown,” Stewart-Ahn crowed. “I just love his graphic novels, and we approached him and asked him to write a treatment — we said we wanted to animate one of his works — so he’s doing the first animation of his stories [for Directions]. We just wanted to find someone whose visual sensibilities worked with the band.”
Members of Death Cab for Cutie echo Stewart-Ahn’s enthusiasm. “Each interpretation is phenomenal and our hats go off to everyone involved,” frontman Ben Gibbard said in a press release about Directions. “It’s our hope that this project serves as a model to both labels and bands as a way to grant the directors the type and amount of freedom we’ve enjoyed in the creation of the music itself.”
“The best thing about the project is the creative freedom they’ve given everyone,” said Stewart-Ahn, who also directed an episode of SPINhouse Live for SPIN.com featuring the National. “The budgets are low, so it requires a lot of ingenuity, but it’s a welcome trade-off.”
No word yet on the release date for the ambitious Directions, but Stewart-Ahn says that “for anyone who writes about this project…the individual directors’ visions have really pushed this forward more than anything else.” Death Cab will perform tonight at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, OR, and on New Year’s Eve at the Giant Village Festival in Los Angeles.