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Death Cab for Cutie’s “Pepper” single “almost didn’t make it” onto new ‘Asphalt Meadows’ album

Atlantic; Credit: Benjamin Gibbard

Death Cab for Cutie‘s current single, “Pepper,” is not a cover of the Butthole Surfers song, but, like the ’90s hit, it’s been climbing Billboard‘s Alternative Airplay chart. It’s perhaps surprising, then, that Death Cab’s “Pepper” almost didn’t make their new album, Asphalt Meadows.

Speaking to ABC Audio, guitarist Dave Depper shares that frontman Ben Gibbard first wrote a demo for “Pepper” shortly after Death Cab released their 2018 album, Thank You for Today.

“We were still, I think, touring that record and [Gibbard] was like, ‘I know that it’s not time to start thinking about a new record, but I just wrote this song, I don’t know, it’s kinda nothing,'” Depper recalls.

Keyboardist Zac Rae then arranged the demo into a full song before it was shelved; it stayed that way into the Asphalt Meadows sessions, until Death Cab’s manager started pushing for it.

“We were like, ‘Well, it just doesn’t really fit with this kind of louder, weirder stuff we’re doing,'” Depper shares. “And he was just like, ‘Please just give it a chance, I think there’s something special there.'”

Even with that encouragement, Death Cab had a hard time figuring out how to record “Pepper,” until they and producer John Congleton tried it “really minimally.”

“It got finished and we were like, ‘Oh, well this has to go on the record, it sounds great,'” Depper says. “But it really almost didn’t make it on, and it really came from a different place than the rest of the songs.”

With their “Pepper” now taking off, would Death Cab be interested in covering the Butthole Surfers song?

“I think you would have no problem convincing myself or Ben of that,” Depper says. “We’ll see about the rest of the band, but I think it would be great.”

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