BioDespite many industry insiders' prediction that Death Cab For Cutie's incendiary "Why You'd Want to Live Here" would create a Pacific Northwest vs. Southern California indie-rock rivalry reminiscent of hip-hop's East Coast/West Coast conflict, no blood was shed over such lines as "Is this the City of Angels or demons?" In fact, you might say most people in Los Angeles couldn't care less that Seattleite Ben Gibbard was giving their city a good old-fashioned tongue-lashing.
Silverlake denizen and Dntel mastermind Jimmy Tamborello certainly wasn't bothered - instead of hiring someone to lay Gibbard down for the dirt nap, he asked DCFC's leader to lay down vocals on a track for his upcoming album. A week later the electronipop masterpiece "(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan" (included on Dntel's 2001 full-length Life Is Full of Possibilities) was completed and the seeds for The Postal Service were planted.
"It seemed kind of effortless," says Tamborello, who had never met Gibbard before the recording of "Evan and Chan." "He came down and sang it once and we were just really happy with it."
"We did the song in an hour one afternoon," explains Gibbard, who was in L.A. visiting Tamborello's roommate, The Jealous Sound's Pedro Benito. "It was such an easy, fun way to work. The idea was spawned: Maybe we could do an EP of this kind of stuff. Then [Sub Pop A&R rep] Tony Kiewel brought '(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan' to the label and said, 'They're going to do a record of this kind of stuff - do you guys want to do it?' We just went from there."
In December 2001, Gibbard started receiving CD-Rs from Tamborello filled with beatsy electronic music, which he manipulated in his computer before writing melodies and lyrics and recording vocals. He also added some guitar, drums and keyboards - much of which was recorded by Death Cab guitarist Chris Walla at his Hall of Justice studio - and then sent the demo back to L.A. Gibbard had to run his changes past Tamborello, but he more or less had the freedom to alter the songs to his liking.
"It was really great to get a little package every month or two - 'Two new songs!'" says Gibbard. "Sometimes I'd say, 'I want to move that part and this part,' and it was really fun to have such autonomy in the writing; I could pretty much do whatever I wanted."
Though Tamborello (also known for his work in Strictly Ballroom and Figurine) is no stranger to collaboration - everyone from Beachwood Sparks' Chris Gunst to That Dog's Rachel Haden to Slint/The For Carnation's Brian McMahan appeared on Life Is Full of Possibilities - this was the first time he had attempted a project with a relative stranger.
"It was like having to work on the album and make friends at the same time," admits Tamborello. "In the beginning, I was probably a little nervous about not wanting to say I didn't like something 'cause I didn't know him. But in the end it didn't end up ever being an issue. It seemed like I was always excited with what he did."