Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Friday, May 13, 2011

Five More Ben Gibbard Benders

Posted By on Fri, May 13, 2011 at 8:57 AM

Ben Gibbard, now off the sauce.
  • Ben Gibbard, now off the sauce.
For more than a decade, Ben Gibbard has been a wildly successful musician. He has fronted Death Cab for Cutie, was one-half of the iconic indie-electro outfit The Postal Service, and, oh yeah, married Zooey Deschanel. But during all that, he harbored a dark secret: he was battling the bottle.

In a new Spin interview, Gibbard comes clean about how bad it got before kicking booze in 2008:

Gibbard says that he realized he needed to change after a particular bender with a friend in Big Sur. "It was so stereotypically my own little Kerouac Big Sur weekend," Gibbard says. "And I remember being on the flight home, going, 'You know what? I really have to do something about this. This has really gotten out of control. But I have a friend's birthday tonight, and I need to go out and have a beer with him.' Cut to three in the morning, five beers and five shots in, eating a pizza. I woke up the next morning and I was like, 'That's it. I'm done. I have lost the ability to control this.'"

Ten drinks! Eating pizza! At 3 a.m.! Truly dark times. But it turns out there was some stuff left on the cutting room floor at Spin. Luckily, we've found it: five more dark moments from Ben Gibbard's life.

1. Gibbard recalls once drinking an entire bottle of wine with an ex-girlfriend while watching episodes of The Office on DVR. "We sat there, our teeth stained purple, and I just thought, who are we anymore? I couldn't recognize us. Because of the teeth, yeah, but also because of what we had become."

2. During the recording of Something About Airplanes, Gibbard began to develop a crippling addiction to playing Snake on his cellphone. "I would stare at the screen, chasing those little dots for hours, watching myself become bigger and bigger. I knew that eventually I'd run out of room -- I'd run into myself." Gibbard pauses, staring out from his home high in the hills of Los Angeles. "But I kept going."

3. Gibbard pages through a photo album, pointing at snapshots from past tours. "That picture, I was high out of my mind on Claritin." Flip. "This was in maybe 2004? I had been taking so much Zantac I couldn't see straight." Flip. "I don't remember this picture being taken. My allergies had kicked in, and I took four Benadryl. Look at my eyes. I'm barely there."

4. His bandmates began to notice a change in Gibbard. "I remember that he came to practice," says Death Cab guitarist Chris Walla, "and he was just off. Missing cues, forgetting lyrics. Finally me and Nick [Hamer, bassist] took him aside and confronted him. Eventually he came clean: He'd stayed up all night reading a Stephen King novel. We told him right then and there that something had to change. But it didn't."

5. As we talk, Gibbard's wife, Zooey Deschanel, comes into the room, singing softly about the touch and feel of cotton. Gibbard is the middle of telling a story of being holed up in a motel room outside of Austin with a six-pack of pudding cups, but stops himself. "Every day, I think about maybe returning to," Gibbard uses air quotes, "'Bad Old Ben.' But she stops me." He smiles, his mood instantly clearing. It's like seeing the sun break through the clouds. "She's my angel."

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Jake Swearingen, and like us at
  • Pin It

Tags: , , ,

About The Author

Jake Swearingen


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"