Death Cab Wage War on Auto-Tune

They’re mad, and they’re not gonna take it anymore.

Videos by American Songwriter

Wake up Kanye, Mr. Gibbard’s in the building– and he and his fellow Death Cab for Cutie bandmates mean business. The indie rock superstars (if such a term can exist within its own undeniable irony) have just declared a new war on the music frontier: the battle against Auto-Tune.

For those of you who don’t hang out with T-Pain, or may have forgotten, Auto-Tune is an audio processor used by many studio engineers to correct insufficiencies in the pitch of both vocalists and instrumentalists. These days, however, Auto-Tune has become its own “instrument,” one that has been widely used by T-Pain, Kanye West, Miley Cyrus, and other high caliber artists. A healthy dab of the Auto-Tune function results in a vocoder-like effect, one that can be heard on numerous hip hop hits like Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop,” and all of West’s 808 and Heartbreak.

Death Cab and their bespectacled frontman Gibbard see the practice as a cop-out, and wore blue ribbons to Sunday’s Grammy ceremony as a means of promoting their cause.

“We’re here to raise awareness about Auto-Tuner abuse,” Gibbard told MTV. “Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a lot of good musicians being affected by this newfound digital manipulation of the human voice, and we feel enough is enough.”

“We want … to bring back the blue note,” he explained to MusicRadar. “The note that’s not so perfectly in pitch and gives the recording soul and real character. It’s how people really sing.”

Will the boys of Death Cab prevail in their plight against the over-produced? Probably not. But it is undoubtedly refreshing to hear a voice, off-key or with perfect pitch, championing the cause of real music.


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  1. When you use it as a medium like certain artists have I believe it is fine. When you use it to repair your deficiencies in a medium that isn’t okay.

    Its funny to think these musicians feel it’s normal to skew they’re talent into something they aren’t.

    I hope they realise the travesty they create when they use programs such as auto-tuner.

    (Specially Myley Cyrus. She’s using it in a devious and ambigious fashion.)
    [Hey kid’s wanna be a superstar? Just get the best of both worlds! Be a talentless actor and a talentless singer, all you need is some studio magic!]

  2. There is no wrong reason to use an auto-tuner when making music. Here’s my break down:

    So you think its annoying. Fine, I agree most of the time, but no one is making us listen to those who use or abuse the tool…. hehe.

    If an artist is trying to use an auto-tuner to make themselves look more talented, well the cats out of the bag, no? Its not exactly secret or ungodly expensive and exclusive. We all can get them very easily for not much more than free, or free.

    How purist do you have to get. There are plenty of people who don’t like bands altering their music digitally in anyway. I’m guessing most of you find it cool in the case of Postal Service. So, are those folks just too uptight, but using an auto-tuner is just sneaky?

    As for the kids growing up idolizing singers that they can’t sound like, most of us did that. If an auto-tuner can make you Myley Cyrus then go for it. Get some of that sweet hot tween money and run.

    Death Cabs whole extensive catalog will probably not make them more dough than Myley Cyrus will get from her next f-ing single. I don’t think anyone needs to be that upset about this. Myley is being marketed to be as huge as possible and the music is tailored accordingly, whereas I think Death Cab is more making their music how they like it and trying to get it out to as many people who might enjoy it.

    Death Cab are more musicians first, where as Myley is an effing market exploiting machine! Apples and Oranges I suppose.

    Finally, the hippy artistic argument here is something like: Why should any musician limit themselves in anyway if they don’t want to? Is exploring the use of an auto-tuner much different then playing around with a sample to get it to sound how you want?

    And I can’t sing, so eff everybody!

  3. JoeT. Shut up, you ignorant imbecile.

    Your biggest problem is something that you yourself stated- “I can’t sing.” If that’s true, than you cannot possibly fathom the angrily evocative and shockingly deceptive feeling someone who CAN sing goes through when they realize that their biggest idol is a cheap, greedy, talentless bastard. “Get some of that sweet hot tween money and run”?? How dare you, sir. Save your disgusting, tasteless banter for a Miley Cyrus fan chat room.

    Patrick had it right when he said “She’s using it in a devious and ambigious fashion.” END OF STORY. It’s not a debate on whether or not the “cat’s out of the bag” or that you apparently think that everyone else is doing it. THEY’RE NOT. Ever heard of The Decemberists? Big Star? She & Him?? Radiohead?

    Oh. Ever heard of a little band called The Beatles? They made the biggest hit records EVER without using excessive, corrective technology. Unless all of the known musical world has gone to complete shit (which, surprisingly, it hasn’t), then recording music can be and should still continue to be done in that way. SCREW AUTOTUNE. SCREW MELODYNE. And you know what else? Screw Pro-tools. And screw you for backing the demise and downfall of music.

    Miley Cyrus is a shallow, money-hungry, plastic Disney character. She will go down as just another Britney Spears. Death Cab, on the other hand, will go down as one of the greats, one of the ones who actually made their music instead of letting a computer do it for them. The White Stripes, Tom Petty, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, Ryan Adams.. These are the bands that will matter. These are the ACTUAL MUSICIANS in the equation.

    Unless you’re an artistic musician like Bon Iver (who uses autotune in ONE SONG to display ARTISTIC EMPHASIS, not for FIXING MUSICAL DEFICIENCIES), you have no business sugarcoating your miserable attempt at music with autotune. People need to quit their addiction to perfectly programmed music. IT DOESN’T EXIST. And I hope it never will.

  4. Matt, you are my hero.

    You sound harsh, but you have said what needs to be said. Pop musicians like Miley Cyrus who use autotune are not musicians at all.

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