Tech Cutie goes on road with Death Cab
Roadie discusses life with 'OC' buzz band and being the man with the plan
Before the days of "Transatlanticism," the heart-baring boys of Death Cab for Cutie managed their own affairs. Now that things have expanded - the band is off Barsuk, the indie label and dirt that anchored their roots, and on Atlantic, a major label that helps them tour extensively - they need some help. Mark Duston, military brat, punk aficionado and do-it-yourself live show pro, is proving to suit the band's growing need for an organized hand.
He's talking from the home stretch in Seattle, where the band had two more nights of shows before a break in the tour. Duston won't stop working, however - he's constantly planning for the coming months. It's his job to know how each day on a tour is going to pan out and he has to make sure that nothing can possibly go wrong, because inevitably, something will.
Duston, 32, grew up in rural Maine but moved around a lot because of his dad's job. He lived in Germany and Massachusetts and attended an alternative high school in his home state before he started his musical career, putting on warehouse shows in Boulder, Colo. He and four friends began promoting shows and charging $3 at the door for keg beer and three bands. Area college kids flocked. Eventually, they were busted for a fire code violation, but they had packed 350 people in a room meant for 12 and weren't complaining. They relocated to a warehouse in Denver, where they lived and put on shows that reeked of their experience.
Eventually, Duston started working for Aveo, a band on Barsuk, which linked him to Death Cab. So when Death Cab went to England for the Reading Festival, Duston was hired to regulate and be a jerk if need be. After having an amazing time with the band in England, Duston started hard touring in Europe. "Transatlanticism," Death Cab's fourth opus and the album that jumped them to a guest spot on "The O.C.," finally allowed them to hire a tour manager. Duston was first on the list, and he joined the band, a sound engineer and a merchandise seller. They picked up the guy who sold merchandise for Dismemberment Plan, another Barsuk band, in Chicago, and he's worked his way up, too - to Death Cab's production manager.
"My job used to be everything - everything you could possibly imagine, from setting up the stage to arguing with the local stage crew to catering and settling the show," Duston said. Times have changed, though, and now the band has a production manager, professional merchandise people and Duston, who acts as an overseer of the whole process. Duston said the hardest part for him now is being the "boss" of sorts and the employee.
"It's sort of hard to wake a guy up who doesn't want to wake up because it's 6 a.m. and we have to do a thing that we have to do, but we're just exhausted," Duston said. Death Cab for Cutie, he said, are very proactive about their careers, but at the moment where no one wants to do anything, Duston has to be the regulator.
Duston said he loves working hard, even though the job can be incredibly thankless. The band is spectacular about showing their gratitude, Duston said, but the behind-the-scenes chaos wears him out.
"It's just very demanding and time-consuming, but at the same time it's incredibly rewarding because you're in charge of this vast machinery and it's working," he said.
And as for his future, Duston said he'll be doing this job in 10 years if Death Cab's doing it in 10 years. He's got a sweet gig with Death Cab, a band who appreciates his work and works hard themselves for the fans, Duston said.
"It's not fun to work with people who you have to wrangle and push around and argue with and convince and be sneaky around, and these are things I don't have to do with this band, thankfully, because they're so incredibly dedicated to the show and the fans," he said.