Fans of Death Cab for Cutie know singer Ben Gibbard’s distinctive voice. They also know that Gibbard fronts a synth-based side project called The Postal Service. But the synth band Owl City sound very similar, leading many fans to wonder, is Death Cab for Cutie Owl City?
Here’s what I know from being a DCFC fan:
Death Cab for Cutie and Owl City are two separate bands with completely different band members. Owl City was formed in 2007 by Adam Young and was obviously a fan of Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard, particularly in The Postal Service, which Owl City was clearly patterned after.
In fact, Owl City sounds so similar to this band that many have claimed Owl City plagiarized Ben Gibbard and his work. So is Adam Young just a fan, or is he guilty of stealing Gibbard’s work? Or is it just a big coincidence?
Let’s explore further!
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) March 17, 2020
Who is the singer for Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service?
Ben Gibbard is the lead singer for both Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service. Death Cab was formed in 1997, and The Postal Service started in 2001.
Ben Gibbard first began playing guitar for a band called Pinwheel back in 1996. While playing for this band, Gibbard recorded his own demo under the name Death Cab for Cutie.
The demo became successful, and Ben Gibbard was signed to a label.
After this, three new band members were added, and Death Cab for Cutie became a proper band. The band released Something About Airplanes, its debut album, in 1998.
With each subsequent album release, Death Cab for Cutie grew in popularity, and Ben Gibbard became well known as the band’s frontman.
Years after the formation of Death Cab for Cutie, Ben Gibbard collaborated on a song with Jimmy Tamborello. Gibbard provided the vocals, and the song became wildly popular.
In fact, the song was so popular that Gibbard and Tamborello decided to continue working together.
During their initial time together, Jenny Lewis also began working closely with the two musicians. Eventually, these three adopted the name The Postal Service and began releasing music as a real band.
In 2003 the Postal Service released its debut album Give Up. This album was well-received, and the Postal Service became incredibly successful, just like Death Cab for Cutie.
Ben Gibbard has certainly proven his talent as a musician after founding and singing for both of these beloved bands.
— billboard (@billboard) June 23, 2017
Who is the singer of Owl City?
The founder, lead singer, and only constant member of Owl City is Adam Young which formed in 2007.
Back in 2007, Adam Young spent time creating different sounds and songs in his parents’ basement. He was suffering from insomnia at the time, and he used his sleepless nights to experiment with music. He found a style that he liked, which many consider to be classified as electronic music.
Young began creating songs under the name Owl City, and he published these songs on Myspace.
On the social platform, Owl City’s music increased in popularity. Young continued to foster Owl City’s growth by maintaining an engaging online presence.
He would frequently respond to direct messages from fans and even created a blog to talk about Owl City and his journey as a musician.
Fans loved Owl City because they felt that they knew Adam Young and could relate to him. This was certainly due to his friendly demeanor and online presence. Eventually, Young caught the eye of Republic Records.
In 2008 Owl City was signed to Republic Records, back then known as Universal Republic Records. Owl City skyrocketed in popularity after releasing its debut album, Ocean Eyes, in 2009.
Ocean Eyes features the band’s most popular song, Fireflies. Fireflies is now a six-time platinum single.
Owl City has become a staple in the genre of electronic pop music, but some say the band sounds remarkably similar to the Postal Service.
Conspiracy theory: Owl City is a reborn version of The Postal Service after a record label told them to “write happier music”. pic.twitter.com/FtYtFQvCCv
— Kate Cosentino (@KateMCosentino) May 20, 2020
Did Owl City rip off the Postal Service?
Many fans of the Postal Service claim that Owl City essentially copied its sound and style. So while Owl City does not directly plagiarize The Postal Service, the intent to mimic the sound of both the music and the singing is quite clear.
The comparison usually centers around the chart-topping song Fireflies. When the song became popular, many listeners recognized that it sounded incredibly similar to songs released by the Postal Service back in 2003.
Soon the observation of similarities turned into an accusation. Many fans decried Owl City, claiming that the band had stolen from the Postal Service and was nothing more than a copy.
Adam Young denied any form of plagiarism and claimed that he had barely listened to the Postal Service when he started making music for Owl City.
Later, however, Young admitted that, at the very least, his song Fireflies sounded very similar to the Postal Service.
Young maintained that he was honored by the comparisons to the Postal Service but still insisted that he had not copied their sound. However, he was open to the idea of continuing their legacy and being the next artist to produce similar music.
In an attempt to show allegiance to their favorite band, die-hard fans of the Postal Service will claim that Owl City ripped the Postal Service off.
Die-hard fans of Owl City will say that Adam Young was in no way influenced by the Postal Service and that all his music is unique.
An unbiased party would state that Owl City is undoubtedly influenced and shaped by the Postal Service, but the band is still its own separate entity producing original music.
— Stereogum (@stereogum) August 19, 2020
What does Adam Young think about Ben Gibbard?
Adam Young of Owl City is a fan of Ben Gibbard and particularly his work in The Postal Service. He is also flattered when his band is compared to Gibbard’s bands.
If Young developed negative feelings toward Gibbard after so many claimed he stole Gibbard’s music, he certainly doesn’t let it show. Young says that while he had barely heard of the Postal Service when he started making music, he had always been a fan of Death Cab for Cutie.
Later, Young also became a fan of the Postal Service, saying:
“I’ve become more of a fan having started Owl City, actually. I had some friends in high school that would have it playing in their cars and stuff. It was cool, but it never really caught my ear.”
After gaining popularity of his own, Young began to listen to more of the Postal Service and admitted that his music sounds similar.
Still, Young seems to not allow any accusations of plagiarism to taint his view of Ben Gibbard and the Postal Service.
He says that he is flattered by the comparisons because he now genuinely enjoys the Postal Service. He even welcomes the idea of carrying the band’s legacy, stating about the Postal Service:
“They released a record in 2003, and that was it. There was really nothing to compare it to until someone else came along and wrote the next chapter. Maybe that’s this record. Maybe that’s this band.”
Granted it takes a big ego to just assume your band is the next chapter in someone else’s band. So I’m not sure that statement really helps his case.
If Young can enjoy both of the bands that Gibbard has founded, then he must have a high opinion of Gibbard himself and respect him as a musical artist.
Happy 32nd birthday Adam Young! Owl City has been a part of my life for 3 years now, and everything has changed for the better ever since! Since then, I’ve got into music and released an album and now currently working in an EP that’s sounding better because of the pic.twitter.com/6KTc6eSrFw
— Jacob McDomino (@CosmicDomino) July 5, 2018
What does Ben Gibbard think about Owl City?
Ben Gibbard has never publicly stated his opinion of Adam Young or Owl City. This would suggest that he wishes things to remain amicable between the two and that he does not have any strong resentment toward Owl City.
However, one of Ben Gibbard’s former bandmates has openly expressed his contempt for Owl City and Adam Young. This former bandmate is Chris Walla.
Chris Walla was the guitarist for Death Cab for Cutie.
In 2010, an Australian court ruled that the band Men at Work had violated copyright law for its song Down Under. Chris Walla responded to this ruling with a tweet that read:
“The Men at Work plagiarism verdict is garbage, they got robbed. Related: Owl City should really consider buying Ben a pony.”
Here, Walla is suggesting that Owl City is a band that truly violated copyright law and that Adam Young should have to pay Ben Gibbard for stealing from him.
While these are the words of Walla and Walla alone, it does seem odd considering that he was a member of Death Cab for Cutie at that time, and not the Postal Service.
If Walla were a member of the Postal Service, it would make sense for him to have his own opinion about Owl City and be upset with Owl City even if Ben Gibbard wasn’t.
However, since Walla was a member of Death Cab for Cutie, Ben Gibbard may have shared his own complaints about Owl City with his Death Cab bandmates behind closed doors. Of course, that is merely speculation.
Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service share a lead singer: Ben Gibbard. Adam Young is the founder of and lead singer for Owl City.
Owl City certainly sounds similar to the Postal Service, but there has never been an official ruling on a copyright lawsuit.
Adam Young enjoys both Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service. It is likely that he respects Ben Gibbard as a musician.
Ben Gibbard has never made a public statement about Owl City. However, his bandmate Chris Walla has suggested that Owl City plagiarized Gibbard’s work.
Photos that require attribution:
Death Cab for Cutie and the Magic*Magic Orchestra by David Lee and Owl City by oddharmonic are licensed under CC2.0 and were cropped, edited, color-adjusted, merged, and had a graphic and text overlay added.