The Making of GIVE UP by The Postal Service – featuring Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello

For the 20th anniversary of The Postal Service record, GIVE UP, we take a detailed look at how it was made. After Jimmy Tamborello was looking for vocalists to collaborate with for a Dntel album he was working on, he connected with Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. Gibbard agreed to provide vocals for a track that became, “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan.” The two of them worked so well together that they decided to work on more material and form a new project. Tamborello’s friend, Tony Kiewel at Sub Pop heard about their collaboration and suggested they would be interested in releasing a full album. Tamborello got to work creating instrumentals at his home in Los Angeles and would mail rough mixes of the tracks on CD-Rs to Gibbard in Seattle. Gibbard would then come up with the melodies and lyrics, recording his vocals and other instruments to send back to Tamborello. Over the course of the year, they would keep collaborating through the mail, enlisting Jenny Lewis and Jen Wood to provide additional vocals. After the ten tracks were nearly complete, they met in Los Angeles to finish mixing the album. GIVE UP was eventually released in 2003.

In this episode, Gibbard describes how these Postal Service tracks that Tamborello would send were nice breaks in his writing schedule for Death Cab for Cutie, who were in the middle of writing TRANSATLANTICISM. Because their collaboration started so spontaneously, he describes how this approach opened up his writing and pushed him into new territory. Tamborello describes how he initially conceived of a more experimental project but quickly changed directions as the tracks became more pop oriented and Gibbard’s melodies were so infectious. With the limited technology of the early 2000s, he describes how the album was made almost entirely on a Kurzweil K2000 synthesizer and how he would manipulate sounds and sample classical records for added effect. As the concept of remote collaboration has taken off in recent years, GIVE UP remains a fascinating document of its time. From the unlikely marriage of indie rock and electronic music in the early 2000s to the slow process of mixing by mail to the spontaneous idea of asking Jenny Lewis to sing on the album, to the key influences of Bjork, Liz Phair, Conor Oberst and Stephin Merritt to the mysterious effortlessness of the whole project, we’ll hear the stories of how the record came together.