One of Seattle's premiere music institutions is taking a hit as Death Cab for Cutie guitarist and producer Chris Walla has announced he'll be leaving the band. As a founding member of DCFC, Walla has been with the group for 17 years and produced all of the group's albums to date. Before his departure the band has already put the finishing touches on its eighth studio LP (and the first to use an outside producer), which is due in 2015.
Judging by both the band's and Walla's personal statement, he and DCFC seem to be leaving on amicable terms. He'll remain with the band for the remainder of its summer festival tour dates, concluding with the Rifflandia Festival in Victoria, BC on September 11–14. It would be odd for Walla to finish out the tour dates if there were deep-seated animosity (and besides, Walla is genuinely one of the nicest guys in the music industry).
In his departing statement, Walla states "I think I long for the unknown. It might be that simple." He's certainly not quitting music. Expect him to spend more time focused on his label Trans- Records and producing other artists. In addition to DCFC, he's produced great albums by Tegan and Sara (The Con and Sainthood), the Decemberists (Picaresque and The Crane Wife), the Thermals (Fuckin A and Personal Life), Rocky Votolato (Suicide Medicine), and has another terrific one on the way in the form of the new S record Cool Choices (out September 23 on Hardly Art). He also owns the Hall of Justice recording studio in Seattle. Trans- Records is the home to local rockers Cumulus and (the soon-to-be-defunct) the Lonely Forrest, as well as the superb Minneapolis band Now, Now (and its drummer's electronic side project Sombear). When talking to Walla last year he mentioned having big plans and wanting to expand the label, so perhaps he'll pour his time into that.
After next month, Chris Walla may no longer be part of Death Cab for Cutie but don't count on him to stop contributing to the Seattle music scene anytime soon.