Tune in and you know: Cutie’s got chemistry

Death Cab For Cutie

When: 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday

Where: DAR Constitution Hall in Washington

Tickets: $34

Details: (202) 628-4780 or www.dar.org

When: 8 p.m., Nov. 10

Where: The NorVa in Norfolk

Tickets: $28 ($30 day of show)

Details: (757) 627-4547 or www.thenorva.com

Spin through the gentle rock tunes on any Death Cab For Cutie album and one could imagine a scenario where ‘Death Cab’ was the more interesting choice over such plausible possibilities as Cutie’s Comfort Coach or First Gear For Cutie.

Guitarist Chris Walla, speaking from a Toronto tour stop, recalls one instance where the moniker misled an unsuspecting listener. “There was this metal magazine out of Florida who summarily rejected it as just sort of pansy crap,” said Walla.

“That was the only time there was actual confusion about who we were or what we were doing, or what sort of bill we were supposed to be on,” he said.

It’s been a slow, steady climb to wider recognition for the Seattle-based quartet, which also includes singer/guitarist Ben Gibbard, bassist Nick Harmer and drummer Jason McGerr. The band came together when the guys met in college around 10 years ago, and last year’s “Plans” album is their fifth since 1998’s “Something About Airplanes.”

Hearing Walla describe the early days of the band, it’s hardly surprising that they’ve stuck together.

“In terms of chemistry, it was pretty immediate,” he said. “It was really pretty apparent from the first time we played together that something would happen and that it would work and that this was something that we were going to want to do.”

While there hasn’t been any one event or achievement that catapulted the band forward over the years, it appears that “Plans,” their major-label debut (their previous albums were issued by Barsuk), would have to be counted as an undeniable commercial leap. “I Will Follow You Into The Dark,” their latest single, has landed considerable radio and video play, and the band has plans to stay on the road into December to further nudge that momentum.

As Death Cab’s good fortune grows, industry folks may find slapping a tag on the band to be something of a test. “Indie rock” seems an improper fit now that they’re on Atlantic Records, and “Plans” could be seen as a pop record anyway, though none of this is of any concern to Walla.

“If there’s one thing that we’ve learned about making and promoting records, it’s that we do our thing, and you don’t get to choose who your fans are, or who’s playing your music, or any of that sort of thing.”

Walla likely places more weight on comments such as the one he considers his greatest compliment, offered by a landlord/friend who gave her impressions of their first album at the time of its release.

“She said, ‘It reminds me of when I was 15 and I’d take my parents’ car, and me and my friends would drive around and the Beatles, like, ‘Revolver,’ would be on the radio.’ And that’s about as good as it gets, even still.”