Comfort in Constant Change | “I Don’t Know How I Survive” by Death Cab for Cutie


Daniel Schoenherr, Writer/Volunteer

Autumn is the season of change. We’re all watching the summer fade as we continue to orbit the sun. Fall can be exciting, and equally terrifying — new semesters, new friends and fresh starts. There are some nights, as the days grow darker and colder, when we don’t know how we survive.

Enter Death Cab for Cutie’s anxious and uncertain opening track to Asphalt Meadows, “I Don’t Know How I Survive.” The song begins with the band’s signature: an upbeat, catchy guitar line. Vocalist Ben Gibbard then asks you to recognize familiar feelings that become more apparent as he continues:


Listen to the ringing in your ears /

The scrambled voices of your fears /

Whispering, whispering /

Listen to the sound of your heartbeat /

Growing louder, gaining speed /

You’re breathin’ out, breathin’ in.”


Gibbard describes the panic we have all experienced at times of intense change and stress.

All of a sudden, the track breaks into an intense cacophony, mixing electric guitar with crashing percussion. 

In these nights, I don’t know how I survive.”

As he repeats this line, Gibbard validates the feeling of losing control. It’s oddly comforting, knowing you’re not alone.

Gibbard wrote this track in 2020 at the height of the pandemic; it highlights one of the few moments he lets his personal reflection bleed through into his songwriting. He wants you to know that he’s lived with the same fears, the same voices and the same ringing in his ears as you. We don’t know how we survive — but we survive.

For more of Death Cab For Cutie’s angsty indie rock, check out “I Don’t Know How I Survive” off their latest album, Asphalt Meadows.