10th Anniversary

Bands Made Popular By 'The O.C.': The Killers, Death Cab for Cutie, Rooney, More

In honor of the 10th anniversary of The O.C., a look back at the bands the show helped break.

Phantom Planet

Named after a 1961 B movie called The Phantom Planet, this Weezer-influenced indie-rock group from the Hollywood area of Los Angeles originally featured the actor Jason Schwartzman on drums (he left the band in 2003). The O.C.’s music supervisor, Alexandra Patsavas, and creator, Josh Schwartz, chose their mellow piano-driven ballad “California” as the theme song to the show, which dramatically increased the group’s profile. They’ve since starred as fictional bands on the show American Dreams and the 2005 film remake Bad News Bears and had their music featured in numerous other programs, including Gossip Girl. After their last album, 2008’s Raise the Dead, the band announced they were going on an indefinite hiatus, but reunited in January 2012.

Death Cab for Cutie

This Washington state indie rock band, fronted by Ben Gibbard, became synonymous with The O.C. because they were the favorite band of Seth Cohen (Adam Brody). He’d chirp about them constantly and even had the band’s poster hanging up in his room. Thanks to their exposure on the show, the band signed to Atlantic Records where they released their fifth studio album, 2005’s Plans. Five songs of theirs were featured on The O.C., including “A Lack of Color,” and the band itself performed in the show’s fictional music venue, the Bait Shop, in the 20th episode of the show’s second season, entitled “O.C. Confidential,” where they played “The Sound of Settling” and “Title and Registration” off Transatlanticism.

The Killers

The Las Vegas–based indie rock band the Killers were relative newcomers when they appeared on The O.C. They had just released their debut album, Hot Fuss, several months prior, and the record was still picking up steam. Seth Cohen and Ryan Atwood went on a disastrous double date to see the band perform at the Bait Shop during the fourth episode of the show’s second season, titled “The New Era.” The band played “Everything Will Be Alright,” “Mr. Brightside,” and “Smile Like You Mean It.” Today, of course, the Killers are global superstars who have sold over 20 million albums worldwide.


One of the bands that received arguably the biggest O.C. bump is Rooney. The L.A.-based band is named after Ed Rooney, the psycho principal in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and fronted by Robert Schwartzman, the brother of actor Jason Schwartzman, who has also done some acting himself, appearing as the love interest in The Princess Diaries. Album sales for the band were sluggish until they became the first musical act to appear on The O.C., performing in the 15th episode of the show’s first season, titled “The Third Wheel.” Following the appearance, the band received a 200 percent boost in album sales. Rooney released their most recent album, Eureka, in 2010.

The Walkmen

Comprised mostly of classmates from St. Albans prep school, this New York–based indie-rock band formed in 2000 and released their debut album in 2002, to minor fanfare. To promote their second album, Bows + Arrows, the group appeared on The O.C. and performed at the Bait Shop, in the third episode of the show’s second season, titled “The New Kids on the Block.” They performed “Little House of Savages” and “What’s in It for Me,” and the album was the band’s biggest hit both critically and commercially. The Walkmen’s most recent album, Heaven, also received positive reviews, and was released on May 29, 2012.

Imogen Heap

While Imogen Heap never made it to the Bait Shop, the former member of Frou Frou turned solo artist had her song “Hide and Seek” featured not once but twice during The O.C.’s second-season finale episode, “The Dearly Beloved,” in April 2005, to promote her sophomore album and her first solo effort in seven years. That LP, Speak for Yourself, was released two months later and ended up cementing Imogen Heap’s status as a standout solo act.

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Modest Mouse

The Washington-based indie-rock band Modest Mouse had been around for a while prior to The O.C., having formed in 1993. But they had a very modest following by the time their song “Float On” made its way onto the show during its first season. The track, off their album Good News for People Who Love Bad News, is still the group’s biggest hit to date, and the band went a step further, performing several more tracks off the album at the Bait Shop during the seventh episode of the show’s second season, “The Family Ties.” They released their last album, No One’s First and You’re Next, back in 2009 and have been at work on their upcoming one for quite some time.

The Thrills

One of the bands that appeared on The O.C. most frequently was the Irish indie rock act the Thrills, who had five songs play on the show and even performed a pair of them at the Bait Shop during the ninth episode of the show’s second season, titled “The Ex-Factor.” The songs, including the fantastic ballad “Not for All the Love in the World,” were off the group’s sophomore album, Let’s Bottle Bohemia, which became their biggest hit to date. They’d go on to release one more album, 2007’s Teenager, before being dropped by their label, EMI, due to low sales numbers. The band is currently on an indefinite hiatus.