What to Do When You Are Dead is the second studio album by American rock band Armor for Sleep. Following the completion of two songs written from the perspective of being dead, vocalist/guitarist Ben Jorgensen created a whole story from this viewpoint. What to Do When You Are Dead is a concept album, with each song telling the story of the protagonist’s suicide as well as his journey through the afterlife. Recording took place between August and October 2004 with producer Machine. A rough mix of “Car Underwater” was made available in November, followed by two US tours in February 2005. What to Do When You Are Dead was released on February 22 through independent label Equal Vision Records.
Following a couple of US tours in April and May 2005, “Car Underwater” was released as a radio single. The group performed on the Warped Tour, before touring across the US in September and November. Later in November, a music video was released for “The Truth About Heaven”, followed by a UK tour in December. In early 2006, the group went on a three-month headlining US tour, before appearing on Warped Tour again. What to Do When You Are Dead received mixed-to-favourable reviews and went on to sell over 200,000 copies. It peaked at number 101 on the Billboard 200 and reached the top 10 on two other Billboard charts. To celebrate the album’s 10th anniversary, the group played a series of shows in late 2015.
In February 2003, Armor for Sleep signed to independent label Equal Vision Records who released the group’s debut album Dream to Make Believe in June that year. According to AllMusic biographer James Christopher Monger, the release gave the group “a solid spot” in the developing emo pop genre. This resulted in the group performing alongside Taking Back Sunday, Piebald and Thursday, among others.
What to Do When You Are Dead was recorded between August and October 2004 at Water Music and The Machine Shop in Hoboken, New Jersey. Producer duties were handled by Machine. Frontman Ben Jorgensen recorded his rhythm part first, followed by drums, then guitarist PJ Decicco tracked his lead parts and additional rhythm parts, ending with the bass lines. Decicco said that Machine felt that the bass needed to be recorded last because it goes out of tune quicker “so he has more of a reference to kind of hear things if he has them with the guitars already”.
According to Decicco several different guitars were using during the recording process: a Gibson Les Paul Custom for the main rhythm tracking, as well as a Fender Telecaster Thinline and a Fender Telecaster Deluxe. BognerEcstasy and Marshall JCM800 amplifiers were used for most of the rhythm sections, as well as an Orange amplifier occasionally for octave parts. Decicco used the Delay Modeler Line 6 and Big Muffeffects units. Machine then engineered and mixed the recordings. Additional engineering was performed by Jacob Nyger. Will Quinnell mastered the album at Sterling Sound in New York City.