The Dismemberment Plan
Things have come together pretty well for the Dismemberment Plan lately. Their latest album, Emergency & I on DeSoto, has been receiving deservedly gushing reviews. They have about a month’s worth of shows on the eastern side of the U.S. left before they head to Europe to open for Pearl Jam in mid-June. Hmm? What’s that? Some sort of joke? Apparently they thought so as well when they received the message and almost botched the whole thing. How did an eclectic, mad genius keyboards-in-my-indie-rock band end up tagging along on that sort of arena rock trip? Travis Morrison, vocals/guitar/keyboards, replies, “Jeff Ament is a fan, apparently. That’s all we know.” Anything different encountered in preparing for this tour as opposed to others? “1. It’s in Europe. 2. It’s Pearl Jam.”
Travis surmises a complex situation with the same ease in which the Dismemberment Plan have mastered the odd hook. Casios make way for off-kilter rhythms amidst standard rock instruments, vocals falsetto here, stutter there, and always that unexpected turn, taken with the quick momentum that sucks you around the curve.
Given the band’s indefinable sound, I’m curious as to what sort of artists inspire Morrison. “Anyone that responds to their own lives and the music they hear honestly, from the perspective of their own identity,[per thou] he reveals. [base “]That includes Talking Heads, Fugazi, Charles Mingus, Steely Dan, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Bjork…”
Successful mergings of eclectic tastes are a pretty good indication of an interesting way of hearing things. Travis has that ear, as further evidenced by his remix of Braid’s “A Dozen Roses.” Intended for a comp of remixed indie rock bands, it instead showed up on Braid’s Movie Music, an anthology which ties together their loose ends and collects their off-album songs. And what happened to the remix comp? “Those things tend to not pan out, unless some monomaniacal freak makes it happen (much like the rest of the human experience!)”
Remixes can send a song off in a completely different direction while still retaining the soul of the original song. If there were to be a remix album, who would the Dismemberment Plan choose for which songs, and why? Travis answers that question with one of his own. “You know that optical illusion where you can’t tell if a picture is a silhouette of a vase, or two people’s profiles facing each other?[per thou] he asks. [base “]Well, good remixes make you hear a song differently in that same way. They break down a song to its components (rhythmically, harmonically, structurally, even emotionally and thematically) and then reconstruct a new song. As a result, I can’t really say who I’d want to remix our music, but I do know that if someone asked me a lot of questions about why we made this or that decision writing a song, I’d be intrigued, because that probably means that they could hear the song going in a different direction. I can say that simply doing a remix for the funny factor of hearing my voice over an electronic dance beat or sample loop is not worth much of anyone’s time, and that is what most remixes tend to be. As for which songs, I can’t really say that either, although I would say from my own limited experience that the best songs to remix are the most open-ended and structurally sprawling ones.”
And if they were cover songs, instead? “Again, if someone came up to me from a band I respected and said, ‘Man, on that one song, you shoulda…’ I would say ‘Well, why don’t you?’ in a heartbeat.”
What’s the biggest challenge that Morrison sees for the band now, short term and long? “1. Getting the van’s passenger-side door fixed in two days and 2. Getting better.” More tangibly? “If the gods smile upon us, an album by the end of 2000. We’ll see.”
Finally, I wondered how much of Morrison’s lyrical content is autobiographical. Intriguingly, he answers with an improvised vignette: “Suzanne Vega: ‘Leonard, what do you think of confessional songwriting?’ Leonard Cohen: ‘You do whatever you must to make the song work. Lie, tell the truth, whatever.'”
Catch the Dismemberment Plan on May 18th at the Echo Lounge in Atlanta, May 19th at the Cow Haus in Tallahassee, and May 20th at the Cuban Club in Tampa (as part of WMNF’s annual Tropical Heatwave).