Catching Up With The Dismemberment Plan's Travis Morrison
Tomorrow, The Dismemberment Plan is set to play its first of two hugely anticipated reunion shows. The band’s been mostly inactive since disbanding in 2003, but with the recent re-release of the absolute classic Emergency & I and a short reunion tour in 2010, it’s still a good time to be a fan of The Plan’s endearing, spastic and sometimes funny take on post-punk. Tickets for the two dates—which are in Baltimore and Fredricksburg, Va.— went predictably fast. In honor of the new shows, we spoke with frontman Travis Morrison about gearing up for the band’s first dates since 2010 and relating to his own lyrics at age 39.
Paste: Could you tell us how your two reunion shows this summer came together?
Travis Morrison: Well, we wanted to. We called a booking agent and they set it up, pretty much. We didn’t do any small shows the last time around in the D.C. area. We stopped in Fredericksburg [Va.], and for whatever reason, we decided it would be cool to play a show there. And also, we didn’t play Baltimore in 2011, so I think that was another reason why.
Paste: For you guys now, this is just a fun thing to do in the off-time?
Morrison: I think so. We’re lucky, we’re still buddies. That’s a real blessing, a lot of bands hate each others’ guts, or maybe they’re just different people than they were when they were 20. But for us, it’s enjoyable to hang out. I just had my bachelor party, and the guys all came to that. So, you know, we’re in a semi-retired point at this point in our lives, and it just feels really good every once in a while to play a show. The songs still feel good. I don’t think we’d want to go out and play them 250 times a year, as we once did. We can occasionally go, “You can break this,” it’s really rewarding.
Paste: Can you tell me what it’s been like to play these songs from your past, but having the luxury to do this on weekends or two-show tours?
Morrison: I feel pretty lucky that our songs, for the most part, don’t sound totally absurd from a 39-year-old’s mouth. Some do, a couple do, a couple are a little immature. I guess the word in the poetry game is juvenilia, which doesn’t mean juvenile, it just means what was done when everyone was young. But that’s only about 15 percent of it, where I’m a little embarrassed. But the other one, it’s really a relief to go back to the songs as a 39-year-old and say, “Yeah. These emotions are not particularly trapped in youth. That’s great.” I guess I was kind of a little old man back then, and now I’ve caught up to it.
Paste: What are some of those songs that embarrass you now?
Morrison: “Time Bomb” always makes me a little embarrassed. It’d be a little weird to be 40 years old and feel like that about somebody. And it’s a little dramatic. It’s fun musically. It’s not like I can’t play it at all, it’s actually quite enjoyable musically. It’s a great piece of music. So, you know, if that’s gonna be the worst of it, then I feel okay. I don’t have any songs that are like, “Kill the 35-year-old.” It’s happened, so I’m glad I didn’t feel the need to go there.
Paste: How easy is it to get ready to play these songs again?
Morrison: I think it’s pretty easy. But I’m not the drummer. [laughs] That’s tough. But he does it, Joe always nails it. I’m glad I don’t have to do what he does, I’m glad he does it. We are all still involved in music in this or that way. I sing in a church choir, I sing in various half-ass bands up here in New York City. So it’s not like I haven’t touched a guitar in five years. There’s really never been a period like that in my life. There’s making sure we actually know the songs, of course. It’s not an Olympian struggle, it takes some focus in the weeks coming up before the show. But it hasn’t been really hard to do.
Paste: I just read your fiance Katherine’s essay on discovering that you were in The Dismemberment Plan.
Morrison: It’s great. It’s a really sweet piece.
Paste: It touches on a lot of different sides to you: fiance, working man, musician. Is there any role that you identify with more now?
Morrison: Not really. I think I probably was not someone put on this Earth to do one thing all their lives. I think most people aren’t. I think for me, it’s definitely so. I had a job when we recorded Emergency & I. I really only didn’t have a day job for about two and a half years near the end of The Plan. There might have been times I was unemployed, but that’s different than not having a day job. There were times when I was broke, which is different than being unemployed. And you know, what I was doing about that time, in ‘97 or ’98, was the start of, kind of, the early days of web development, web programming. So, you know, to be a computer programmer and then going to play music, now, it’s actually not very much different from how things were in the period I considered The Dismemberment Plan’s salad days. It wasn’t like there was a time when I was playing to 50,000 people, and now I’m working in offices. It kind of is a continuum. I guess I like it that way. Maybe it’s a problem, but it’s hard for me to imagine just doing one thing. I get inspiration from one world and take it into the other, and vice versa.
Paste: You tweeted that “reviewing your old code invokes the exact same emotions of hearing your old albums.” Could you tell me how those compare?
Morrison: [Laughs] I was just looking at a project I had worked on, a technical project and there were moments where I was like, “Wow, this is very, very clever. What a great solution this is.” And then five lines later, I was like, “Ugh. Man. You could’ve done this 9,000 times easier.” And you know, that’s how it is in any creative endeavor. You’re gonna go down roads just because it seemed like the best way to go at the time. And then you’ll take another turn, and you’ll take another turn. You know, if you had birds’ eye view, you could see this whole other path you could’ve gone down. But you didn’t. And you learn things from going down those paths. Even if, ultimately, you get yourself into a little bit of a pickle, you learn things from going down that road. So, no, I wouldn’t say there’s any particular thing. I’m just trying to keep my Twitter followers entertained, man. [laughs]
Paste: You guys have these one-off shows, and you had the tour in 2010. Do you consider the Dismemberment Plan to be an active band?
Morrison: I do. There’s a lot of… that question… yes, sure. Why not? I don’t really consider it an active band, it is an active band. But, active at what? You know? It’s different than it was in 2000.
Paste: With that being said, have you thought about writing or recording with The Dismemberment Plan?
Morrison: Yeah, we think about it. But it’s hard to do. We’re in different cities. It’s always very creative being with them, but you can’t just roll it into being, it has to happen organically. I wouldn’t be closed off to the idea at all.
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