Since 1994, the Washington, DC-based quartet The Dismemberment Plan has been one of the most unique and unpredictable bands on the indie scene. On their three full-length albums, they combine punk, funk, reggae and any other type of music you could think of to create a sound wholly their own. daze spoke to lead singer Travis Morrison as the band is in the process of finishing recording on their forthcoming fourth record. We talked about major labels, punk rock, and the best booty music. Look for the Plan when they play in Ithaca on April 4. (This is the full, unedited transcript of our interview with Travis.)
Daze: I guess start with, maybe for someone who’s never heard of the Plan before, how would you describe your sound to them?
Travis Morrison: Well, if it’s my parents’ friends or something, I just say it’s rock … Depending on who it is, it gets more and more specific. A lot of times, when people have somewhat of a clue, i just kinda try, I don’t know, Prince and Fugazi. Or, like Prince and Rage Against The Machine, or something like that.
D: Yeah, it’s a pretty hard thing to describe, I guess. What would you say are the biggest influences on your music?
TM: The biggest influence on our sound from day to day is what we’re listening to at the time. I think for me — I think for all of us — there’s people who were early developmental influences … For me, that short list would be David Byrne, Talking Heads … all the members of Fugazi, there’s a lot of stuff that actually predates their work with Fugazi.
D: Yeah, like Rites Of Spring and all that stuff.
TM: Sure, yeah. So, you know, I think there’s people who, at an early age we could tell — in our own worlds, growing up — were the real deal. In terms of what we sound like now, yeah, it’s kinda just what we’re listening to from day to day, and that stuff changes dramatically over days, months, years, hours.
D: Oh yeah, of course. Where do you usually get the ideas for your words? I find they’re usually very personal and emotional things; are these real experiences, or is it more like, fictional?
TM: Generally, it’s been years since I’ve tried to write out something that’s happening right then and there. You know, that generally translates as pretty bad lyrics, because you really don’t have any perspective on what was happening. Um, I would say that, generally, the best songs come from a pretty mysterious combination of melody and a phrase that just kind of pops into my head, and it just kind of leads in a general feeling or emotional direction and, all I have to do is follow it. Um, it doesn’thappen every time, but that’s generally where the best and most coherent songs come from. I just kinda find them, and uh, let it happen … But yeah, it’ll just kind of, I don’t know, it’s some kind of emotional cycle crystallized behind some melodic and lyrical fragment that just popped into my head. I don’t really know why it happens … [laughs] I should probably get it checked out.
D: You know, I saw an interview with [D-Plan producer] J. Robbins this morning, and he said, he called you guys, your song structures, “exponential,” where it builds up to a climax, and it’s not like verse-chorus-verse. What do you think about that?
TM: Um, yeah, it’s interesting he says that, because I think, actually, I think we’ve kind of been laboring under the system the Pixies set up for practically every band in the world fifteen years ago, uh, the quiet verse, loud chorus thing. Which is, I mean, the Pixies really changed popular music for me in a way that goes beyond the sound of any of their voices or anything about them. It’s a basic structural formula where, I mean, Limp Bizkit uses it. It’s the same formula as “Gigantic,” or any of those other Pixies songs, where they just go all-out on the chorus. And I think, over the years, we’ve halfheartedly tried to fight that, but I think we’ve also really excelled in that framework, and I think we’ve written some really good songs with that kind of, the Pixies’ direct formula. But particularly with the new album, I think we’re all kind of yearning to get away from it, to see if there’s anything else out there … ‘Cause everything these days, the chorus is just so super-high-energy, in your face, this is what the song is about and don’t you forget it, ’cause I’ll be back in 30 seconds [laughs], and I’m gonna hit you just as hard as I did here. I mean, it’s kind of more interesting to have songs where it’s just like, I don’t know if that guy’s coming back to get me. You know, maybe somebody else is going to hit me. Uh, yeah, it makes me happy to hear that [J.] said that, because particularly with the last half of our new record, we’re endeavoring to make songs that are satisfying, you know, coherent, and natural, without, you know, necessarily dropping the bomb every 45 seconds in that format that everybody uses now. It’s a great format, you know