Tag Archives: Beach Boys

Interview with Travis Morrison

When I last dropped a line about America Is Just A Word, I mentioned that I’d be interviewing a few different artists who’s bands’ narratives are either barely known or not given the proper coverage. One of those groups is The Dismemberment Plan, fronted by Travis Morrison. Of the three groups mentioned in the previous post (the other two being Mineral and Drive Like Jehu), The Dismemberment Plan have had a little more coverage, media exposure, and lifeline over the years, playing together for a full decade and receiving considerable notoriety among music fans. The Plan’s sound is an excellent mix of the cathartic stop-and-go guitar work of DC first-wave emo, hip-hop, electronica, and post-punk and the band are well known for having put on some fantastic live sets.

In the first of many correspondences to come, Travis answered all of my odds ‘n’ ends questions I tossed his way – poor guy. Here’s a small dose of the interview:

*What got you into music? What made you want to pick up an instrument in the first place?

Travis: “It’s hard to say. I was always very attracted to music. I sang along to Beach Boys records when I was really little. Talking Heads were probably the band I wanted to be in when I was 10-11-12.”

*How did you and Eric [Axelson, bassist] become friends? What made you decide to start a band with him?

Travis: “He was in a punk band at my high school called The Milk Carton Children and being in that band was a bandmate with one of my very close friends, and we stayed in touch as we went into college–really came to be better friends then, we were acquantainces before–and  we just started talking about playing.”


Image from DCist

Image from DCist

*Growing up in Bethesda, I always felt this ominous spirit of-sorts in relation to D.C.’s music community before I was ever really aware of Nation of Ulysses or Jawbox of Fugazi. When you were first starting up The Plan, did you ever feel the impact of that spirit, especially considering the year you guys formed?

Travis: “Sure. We loved all those bands. Still do. So inspiring to see bands like that on local stages. I look at YouTube clips of Fugazi, especially on the Repeater tour, and they were just amazing, like Zep. I cannot believe I was able to go see a band like that for five dollars at a church.”

*When The Plan first got started, did you feel welcomed by members of the D.C. music community at first, or did it take a while?

Travis: “You mean like older folks? I kinda got the sense that MUCH older folks thought we were a hoot, really punk and snotty, and that the people immediately above us were a little more doubtful or hesitant or just found us annoying. But I don’t know, I was 21 and stupid. I would never trust my recollections of my social standing then. ”

*The Plan is pretty well known for putting on an active, exciting, and fun live set. What initially made you think to get people up and really dancing during your set? Was it difficult at first trying to do this, simply with the idea of approaching potentially-complete strangers to open up and dance in public?

Photo of D Plans last show by Shawn Liu

Photo of D Plan's last show by Shawn Liu


Travis: “Well I mean rock and roll was originally dancing music. But I dunno, it’s become such a cliche now… I don’t even expect dancing per se, I just want them to wake up. Heckle us, dance, throw things at us, give us a cake with pornographic icing… all these things have happened and it’s what I think we really wanted. Interaction.”

*How much of your own innovation also comes from your interactions with other bands in the D.C. community? I know you guys are pretty well known for incorporating a strong hip-hop sound into the post-punk mix, but (for example) Smart Went Crazy were also doing something of a similar notion but to a bit of a different effect. Were you and Smart Went Crazy particularly close, in terms of musical interaction, friendship, etc?

Travis: “Oh, your peers are immensely important. We learned so much from the bands around DC. Hoover‘s weird time signatures… Smart Went Crazy’s tunefulness and colorful arrangements… and outside of DC, Alkaline Trio’s blend of gallows humor and heartfeltness… there’s many examples of that.”

A Heavy Cure

You have to hand it to the Boston Herald on this one. The Weekly Dig usually dispenses the mean-spirited disses, but this Michael Marotta column on bad summer trends takes the cake. Specifically, the following point:

Ivy League indie rock

Right now, Vampire Weekend and Chester French are taking our hard-earned money with half-hearted indie songs. But you know that when their 15 minutes expire, they’ll become our bosses. Double-whammy bar, indeed.

Finally. And I thought I was the only one who saw nothing in Vampire Weekend. Just like every white person, I enjoy my fair share of indie rock. But a band like Vampire Weekend just absolutely kills the point for me every time – it creates a formula and brings it to its dullest nadir.

Thank goodness for Heavy Heavy Low Low.

Heavy Heavy Low Low

Heavy Heavy Low Low

When I stumbled upon the description of the San Jose group’s newest album, Turtle Nipple and the Toxic Shock, I could feel my pupils dilate. Suffice to say, I was quite curious to hear what a collective sonic sample of Black Flag, The Dillinger Escape Plan, and the Beach Boys would sound like. Needless to say, the album didn’t live up to my expectations, mostly because I couldn’t imagine any sort of aural idea for what the band was shooting for. And it certainly provided me with a nice kick of, well, punk fury.

Turtle Nipple and the Toxic Shock

Turtle Nipple and the Toxic Shock

Though HHLL clearly bare the mark of an act drenched in third wave emo/screamo, that was just a starting point for the band. Much as the description that emblazons the new album notes, Turtle Nipple and the Toxic Shock sees the group foregoing typical grindcore fare that they seem to have gotten stuck in on their earlier material. Sure, they’ve got aggressive, speedy blasts of punk delivered in seconds flat (Black Flag; check), they’ve got adam’s apple-smashing screams surrounding meticulous, mathy chord progressions (Dillinger Escape Plan; check). But, they seem matured and self-assured, as the second half of the album opens up with restrained treks into atmospheric and ambient pop territory (Beach Boys; well, sort of check). It may not be the most listen-able record of the summer, but it certainly is an enthralling, unexpected, and exciting trip. Now there’s something I can’t say about Vampire Weekend.

Heavy Heavy Low Low – Inhalent Abuse (video):

...for a great 90s night

...for a great 90s night

If you’re in the mood for some great rock music that won’t hit you like a sack of rocks, download Nick Catchdubs and Mr. Ducker’s Radio Friendly Unit Shifter Mixtape. It’s a 90s-themed jam that reworks some great “old” tunes. And the only nostalgia it seems to bring up is a reminder of the time before commercial radio was one big Nickelback song.