Tag Archives: Travis Morrison

Travis Morrison, Retiree?

tmretiresJudging by the ever-changing combinations of letters on his website, Travis Morrison has apparently retired from music.

Honestly, the whole thing seems a bit odd… perhaps the part where he says he’s relaxing in Brooklyn is a bit of a tip off… Same with the link merely to his Facebook page, a nice gesture, but nothing totally out of the ordinary (anyone who’s ever gotten in touch with him in the past would probably be able to tell you that he’s quite quick to get back to people and is quite down to earth and sincere.)

It all seems a little odd, but who am I to judge. And if it is some odd joke, it’ll be a bit funny that Pitchfork went along with it. I’ll be sure to ask Travis about it in my next round of interview questions for America Is Just A Word.

Interview with Sam Zurick

When I last dropped in an interview with an artist that will be featured in America Is Just A Word, it was with Dismemberment Plan frontman Travis Morrison. Today’s post features selections from an interview with Sam Zurick, a multi-instrumentalist extraordinare of Chicago’s esteemed post-hardcore scene. Zurick is probably best known for his work as a bassist in the revered and short-lived Cap’n Jazz and his work as a guitarist in Joan of Arc, on top of his role in the massive web of Kinsella brother-involved projects ranging from Owls and Make Believe to Friend/Enemy and Ghosts and Vodka (and then there’s his solo project People Dick). Basically, Zurick has been an instrumental part in what’s been a creative, challenging, and inventive musical community that’s provided the seeds to numerous emo bands since Cap’n Jazz broke up.

Sam gave me an enthusiastic thumbs-up for sharing as much of the interview as I please. Here’s a little sample:

*What made you want to pick up an instrument?

Sam: “I had no intentions of playing an instrument until I met Tim (Kinsella). We met Freshmen year of high school and became buddies. Whereas I was just a music fan, he wanted to dig in and actually make music. So, he brought me into his basement and showed me his guitar and amplifier. I soon started to roadie/dance for his band ‘Toe Jam’, and from there I picked up the bass and we started Cap’n Jazz.”

*I know there were several names for what would eventually become Cap’n Jazz, but who came up with that name? What were some of the previous band names?

Sam: “The only previous name I remember is Spazzmatic Jazz Machine…which Tim came up with I think. For whatever reason we thought Jazz should be in the name and we were eating Cap’n Crunch one morning and I was like ‘Cap’n Jazz’ and it stuck.”

*Musically, what styles or methods of songwriting influenced what you were making Cap’n Jazz?

Sam: “We fed off of Vic’s guitar playing mostly, he was classically trained and knew his way around the guitar much better than anyone else at that age. We knew we wanted it to be loud and aggressive, so I guess we were influenced by ‘Rock and Roll’ music?”

*How did Davey enter the Cap’n Jazz fold?

Sam: “Tim wanted to change the sound and add another element, and he was a fan of Davey’s band ‘Ten Boy Summer’, so he asked him to join us and it worked out.”

*Was the Chicago music community receptive to Cap’n Jazz, or did you feel that you had to build your own community?

Sam: “It was more of a suburban scene instead of a Chicago scene; we all lived in the suburbs and the scene we were in was very receptive to us at the time. There were Northwest Suburban bands, and Western Suburb bands, and we all were connected through basement shows, VFW halls, and skateboarding. The whole Chicago scene was out of our league, we were just teenagers and couldn’t get in bars even if we were asked.”

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.”

Tune Travis Tune: An America Is Just A Word Update

I’ve got some exciting updates in the progress of America Is Just A Word.

While I’m content with what I’ve already written for the book, I must admit that, from conversations with other individuals and some time mulling it over, it does need a little something… more. In and of itself, I feel the book has plenty of information on the relationship with emo and American culture that would satiate both inquisitive emo novices and academic musicologists alike.

But, there is always room for a little more… and while the considerable literary attention paid to the 80s independent/underground/hardcore/post-hardcore/etc genre in recent years has only increased, there are plenty of acts that will get left out. Although it’s impossible to cover every band that was important to someone, there are certain groups that definitely need a look.

So, I’ve begun to seek out interviews from members of acts that will add a little more clarity to the culture of emo that I discuss in the book. So far, Chris Simpson of Mineral, Rick Froberg of Drive Like Jehu, and Travis Morrison of The Dismemberment Plan have agreed to be interviewed for some additions to America Is Just A Word. It’s quite exciting news, and it’s a great feeling to do some more creative work on the book versus the enormous task of editing that is ahead of me. Keep a lookout as some of these interviews may crop up as a post here and there. Until then, it’s going to be quite a treat talking to these three…

*Mineral – Gloria (live):

*Drive Like Jehu – Do You Compute? (live):

*The Dismemberment Plan – Time Bomb (video):