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The Dismemberment Plan Extend Reunion With Additional Shows

Beloved rock quartet will play three September gigs in Washington, D.C., Richmond, Va., and Durham, N.C.
The Dismemberment Plan (photo: David Holloway)

A one-off reunion clearly wasn’t enough to satisfy the members of beloved rock band the Dismemberment Plan, who have augmented their previously announced appearance at Las Vegas’ Best Friends Forever festival on Oct. 11 with three additional headlining club shows in September in their respective current hometowns of Washington, D.C., Richmond, Va., and Durham, N.C. They’ll mark frontman Travis Morrison, bassist Eric Axelson, guitarist Jason Caddell and drummer Joe Easley’s first performances together since New Year’s Eve 2014.

Although the Plan has received occasional offers to reunite in the time since and even considered working on a new album in 2016 and 2017, the proverbial juices only began to flow again last year, when they were asked to contribute a cover to a compilation celebrating legendary D.C. label Dischord Records (they chose Circus Lupus’ “Unrequited” after considering tracks from Autoclave and Three).

“Suddenly, we’re all chiming in on our favorite Dischord songs,” Axelson tells SPIN by Zoom. “And then nothing falls off the tracks. And then suddenly it’s like, well, how about we find time to get together? And nothing falls off the tracks. It kind of kept going until we actually were in Jason’s living room with Travis and me, playing some Circus Lupus. I think we played a couple of other Dischord songs just to mess around. At that point I was like, oh, we’re gonna do something. Right on! But before that, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, because we’re older and life gets in the way.”

“Life never attacked this one,” Morrison seconds. “We enjoyed digging through the Dischord catalog. We were always kind of a listening club band, and I think all of us went like full gourmand, like, mmmm! This Autoclave is superb (laughs).”

Best of all, Axelson says “there was some momentum coming out of getting together to play,” and in tandem with the looming 25th anniversary of the Plan’s classic album Emergency & I, the quartet decided to squeeze in a few shows this year. As with their previous 2011-2014 reunion after an eight-year break, the main logistical challenge is Easley’s work schedule at NASA, where he serves as a satellite engineer. Hence, the upcoming itinerary consists of just a single weekend’s worth of gigs, plus an appearance alongside fellow reunited hardcore and emo legends such as Jawbox and Sunny Day Real Estate at Best Friends Forever.

“When they’ve got a critical launch, deadlines in their world are dictated by Copernicus,” Morrison says of Easley’s NASA responsibilities. “You have to launch on this date, or all the celestial bodies move away and you’re toast. He’s got a deadline of about two years for launch, and they’re all hands on deck for those two years. He can’t just be like, sorry kids, I gotta go play Chicago. NASA’s not trying to hear that (laughs).” For that reason alone, “there hasn’t been talk of anything after this,” Axelson admits. “I think the general understanding is that after these shows, we’re back to hibernation for the foreseeable future.”

The Plan will rehearse in Richmond this summer and are already wrangling with how to incorporate current technology into their performances. “The tricky part that we’ve been talking about but need to iron out is the sampler,” Axelson says of the device which adds the sounds of arcade games and Japanese instruments to the Plan’s material. “If you’re Led Zeppelin reuniting, it’s guitars, bass and drums, but we have this technology that went from a hardware sampler to a hardware sampler with a zip drive to a laptop, back to a hardware sampler, back to a laptop, and now trying to see how that works in 2024, because for those reunion shows, we bought a new laptop and we updated [music software program] Reason, and all those things are obsolete.”

And while the Emergency & I anniversary looms large, the Plan will not be playing the album in its entirety at the reunion shows. Says Morrison, “‘The Jitters’ and ‘8 1/2 Minutes’ are not in the rotation. Everything else has a chance. Inside the band, I’m the punk who really hates album shows. I guess people want it, and I’m being an asshole by not giving it to them (laughs).”

Indeed, although all four members no longer work in music by day, they get recognized just enough to confirm there’s still interest from fans in seeing the Plan play again. “I work at Capital One now and I’m always surprised when I’m randomly in a meeting and someone’s like, oh, you’re in Dismemberment Plan? You kind of forget that there’s people out there that like your old records,” Axelson says. “Plus, a lot of people never saw us. I think a lot of folks are excited to come see us play. Do you get that at work, Travis?”

“Yeah, I get it,” he replies. “I don’t walk around in a fuchsia feather boa if I’m not on stage, so otherwise, I just seem like a brown-haired dad. I do get situations where it’s like, what band were you in? And then I tell them, and then they flip out and are like, what did you play? I’m like, well, I sang. This has happened many times, where the person says, I saw you four times…”

“But then you don’t recognize me from all those shows?,” Axelson interjects with a laugh. “When you observe someone on stage, there’s so much more going on than just the face,” Morrison continues. “It’s not like I need like a bodyguard when I go to [Durham music venue] the Pinhook, but every once in a while, yeah, someone buys me a drink. There have also been playground conversations where it’s like, my husband liked that indie rock. Come here, Noah!”

Morrison is submitting to nostalgia of a different type when it comes to Best Friends Forever, which will be a class reunion of sorts for veterans of the underground rock world. “It’s starting to dawn on me from communications I’m having that people my age are booking it as a little bit of a destination trip,” he says. “It’s kind of hilarious. There’s a pool with a dedicated cabana, and there’s a bar, and then they’re gonna go watch emo howling for three days (laughs). It’s not like you’re going to go see Earth, Wind and Fire or Boz Scaggs. It’s not boomers.”

“Play some slots, go see Braid,” Axelson says with a chuckle. “I’m actually kind of dementedly looking forward to it. Like, why not?,” Morrison says. “Let’s go out in the desert and have this nice emo experience.”

Here are the Dismemberment Plan’s tour dates:

Sept. 6: Washington, D.C. (9:30 Club)
Sept. 7: Richmond, Va. (Richmond Music Hall)
Sept. 8: Durham, N.C. (Motorco)
Oct. 11: Las Vegas (Best Friends Forever festival)