The tour manager’s giving me the sales pitch after walking over to inspect the interview. Presumably the sporadic bursts of laughter and my obvious student music journalist charm had him worried the band were going to give away something they shouldn’t. He needn’t have bothered: in the 10 years The Dismemberment Plan were inactive its members went and got themselves sensible, stable lives completely contradicting their notoriously energetic live shows and emo/ “dance-punk” style. Travis (vocals/ guitar) is now a committed member of a church choir and Joe (drums) designs robotic arm software for NASA. Throughout our interview, guitarist Jason enquires about coffee and tries to charge his phone. It’s all distinctly un-rock and roll, but it’s clear the band have had an absolute blast touring for their first album in 12 years, Uncanney Valley. I sat down with Eric (bass) and Jason to talk about creating music again, indie-rock audiences and voraciousness.
How’re you guys finding England?
Eric: “I guess our only hang-up is that its been a busy tour so we haven't had a chance to really see the country. It’s been get up, have breakfast, go, soundcheck, play and crash. The first day we went to see a football match, but otherwise it’s been busy but good.”
Obviously you’ve just got back together, how’s it been?
Eric: “Well we did a tour in 2011 for the reissue (of Emergency & I). So at that point we’d been practicing since 2010 and then played 12 shows in the states and 5 in Japan.”
Jason: “Writing for the new record started around that time, more-or-less, so we’ve been at it steadily since then.”
Was it a conscious decision to start writing a new record or was it more organic?
Jason: “Pretty organic. I was more curious to see if the writing process would be rekindled from playing together and horsing around to working on different people’s ideas.”
Eric: “I guess at the beginning it was all for fun, and I wouldn’t say it was conscious but there was definitely expectations. We’d just noodle, and if it didn’t turn into a song we’d get to hang out together and have fun. If it did, that’s cool, and after a couple of songs we realised it was kind of a thing.”
I think you can definitely tell you had a lot of fun making the record.
Jason: “Yeah we did. It was a hectic process that went pretty quickly because we all had to take time off work and be at the same place at the same time for the core. Well, we weren’t really in the same place at the same time. The rhythm tracks got cut and then Travis came in after that but it was a bit of a revolving door there for a minute. But it all worked out and we had a good time doing it.”
You once wrote a song about indie crowds reluctance to dance, so now you’ve been touring for a while have you noticed an improvement or is it still a problem?
Jason: If people are excited in the audience I count that as dancing whether they’re just jumping up and down or whatever. I don’t know if I pay enough attention to see if there’s any moves going on.
Eric: There was a time in the late 90s where there was actually dancing at shows but then the crowds got bigger and it stopped happening so much: it was more just excited.
Jason: Someone actually stage dived in Brighton, which was pretty remarkable because this was a pretty thin crowd.
You do realise you misspelled Uncanney Valley right?
Eric: We did?
Jason: Yeah we did it on purpose. Travis misspelled it and it stuck. It makes a nice symmetry with Valley.
Is that Travis on the art with a torso on his head?
Eric: Yeah, we did a show in a music store near where we went to college. We were trying out some new songs and before the encore Jason pulled out this well hung, muscular mannequin from backstage. It didn’t take long for Travis to tackle it and start dancing and grinding on it. It broke in half and while the legs were crowd surfing Travis put the top half on his head and started dancing around.
Any favourite tracks on the new album?
Phil (tour manager): *cough* White Collar White Trash *cough*
Eric: I like them all - some more than others - but one that’s got a lot of traction when we play live is Invisible. Daddy’s a Real Good Dancer, too. We play them pretty much every night.
Jason: We don’t really get into habits of what we play - it’s just how we feel on the night.
Eric: Every set list gets created on the same day, fresh out of the oven.
The Dismemberment Plan are currently still on tour. Dates and locations can be found on their website.