Back in the grungy early ’90s, D.C. had a reputation for being no fun at parties. We didn’t dance at shows. Or, at our wildest, dancing meant a crossed-arm head bob combined with a look of grave concern.
But all that changed when the Dismemberment Plan came on the scene. The band’s first full-length release, 1995’s aptly titled “!,” blended the post-punk sensibilities D.C. wallflowers trusted with dance-music rhythms we couldn’t ignore. Dismemberment Plan shows were sweaty events propelled by a sloppy enthusiasm unheard of at D.C. rock shows. Punk was fun again.
Then, in 2003, the group called it quits. According to front man Travis Morrison: “Very few people continue the rock band road trip into their 50s. When we broke up, we all agreed that we had absolutely no problem with becoming semi-retired local rockers who came together every couple years to play shows for a certain reason and then went about their business.”
And so it has been. The D-Plan reunited once before, in 2007, to play a few benefit concerts. Those sold out within minutes — as did tickets for three shows this weekend. If you missed out, you can try for tickets to shows on the rest of a 12-date mini-tour marking the anniversary of the vinyl release of breakout 1999 album “Emergency & I.” Actually, most of those have already sold out, too. So, you may want to just catch the band on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” on Thursday.
To help you get your pre-show nostalgia on, Express sat down with Morrison and bassist Eric Axelson to draft a history of the Dismemberment Plan.
Most of the band met at Virginia’s Lake Braddock Secondary School, including Morrison, Axelson and original drummer Steve Cummings. The school grows talent: Other notable Lake Braddock graduates include Everclear drummer Greg Eklund and Olympic gold medalist soccer player Mia Hamm.
While attending the College of William & Mary, Morrison and Axelson met again. The two realized they had “lots of similar ideas about music, so we started playing together,” Morrison says. Axelson knew guitarist Jason Caddell from college and brought him on board.
Axelson reached out to Cummings to play drums — Cummings was Axelson’s longtime next-door neighbor. He left the band when touring became a priority. The band tapped drummer Joe Easley from another local band, Lot Five. Axelson and Cummings are now family. Cummings married Axelson’s sister, and they have three kids.
Morrison came up with the band’s odd name while watching the movie “Groundhog Day,” in which Bill Murray’s character buys every possible type of insurance — even the optional dismemberment plan.
The band’s breakout effort, the “Can We Be Mature?” EP, was released on the Alcove label, run by friends in Fredericksburg, WVa. The EP was pressed on pink vinyl, which “sounds terrible,” Morrison says. “Plus, the records warp really easily.”
“Emergency & I” got a double vinyl rerelease Jan. 11. The original CD is spread among the first three sides. Side four contains four B-sides and EP tracks: “Just Like You,” “The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich,” “Since You Died” and “The First Anniversary of Your Last Phone Call.”
Morrison counts “Emergency & I” as the band’s best release, but his favorite D-Plan album is its second, “The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified.”
The band initially recorded for D.C.’s DeSoto label but signed with the major label Interscope Records for its third CD, “Emergency & I.” Interscope let the band release “Emergency & I” on DeSoto, even though Interscope footed the bill.
Where Are They Now?
Easley went back to the University of Maryland and earned a degree in aerospace engineering. He now works as a contractor for NASA.
After the D-Plan broke up, Morrison recorded two solo albums. He’s now director of commercial production at the Huffington Post.
Axelson played bass for a few years in Maritime, which featured members of emo heroes the Promise Ring. Axelson was a high school teacher and now works for Rock the Vote.
Caddell got into music production and founded local band Poor But Sexy, for which Axelson occasionally plays percussion.
Written by Express contributor Tony Sclafani