The Dismemberment Plan
128 Northeast Russell Street
Portland, OR, 97212
Doors 7:30 PM
This event is all ages
Watch & Listen
The Dismemberment Plan
In 2003, if you told the members of The Dismemberment Plan that ten years later they would not only be releasing a new album, but their best record to date, there's no way they would have believed you. Since forming in Washington, D.C. in 1993, the band has released four highly acclaimed full-lengths, toured the world many times over, and become one of the most well respected—and indefinable—acts in indie rock. But the past decade has seen their members exploring other areas both inside and outside of music, and even embracing adulthood. However, along the way something funny happened: They reunited three years ago to play some shows to support the reissue of 1999's Emergency & I, and realized their most potent magic had yet to be bottled.
"We never psyched ourselves out and thought, 'NOW we're making a Plan record," explains guitarist Jason Caddell. "It was more like stay calm and play on," he continues with a laugh. These sessions between the band—which also includes guitarist/vocalist Travis Morrison, bassist Eric Axelson and drummer Joe Easley—resulted in a collection of songs that are inspired because they weren't burdened by any expectations, allowing them to retain the fire of their nascent recordings while entering a fresh sonic aura. "We weren't going to get anything good unless we could trick ourselves into staying in that place where it was creativity for its own sake," Morrison elaborates. "It was a real blessing and opportunity to be in that space again without thinking we had a product to deliver."
To be fair, The Dismemberment Plan never thought of their music as a commodity, despite the fact that they have been handpicked to tour with Pearl Jam and shared the stage with peers Death Cab For Cutie on the co-headlining Death And Dismemberment Tour, among other career milestones. "Our goals have always been more abstract than sales and statistics," Caddell explains. That statement is confirmed by the fact that in the years since their hiatus the members have gone on to thrive in their respective creative and intellectual fields while still keeping music an active presence in their lives.
Case in point, Axelson has been teaching in public schools and playing in various bands, including Maritime; Morrison worked for The Huffington Post and The Washington Post, and now is the president of his own start-up in addition to singing in church choirs; Caddell has been a freelance audio engineer for corporate and political events ranging from presidential elections to the G8 Summit at Camp David, all the while playing on and producing records for his friends and bandmates; and Easley received a degree in Aerospace Engineering, and now works at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on a robotic satellite servicing program in addition to playing with Axelson in Statehood.
Uncanney Valley was recorded by longtime collaborator J. Robbins (Jawbreaker, The Promise Ring) at his Baltimore Studio, Magpie Cage, and mixed by Paul Q. Kolderie (Pixies, Radiohead), and the result is an album that maintains The Dismemberment Plan's unique sound while simultaneously allowing them to open up and expand on the foundation of their celebrated back catalog. Produced by Jason Caddell and The Dismemberment Plan, this is the first time in the band's history that they didn't use an outside producer. "When I listen to this record it's hard for me to believe we're a bunch of 40 year olds now," Morrison admits. "It sounds like the musical heat is stronger than ever."
This love of music is as evident in the buoyant groove of the Jackson Browne- inspired "Daddy Was A Real Good Dancer" as it is on the sweetly syncopated, electronically augmented rocker "Mexico City Christmas." "Generally we have deeply broad taste in a lot of different types of music, and it's not a fashion statement. It's a genuine heartfelt appreciation, and I think you can hear that in our music," Caddell responds when asked about the colorful sonic palette illustrated on the album. Whether Morrison is flexing his R&B chops on the quirky, catchy "Waiting" or approaching the concept of a love song in a new and effective context on the quasi-ballad "Lookin," Uncanney Valley has moments certain to captivate both new listeners and longtime fans of the band.
The Dismemberment Plan's personal growth is mirrored in Morrison's lyrics, which center on his move to Brooklyn. "I wrote the kind of lyric stories I wanted to hear that I just wasn't getting from other artists," he explains. And even when he's exploring isolation on the synth-driven "Invisible," the songs retain a level of honesty that's impossible to fake.
This spirit of collaboration paired with the members' diverse taste and life experiences are what make Uncanney Valley such an enthralling listen—and although the group remains unsure what the future holds for them, the most important thing right now is that they exist here in the moment. "We're very much taking things one step at a time, but I will say that at this juncture the excitement level is high. So, whatever comes next comes next," Caddell summarizes.
Ultimately, whether the members are controlling robots on a space station or performing live with an enthusiasm that transcends age, The Dismemberment Plan are a special band, and Uncanney Valley solidifies that as times change and tides shift, this will always hold true.
Telekinesis is a band. It says so on the album cover, on the marquee, on the poster, on your MP3 file. Telekinesis could not be a person because it is a terrible name for a person, or for anything other than a band (other than, to be fair, the act of moving stuff using one's mind).
Telekinesis is not a band. Bands have people in them (plural); Telekinesis is one person (singular) because Michael Benjamin Lerner decided that "Telekinesis" would look better on the album cover, on the marquee, on the poster, on your MP3 file, than "Michael Benjamin Lerner" (though, to be fair, Michael Benjamin Lerner is a perfectly great name for a person).
Telekinesis is both a band and a person. It's taken Michael Benjamin Lerner-now a wizened 26-year-old-four years to come to terms with this, although one would not, from listening to its/his previous two albums, 2009's self-titled debut and 2011's 12 Desperate Straight Lines, detect any hint of confusion or self-doubt, aside from the songs that were directly about confusion or self-doubt. His (we're settling into the singular male possessive now and staying there) third album, Dormarion, is, then, in ways both practical and profound, the sound of a man figuring out exactly who he is. Also, it's a total fucking hoot.
Which was not necessarily the case with previous efforts. "The second record was such dregs," Lerner says. "I was pissed off about relationship issues and health issues. Even the tour cycle was angry and negative." And this unpleasantness is due in no small part to Lerner's effort to expand Telekinesis from a solo project into the stable, ongoing unit that toured behind 12DSL, with Jason Narducy, now of Bob Mould's band, playing bass and Cody Votolato, formerly of Blood Brothers, on guitar. "I really struggled to find ways for Telekinesis to become a band-band and not just one guy making music," he says, explaining that attempts to write and record with Votolato and Narducy-whom Lerner, a drummer by nature, acknowledges as superior musicians-just didn't quite come together. "But the overarching lesson was that Telekinesis totally is one guy making music, and that's what works best and what makes me the happiest. And this record really encapsulates that."
Lerner wrote the 12 songs that comprise Dormarion in early 2012-half at his home in West Seattle and half at his family's house in the San Juan Islands-with the original intention of recording the album completely on his own. Instead, he road-tripped over the summer and made the record in two weeks with Spoon drummer Jim Eno (Heartless Bastards, Strange Boys, Polia, Black Joe Lewis, Mates of State), with whom he'd talked about working for years. Lerner packed up the van, screwing up his courage the whole drive towards Eno's vaunted Public Hi-Fi studio in Austin, Texas (Arcade Fire, Spoon, Explosions in the Sky, Roky Erikson, Jet, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Lyle Lovett, Joe Walsh). On Dormarion Lane, to be specific.
"It's a beautiful-sounding word, and if you Google it, nothing but this one tiny street comes up," says Lerner, although this is obviously about to change. "No origin, no description. I can't tell you what the word means. It's like something from Lost."
So there's two drummers, and no one else, collaborating shoulder-to-shoulder on a musically adventurous album containing two centerpiece songs on which there are no drums whatsoever. The breakthrough, musically and otherwise, came with the eighth song written for the record, "Ghosts and Creatures," a keyboard-driven, spacey, and darn near Goth turn that marks a conscious departure from his guitar-bass-drums power-pop racket. "That was the most unlike-me song I'd ever written."
And of course, by being unlike himself, he found himself (or something like that) as befitting a young man facing a minor existential crisis. Also helping: Lerner is getting married this fall. "It's a pretty great feeling when you know you're no longer searching for something," he says. "And that was a big part of the songwriting because I'm such a heart-on-my-sleeve person in general. I'm not afraid to show when I'm excited about something." The excitement is evident on the massive-sounding "Dark to Light" and the gloriously spastic "Empathetic People," which deliver Telekinesis' familiar sunny sound, only now with an actual sunny disposition behind it.
When you see Telekinesis perform this year-and really, you should-Lerner will be backed by Erik Walters of The Globes on guitar, Say Hi's Eric Elbogen on bass, and Rebecca Cole of Wild Flag and The Minders on keyboards and, occasionally, drums. (Although don't expect Lerner to give up his post as rock music's most thrilling drummer-vocalist: "Phil Collins is basically retired now, so I'm basically just trying to catch up with that guy.")
But the arrangement here is strictly friends-with-benefits, no strings attached. "I do miss the camaraderie, and I miss just being a drummer in a band," says Lerner, who got to be just that on the Portlandia tour with Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen last year. "But the way I have fun is writing and making these songs by myself, then taking them out on tour with my friends. That's just how it should be."