When bass player Eric Axelson announced that Dismemberment Plan was breaking up, it was like telling 25,000 indie rockers that Christmas was canceled. Internet boards and web journals filled with postings of distress, rage and confusion.
"Joe Strummer just died, for fuck's sake! You can't split up now," Nick S. begs on a Stylusmagazine.com forum. "I've spent the last six months trying to convince people that The Dismemberment Plan's next album is going to blow the back of their fucking head off and unite the world in peace, love, harmony and blissfully schizophrenic sonic freak-outs."
If Nick seems jilted, he has his reasons. The Washington D.C.-based quartet had developed an intimate relationship with their fans, and after a decade of playing small shows and crashing on floors, it's like that old song: Breaking up is hard to do. According to guitarist/singer Travis Morrison the news might be harder on the fans than it is on the band.
"The problem for us is that this isn't emotionally draining at all," Morrison says. "What was emotionally draining was being a band that didn't have the creative energy that we wanted it to have and watching that energy slowly dissipate. Creatively speaking, the spark was gone, and we weren't able to move around the puzzle pieces to make it all interesting anymore."
That creative spark had ignited a career bent on relentless touring and recording that seethed with the dogmatic independence of D.C.'s punk and hardcore scene. The band made waves by fusing funky, off-center rock grooves with Morrison's spazz-o narratives, appropriating a cross section of devotees from divergent hipster scenes and weathering coup after another in indie-rock trend by ignoring it.
When Axelson posted news of the break-up on the band's website in late 2002 the quartet seemed to be hitting its stride. They'd escaped an Interscope deal with their punk cred in tact, toured European stadiums supporting Pearl Jam and released a fourth full-length, "Change," that sold 25,000 copies (a number that is fairly huge in terms of independent record sales). Just when everything is coming up roses, they start talking about themselves in past tense.
"The problem I think that many people had understanding us was that we had a strange blend of immaturity and professionalism," Morrison says. "This tour has proved that in the end we were a garage and a punk band at heart. We didn't start because we wanted to be professional musicians; we started because we were a group of friends that wanted to play music together. Collectively that's were we came from and that is where we are in the end."
The end finds the Dismemberment Plan on a whistle-stop tour of the U.S. that will finish in D.C. in August. Thus far, the tour has featured long, all-request sets as a final offering to fans that Morrison sees as the band's "Let It Be."
"The Beatles made that last document, and it was giddy and fun because they knew things were over," Morrison says. "They probably knew it was their last, and that eased their burdens and allowed them to leave things in the right way. That's what this tour is to us; in many ways a final adventure among friends."