INTERVIEW: Travis Morrison

Travis Morrison is a chameleon.

When T.Mo started out as the driving force behind The Dismemberment Plan, the group was all smart-allecky screamo-rock, like your favorite indie record done with wreckless abandon. Yet, as time went on, the band grew, and before long, the Plan had become one of the most respected and revered indie rock acts in the nation, as biting tracks like "The Ice of Boston" and cathartic albums like Change managed to bring a wit and intellgence to a scene that rarely saw such generous amounts of it. Then, the group disbanded. T.Mo went to pursue a solo career, and Evcat clearly remembers how each new song that Morrison posted on his site being a revelation unto itself: beautiful idiosyncratic bites of electro pop that were as funny as they were melodically stunning. (Oh, and let's not forget Entertainment Weekly covering that "What's Your Fantasy?" cover ...) A notable rock site slandered T.Mo's first solo effort, Travistan, but, really, this was the sort of multi-textured pop gem that we all knew Morrison had lurking in him. The more straightforward, darker (and, hell, even more intriguing) follow-up album All Y'all came in 2007.

Yet Morrison is at a good place in his life: he's found a band that he feels very comfortable fronting (the Hellfighters), is writing even sturdier songs than before, and, appropriately, is addicted to Twitter. Morrison sits down with Globecat to discuss his latest excursions, how the Plan has defined his life, and how his gas tank has destroyed his wallet ...


>>Listening to All Y'all, it feels like the making of this album was a very deliberate move for you: focusing on a very band-oriented approach where Travistan was much more studio-oriented. Obviously, this makes the record easier to tour, but, given how quickly the second disc came out, would you say that it was somewhat of a "reactionary" move to the reception that Travistan received?

No, not at all. I know this sounds strange but I adore Travistan. I have nothing but fond memories of making it and I really like a lot of songs on there. But I did assemble a band to play it live, and then we just started writing songs together, so then All Y'All came together.

>>On the new disc, I got to say that "I'm Not Supposed to Like You (But I Do)" immediately struck me, not just for its straightforward approach, but also because it -- like much of /All Y'all/ -- seemed to be coming from a darker lyrical perspective (reflected in the similarly-themed "I Do"). To a degree, if feels like something of a "confessional" record, but set in a much more excitable setting. Did you find much catharsis in making/touring All Y'all?

Yeah, I can see that. It is kind of dark. I think I was in a pretty dark place--by my standards, not by Metallica's standards. I wasn't strung out on smack. I was just broke, probably still adrift post-Plan (which was kind of like getting out of the Army), and not sure why I was making another album. I loved some of the other musical stuff I was doing; getting to choir practice at the National Cathedral I can remember with the brightest, most excited light. I felt like a kid. It was challenging and beautiful and I loved it. But in terms of playing rock music in public, I was kinda like... where is this going? I don't feel that way at all now, so in a lot of ways now I'm glad I made a record at that point in my life because I think it does capture how I felt.

>>To what degree do you feel your career has been defined by the Plan, and to what degree has it been defined as a solo artist? Is there one you prefer over the other?

I think my career is totally defined by the Plan. That's when I had a "career." Although I don't like that word much. It's more like, x amount of money falls on your head and you can live on it for a while. It's like a grant from the cosmos, not a career. But anyways, I think if anyone knew who I was, it would be as the lead singer of the Plan.

>>I remember when you were recording Travistan, you were keeping people updated on its goings-ons with your blog, and the moment that sticks out the most is when you were looking for a string quartet for what would turn out to be "Angry Angel", unable to pay the string players, but asking for help out of the kindness of their hearts. There was something utterly inspiring about that -- trying to create something grand on a budget of absolutely nothing -- and it really went to show how much your records are real labors of love. With that said, I remember you expressing some doubt about your recording future prior to the release of All Y'all, saying being a solo artist/bandmember was no longer a full-time occupation for you. If we do hear another T.Morrison record in the future, what circumstances will there have to be for it to come into light?

Oh there'll be another record! It's touring that's hard. We did one in March and it was actually really successful and fun, but man, gas prices and touring ... wow. We would have made serious bank six years ago, but I poured it all into the gas tank instead. Phew.

>>Finally, so far in your career, what's been your biggest regret and -- conversely -- what's been your proudest accomplishment?

Oh man. I can't really say I think that way. I'm definitely proud of all the talented people I've had the opportunity to work with, I think that's what I'm proudest of. I feel like that must reflect on me pretty well.