By Roy Kasten
By Kris Wernowsky
By Chaz Kangas
By Joseph Hess
By Julie Seabaugh
By Mike Appelstein
By Rachel Brodsky
By Kelsey McClure
DeSoto expanded and released several new records between 1996 and 1998. The second band the label introduced to the world was the Dismemberment Plan. Since then, the band has grown to become one of the nation's top indie-rock outfits. Although the group's sound was quirky and perky from the very beginning, it wasn't until the quartet's third year that its debut album, the succinctly titled !, was released on DeSoto. The album's punctuated rhythms and spastic sounds only hinted at things to come; 1997's follow-up, Is Terrified, restrained the chirping synths and random rhythmic shifts to accentuate Morrison's growing talent for lyrical storytelling. Still, the young band had yet to fully develop its own personality, aside from its reputation as perky-punky outcasts.
Soon after, the Dismemberment Plan was courted by Interscope and finally signed a sturdy two-album deal (under the careful auspices of the band's manager, Coletta) that provided it with a guaranteed advance of $50,000 per album. The group began work on what was supposed to be its major-label debut, recorded by former Jawbox vocalist/guitarist J. Robbins and Chad Clark (of D.C.'s Smart Went Crazy). But then, as a result of last year's surprise merger and shakeup as Universal streamlined its stable of labels (which included Interscope, DGC and A&M), Emergency & I was shelved and the Dismemberment Plan was released from its contract.
So the band received a hefty advance to record a lavishly produced and near-flawless album that it gave to another label to release. Morrison believes Interscope isn't concerned that the Dismemberment Plan is releasing the album -- which, technically, Universal owns -- contending that Emergency & I is the fortunate outcome of what he calls "massive corporate amnesia." "Probably only one person who still works there knows we were ever on the label, other than the lawyers," says Morrison. "I think (Interscope's) priorities are just so different now, and things were thrown into such disarray there that we never did settle the deal (to release the album on DeSoto). We just put it out. And I really don't think they care. We were just this tiny little band with a tiny little deal."
While the dates on the band's current tour aren't the first in support of Emergency & I, this is the Dismemberment Plan's first headlining tour since the album's release. Over the course of the group's seven-year existence, it has slowly gathered a strong fanbase around the country as word of its energetic performances circulates among like-minded individuals: a community of people who share the Dismemberment Plan's sense of weirdness. Or, as Morrison puts it: "We've gotten 'em one dorko at a time."
The Dismemberment Plan performs at the Rocket Bar on Saturday, April 15.