"Somebody told me that Bill Murray tells people he's retired, and just comes out of retirement for each project he finds interesting - that's how he keeps himself in the right state of mind. I like the way he thinks. It seems to be working for him."

Travis Morrison, speaking from his New York home, is attempting to elucidate the thinking behind the reversal of his decision to 'retire' from making music, back in 2009. Back then, the band he once fronted - The Dismemberment Plan - were already six years out of action, and couldn't have looked any further from fresh activity. This week, though, sees the release of their comeback record - Uncanney Valley - and it represents the culmination of an indie rock reunion that's proved as welcome as it was unexpected.

2003 saw the initial dissolution of The Dismemberment Plan, but there was little in the way of clarity when it came to the reasoning behind the split. "I think at the time we all felt tapped out creatively," says Morrison. "We weren't really sure where the inspiration was going to come from next. We'd been doing it for quite a while at that point - basically all through our twenties - and it just seemed like a situation where we needed to stop what we were doing because it might meet a point of diminishing returns emotionally and creatively."

After releasing a solo record that saw Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla handle production duties, as well as another, psuedo-band full-length under the moniker of Travis Morrison Hellfighters, he eventually claimed to have officially retired from the business in 2009. "I didn't stop making music. I was singing in church choirs, and I was playing with people, but I just didn't have anything for the marketplace. I think I just found it really fun to tell people I was retired; it made me feel like an old man. There's no real poetry in telling somebody you aren't making music because you have nothing for the commercial market, you know? But the retirement thing was something I found funny."

A little over a year later, though, came the announcement that the band would finally play together again, and there would prove to be little in the way of spectacular reconciliations or significant hatchet-burying when it came to making the decision to return to the live circuit. "We were re-releasing Emergency and I on vinyl, and the label asked us if we'd consider playing some shows in support of it. I'm not sure they were necessarily expecting a yes, but it was something we all felt would work for us at that point in time. I think that's really how we've always made decisions, on that kind of one-by-one basis."

"he five shows that were initially announced sold out in lightning-quick fashion; after such a long absence, you have to wonder how surprising that was for a band that hadn't stepped onto the same stage together for nearly a decade. "For me personally, it was totally surprising," Morrison relates. "I mean, it's difficult to gauge that kind of thing; I didn't really know what kind of reaction to expect. I think it was probably a combination of absence making the heart grow fonder for some of our older fans, and also the internet playing a part in opening us up to new listeners in the years we'd been away."

Morrison had been particularly vocal about his admiration for Grizzly Bear in his years away from making music, claiming that the high sonic quality of their records "made you want to raise your game." It made sense, then, to enquire about the perceived importance, within the band, of making a record that, above all else, simply sounded good. "To be honest, I think the other guys might think that way a little more than I do. As a lyricist and a singer, what's most important to me is that the songs resonate with me, and that I feel good about it and can relate to what's going on in the song. I definitely tend to just follow my nose, and I think we all did that on this record. Things are a little more polished than they were, but there was nothing in the way of pre-planning."

After cautious press releases suggested that the Emergency and I shows were, at least to begin with, one-offs, the band eventually fell into the making of a new album. "We were rehearsing for the shows, and we started improvising more with the old songs; just kind of bringing longer jams into them, in a way that was really natural for us. We never tried to make new music, but after we'd been kind of riffing off of the old stuff for a while, we found ourselves spending more and more time improvising and trying new ideas. After a while, those ideas started coalescing into songs, and then the songs coalesced into a record."

The dusting off of the back catalogue, with even the most recent of material being almost a decade old, represented a challenge for Morrison, who feared that he might struggle to slip back into the mindset that the older songs were written in. "It was something I wondered about a lot, but most of them aren't really super wedded to being twenty one, you know? And that's a relief for me. There's a few songs like that, I guess, but most of them were pretty easy to tap back into. They have a sense of humour, they have a sense of perspective, they're emotionally true and they don't ask too much of the listener, or of the characters on the songs. I was really glad that it was such a simple process to relate to those old songs again. Plus, I think they fit pretty well with the new songs, which, of course, came from a totally different place."

Back in the Plan's early days, their modus operandi when it came to songwriting would often involve the prioritisation of making their music work live, and it's an ethic that's stuck with Morrison, even all these years later. "My personal outlook is that being able to play the songs live is the most important thing. I guess that's rubbed off on the new record, because we can play all ten of those new songs live. Back in the day, right when we first started out, we would write the songs, play them and we wouldn't even bother to tape them; we had no idea what they sounded like, other than what we were hearing on stage!"

"That was super early on, but I'd say the same principle still applies, even if it's evolved over the years. I don't want to speak for all of us, but the live thing is so deep rooted for me personally. It's what I've always gravitated towards."

Next month sees the first Dismemberment Plan dates in the UK for many a long year, although the passing of time has done little to dent Morrison's memories of their last jaunt this side of the pond. "It's been twelve...no, thirteen years! Such a long time. I remember that you guys spoke English, so I hope that's still the case. The thing I really recall was when we were playing the smaller towns; I loved driving through the countryside. The impression I got was that, aside from the M1, Britain doesn't really have an interstate system, in the same way that Germany, Japan or the U.S. does. It all seemed like variations on local roads. I just remember going through the country and that pure green of rural England was like nothing I'd ever seen. There's nothing like that over here."

"Our driver, I remember, would keep us constantly entertained with his extensive array of British accents. There's something about accents I really like; the intonation, it's almost like a musical thing. He was from Somerset, and that was one of my particular favourites. He kind of sounded like a pirate. That was definitely my favourite part of it; the pubs, the beer, the green countryside. It's all good, man. I also remember being completely confused and lost in London; it's such a sprawling place. I kind of get the feeling that anybody who isn't from London probably feels the same."

With a new record under their collective belt and concrete touring plans in place, it seems - at least at face value - as if The Dismemberment Plan are once again very much a going concern. Morrison, though, insists that they're by no means settling back into any kind of album-by-album cycle.

"I think we'll always be close personally, but we're at a point in our lives now where it's best to take things one show, one tour or one album at a time. We've got tremendous respect for each other as musicians, but we have independent lives too. I think the current situation is that we'll just wait and see if we want to make another record. It might end up being like how the jazz guys work, where they'll come together to make a record, and they might make another, or they might just go off and work with other people."

"We're in a fortunate position of having real roots with one another, having played together in our youth in what was essentially a punk rock band, but we've got the maturity now to expand our artistic lives and do different things, and get together when the inspiration is there. I think that's a real blessing."


Uncanney Valley is available now via Partisan Records. The Dismemberment Plan will play the following UK dates in November:

  • 24 - Audio, Brighton
  • 26 - Electric Ballroom, London
  • 27 - Academy 3, Manchester
  • 28 - Stereo, Glasgow
  • 29 - Thekla, Bristol
  • 30 - ATP End of an Era Part 2, Camber Sands