Travis Morrison Hellfighters: Review of All Y'All and Bonus Dynamos interview
A to Z loves the Dismemberment Plan (and has since she saw them with Death Cab for Cutie in 2002 on the "Death and Dismemberment Tour" -- the very same tour that the members of So Many Dynamos still talk about today as being amazing). So I was incredibly excited to hear that D-Plan's singer, Travis Morrison was releasing some new music, with his band Travis Morrison Hellfighters.
I wish this new CD, All Y'All, had been released earlier in the summer, as it's full of soul-funk grooves, bedroom jams, post-prog curveballs and new-wave freakouts that are perfect for blasting out of car windows. In fact, like the Plan's best stuff, Y'All's most salient characteristic is how fluidly it moves -- Morrison's lyrical way of singing, where the rhythms and stresses of syllables are just as important as what he's saying, is in full effect. (In fact, this trait is perhaps the biggest thing So Many Dynamos has in common with D-Plan.)
What's also great about Y'All is how catchy and poppy it is. "As We Proceed" features some burnished guitar reminiscent of Paul Weller near its end, but starts with wiry riffs and spinning woodblock-percussion; "You Make Me Feel Like a Freak" is a skronking spazz-out dance jam; "Hawkins' Rock" feels like an amped-up, garage-ragged version of mid-'80s R.E.M. (ca. Life's Rich Pageant). But really, the grooves on this album. Oh, the grooves. "Catch Up" could be a Spoon b-side, as in particular the song features some mincing piano riffs and a post-punk sense of minimalism -- anchored by thick, viscous bass.
Take a listen to two songs from the album below. Thanks to Barsuk for permission to post the following MP3s from the album.
"I'm Not Supposed To Like You (But)":
"As We Proceed":
As an added bonus, Travis Morrison answered some questions about So Many Dynamos for my story. Here are some outtakes!
Jason Caddell worked on the band's first record, When I Explode. Were you aware of the band before that? Or, rather, how familiar were you with the band before that?
I was familiar with the name, but not their music. They have a pretty distinctive name, so even if they were a bluegrass band, if I'd seen it once in a club listing I would have remembered it.
Have you listened to Explode or the band's follow-up, Flashlights, at all? If so, what sticks out to you about the band's music on those discs?
I've listened to both. The overwhelming energy is the main thing that leaps out at me. A lot of that is because of their insane bald drummer. That guy is unbelievable. Also, the lyrics draw from unusual physical imagery, and that stuck out to me.
Partly because of Jason's presence, and partly due to the music, almost every review of the record mentioned a similarity to the Dismemberment Plan. Did you agree with this? Why or why not?
I hear them as a continuation of the midwest art-punk tradition that we had ties to --Trenchmouth, Shiner, Brainiac, Poster Children, and then of course Jawbox, which was the tie that bound the D.C. stuff and the Midwest stuff.
You played a show with the band in Washington, D.C. a few years back. What stuck out to you musically about the performance, the music?
Something kept me out of pocket while they were playing that show. But I went to see them play in Arlington at their own show and saw the whole thing. The main thing that I remember is their drummer. Not to harp on him but I was kind of scared to approach him afterwards.
The band also said you guys hung out. Aside from their music -- what do you think distinguishes the band from its peers?
They're pretty obviously a band. You could I.D. them as a band even if you hadn't seen them play. And they all play certain prototype roles that just seem the way of bands -- enthusiastic networker, introverted artiste, crazed bald drummer...
What sort of advice -- music industry, personal, etc. -- would you give the band, as they look to finish their third album (which Chris Walla just produced for them)?
Drink a lot of water!