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Joe Easley - Not Just Another Nerdy Rock Band
Although he never took a music lesson, engineer and drummer Joe Easley recently returned from a weeklong reunion tour of Japan with his indie rock band “Dismemberment Plan.”

“Pretty much you don’t have to take lessons to be in a rock band,” Easley says. “The reason each band sounds a little different is because they taught themselves and you’re hearing their mistakes.” None of them read or write music either, he says. “This is a rock band. We just remember our parts.”

The band’s name comes from the movie “Groundhog Day,” in which a character stuck in an infinite time loop buys an accidental death and dismemberment plan. “Despite the name we’re not an angry band,” Easley says. “We’re a bunch of nerds basically. A lot of people have stereotypes about people in rock bands. One of our members does not even drink. None of us smoke or do drugs.”

In addition to Easley, the band has a bass player, a guitar player and a singer. Other than Easley, the musicians also switch off playing the keyboard.

Joe Easley on drums.› Larger image
Joe Easley on the drums. Credit: J. Easley
“Everyone’s got a day job,” Easley says. He joined the group in 1996, took a leave from college, and went on a month-long tour of the East Coast. “We bought a 15-passenger Ford van, threw in all our gear, and jumped in.”

“We played over 800 shows over the years,” he says. “It’s a huge blur now.” As the band became more established, they bought a better van, hired a crew and even stayed in hotels. “Touring got much easier at that point.”

The band toured on and off until 2003. During that time, they played in 47 states, Japan and numerous countries across Eastern and Western Europe.
The band on stage.› Larger image
The band on stage during a tour. Credit: J. Easley
Easley says he considers the band’s 1999 album “Emergency & I” to be their most notable. It was recently rereleased on vinyl and was the basis for their reunion tour. “The album title is something our singer came up with, which I always thought referred to how you feel when you are in your 20s and everything seems like an emergency,” he says.

Their reunion tour schedule was frenetic and even included an appearance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” “We played 10 shows each weekend for two months. Then we went to Japan for a week-long tour,” Easley says. The band also played shows in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Seattle.

“Going to Japan is like going on a really great vacation and getting paid a little bit,” he says. He only brought his snare drum and cymbals due to the logistics of shipping a full drum set.

But don’t count on any future tours, Easley says. “There is only so much touring you can do on an old record and I’d be pretty surprised if we made a new one,” he says. “We’re all in established jobs and starting families.”

Their audience is growing older along with them, Easley says. Half the current audience is in their late 30s, just like the band members, but they’re also attracting 20-somethings too. “Our shows are bigger than before and most are all sold out,” he says. Their reunion tour crowds have ranged from a few hundred to 1,500. Their biggest crowd ever was back in the day when they opened for Pearl Jam to an audience of 12,000.

Easley says he doesn’t feel like a rock star. “We attract the type of people who are interested in reading the lyrics to learn the story,” he says. “We don’t have girls in our dressing rooms. Both of my parents came to our last D.C. show and they approved—especially that we sold a lot of tickets in a decent-sized venue.”

Easley will always play the drums. “Playing drums is super therapeutic especially after a stressful day at work,” he says “It’s very satisfying.” Easley says he has no plans to be in another rock band. “I’ve got a nice lady and a nice 2-year-old kid,” he says. “Even though Japan was a great tour, I really missed them. I already got my son a drum set. I think he thinks he might be playing them. He definitely likes hitting them.”

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Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.