News Column

Britpop pioneers Travis enjoying their return

September 20, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 20--In 1999, Travis's sophomore album "The Man Who" was the highest-selling record of the year in the U.K. Although the Scottish band never quite reached that kind of frenzy in the States, the group's influence over modern indie rock and pop remains remarkable.

Chris Martin has flat out stated that Coldplay was created in the image and sound of Travis. Other English and Scottish acts like Keane, Snow Patrol, Glasvegas and We Were Promised Jetpacks also have let their love for Travis be publicly known. Travis bassist and backing vocalist Dougie Payne says that earning the admiration of his peers and having those fingerprints on the current music scene gives him "a warm feeling on the inside."

"That's really lovely and touching, because when we started, we were on our own. We were out of step from the slightly laddish culture that was going on in Britain at that point," Payne recalls. "In the face of that, we released this slow, sensitive art school record. So, it's kind of nice to feel that we weren't alone -- that there were a lot of people who were looking for that."

The Britpop pioneers kept right on chugging through the early 2000s, releasing the records "The Invisible Band" (2001), "12 Memories" (2003) and "The Boy with No Name" (2007). In 2008, Travis topped off its catalog with "Ode to J. Smith," an experimental but not-so-radio-friendly album that was recorded and finished in the matter of three weeks.

And, then, no one really heard from the band for a while.

Payne says that the band -- which also includes lead singer and guitarist Fran Healy, guitarist Andy Dunlop and drummer Neil Primrose -- took some time off to simply get a breather and "be dads." Frankly, he says, they were getting a little sick of each other.

"If there's anything that's going to drive a band to break up, it's got to be constantly being with each other, at each other's pockets all the time," he says.

Each of Travis's members worked on other projects during the hiatus. In fact, Healy even recorded his own solo album with the legendary Paul McCartney providing some work on the bass. But by the summer of 2011, the four friends started to miss each other, so they made plans to get together and play some tunes.

"Immediately, it's like, 'Oh yeah, I remember you. You're cool. I remember why we became friends,'" Payne laughs. "When you're together all the time, you kind of take that for granted."

Healy felt refreshed because his bandmates bore more of the songwriting load. Payne and Dunlop were invigorated by the prospect of penning some new Travis tunes. They were collaborating in a way they never had before -- and they didn't have a record label exec breathing down their necks. The more they met up, the more it seemed like a new album would be coming 'round the bend.

"We could do what we wanted," Payne says. "There was nobody from the record company going, 'Oh, it's too long' or 'What's that dub-bass doing there?' So, it was really relaxed, really fun and definitely my favorite record to make."

The result of the band's exhilarating work -- Travis's seventh album, "Where You Stand" -- was released on Aug. 19 and has received largely positive reviews since. With this record more than any other, Travis has ventured into new sonic territory. The song "Reminder" boasts a steady beat with matching acoustic strokes and the kind of whistle-along rhythm that worked in spades for Peter Bjorn and John, Andrew Bird and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Meanwhile, "Boxes" seemingly takes some synth cues from The Postal Service, and "New Shoes" rolls along with a subdued but trippy EDM beat.

But the album has its share of vintage Travis moments as well. Few acts in the world are better at making a song that nearly bursts with grandiosity yet somehow maintains a level of stark intimacy. Tracks like "Mother," "Moving" and "On My Wall" (the latter two of those three were written by Payne) fit in that wheelhouse. Payne says he wrote "Moving" as a love letter to his wife, actress Kelly Macdonald, after moving several times around the globe. Essentially, it states that home is not a location, but who you're sharing your life with.

"On My Wall," however, is a little less uplifting.

"That's another love song, but it's a love song to pop music," he says. "I had this little story in my head about an obsessive fan, who instead of following the band around the world on tour, finds out they're going on tour, breaks into the lead singer's house and lives there while they're away."

We're going to go ahead and suggest that you don't try to make that tune's backstory a reality. If you want a glimpse of Travis, go see the band at the Voodoo Lounge in Kansas City Sept. 29. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the show will start at 8 p.m.

Shea Conner can be reached at shea.conner@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @stjoelivedotcom.

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(c)2013 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.)

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