Travis – Interview 2018

Travis. The band that so many people love to hate. The band who now treat that as a badge of honour. Who sold over two and a half million copies of their second album, The Man Who, which spawned four hit singles. Who called their number one follow-up album The Invisible Band, and are just about to release a documentary of their tour, Almost Fashionable. The band who have won three BRITS. That band. In-between albums, Travis decided to head out on the road for a series of shows – including dates in Brighton and at the Isle of Wight Festival – dedicated to the album that sent them into the stratosphere, The Man Who. Singer and songwriter Fran Healy took some time out to chat with Brightonsfinest about that album, and that Glastonbury show.

Hi Fran. Thanks for taking the time out of your soundcheck!
No problem.

You’ve got Turin Brakes with you on the tour, I see
We have. We have not toured with them for about 12, 13 years. Ollie (Knights) has one of the best voices. I love his voice.

What’s this tour all about?
We had this album, The Man Who, out 19 years ago, and where this tour has fallen is in-between records. It’s not a massively big tour. We’re going to very specific rooms this month and in December, and in-between that we’ll be recording the next record.

So we‘re kinda just filling gaps, and it felt like an ideal moment to do it. It was such a big record… playing the shows so far, people have been coming up to us, “My god, those songs were the soundtrack to my teenhood”. The interesting thing as well that has come up, that I didn’t think would, is how fresh and timeless those songs are. They don’t really sound like they’re from Britpop. Travis didn’t sound like anything to do with those songs. They just have this nice timeless quality to them.

You’re playing the whole record?
We’re playing it from beginning to end, like the record, with a couple of stories about where the songs come form. It’s played in order, which is nice. You had the big song ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me’,’Driftwood’, ‘Turn’ and ‘Writing to Reach You’, these were the big singles, and which always find their way into the set. But when you put them into the context of the record, they just become a little song like all the other songs. They stand out because they are the better known songs. It’s really cool to get to play it in the order it was created.

Have you done that sort of before?
We did it before with Ode to J. Smith a weird project where we wanted to write it in two weeks and record it in two weeks. So, we wrote it, and then went on the road for two weeks, and rehearsed live in front of an audience, and then in the studio and recorded it. Interesting. No one knew any of the songs. Even we didn’t know them.

Are there any songs you haven’t played live before?
We have played all them live at one time or another. When we brought out The Man Who, it was only our second album. We didn’t have that many songs. So we were playing all of it. All of the songs were pretty easy to pick up.

The Man Who went on to sell more than 2.8 million copies in the UK. That is incredible.
We sold 40,000 albums of the previous album, our first album. From 40,000 to 2.8 million. Quite a big jump.

How do you explain that?
We got lucky. We were going for it, we had some airplay and were getting a hit of traction, then we put out the second one and it got a bit more traction. But when the reviews came out they weren’t very good. In fact they were very bad. We actually thought – even though we knew we had made a good record – ‘Oh well, this isn’t even going to get out the traps’. We just got on with doing the shows, and went to Glastonbury, in 1999. By a fluke, it started raining when we were playing ‘Why Does it Always Rain on Me?’ At the time we didn’t think so. But that moment transformed the whole thing (it was broadcast on TV). Whether your record does well or not, it’s all to do with luck. With every band luck is a massive part of it.

What’s happening next?
For the past year I’ve been making this film, about the band, that is premiering at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, 29th June. It’s called Almost Fashionable. I just wanted to make a picture of the band. We went on tour to Mexico and I thought it would be interesting to bring a journalist with us. To make it more interesting, a journalist who didn’t like us. It’s a nice lens to look at the band, and also to look at music critics and journalists, and fans, and what it means to be a fan of a band, not just Travis. It turned out great. People are loving it. I’m pretty excited about that.

Now it’s done, I can get back to writing. I’m going start doing that when we finish the tour.

You’ve been choosing the venues for this tour?
Yes, we’ve been actively choosing the venues. Last night we played the Royal Festival Hall, which is a beautiful building, and a sit down place. We’ve always played stand up places. But sit down is good, because you have the option of standing or sitting. People in their 40s now, coming into hip replacement territory. So, you got to let them sit down.

But not you guys. You’re still standing!
Oh my god! Yeah, we’re still rocking it. It’s a funny thing, I was thinking last night when I was maybe 27, there would be bands that I listened to who were in their 40s, like Squeeze or Madness, and I would be looking at these old guys. They seemed older on stage. I don’t know if that is just us. It’s weird when you’re in a band – depending on the type of music you play – you’re kinda pickled, it keeps you in a certain zone. The Rolling Stones, for instance. Seeing Mick Jagger in his 70s, strutting about the stage, like he did at the beginning. With Travis, we always jump about a bit. But, I’m coming towards hip replacement time. Maybe in the next ten years I’ll be checking myself in.

Maybe you need to go on some fitness regime, like Mick Jagger?
Have you ever seen them live?

I have, but not for quite a few years. I also saw their Glastonbury show on the TV a few years back. I couldn’t believe it.
Me too. But again, I think they are just in the zone. That’s what they do and they’ll never stop doing it.

Jeff Hemmings