For over two decades, Travis have been a band whose music has endured. There's a very universal and human warmth to all they they do - a thread that's continued onto their beautiful new album, Everything At Once.
They could have drifted into obscurity or totally imploded like so many of their peers, but they remain of the finest of forms - delivering music straight from their heart to yours. To celebrate their new record as their UK tour kicks off, we asked frontman Fran Healy to talk us through the 10 Travis tracks that mean the most to him.
1. 'All I Want To Do is Rock 10" - Red Telephone Box Version
"This was the first song I wrote which made the earth move a little bit. I mean not literally the planet, but more just the bit that I was sitting on at that particular moment. It was also the first song we totally nailed in the studio, where all the sounds I was hearing in my head matched with what we got on tape. It was also the first song we played as the current line up.
"I have a clear memory of standing in a rehearsal room above The Horseshoe bar in Glasgow, the four of us, alone together, and there was a moment just before Neil clicked his sticks together where we shot glances at the other, and were grinning all knowing that this was 'the band'. It's also the first song that was played on radio on the Steve Lamacq show in summer of '97 and the song that begins our 1st album and in a sense our journey. And the first song we played on TV on Jools. It all starts with those four clicks."
2. '20' - The b-side to 'All I Want To Do Rock'
"I wrote the song when I turned 20. Everyone speaks about teenagehood, and your 21st birthday and your 18th birthday but never the moment when you stop being a teenager, and a week before I turned 20, this overlooked moment occurred to me and found it's way into the lyrics of this song. I'm 42 now. I've been a father for 10 years. We signed our record deal 20 years ago, so officially Travis just turned 20. My 20's were an interesting phase where I jettisoned all of the useless shit that was poured into me at school which I would never have any use for ever again and began to fill myself up with the stuff which might be of use. In my 20's I figured out what I wanted to do and then pursued it with this newly discovered lazer sighted precision... So for me '20' is a very big bookmark."
3. 'Writing To Reach You' - The Man Who
"This song was written on Boxing Day 1995. I had just split from my girlfriend. Actually she split from me. She was moving on and I was standing still and it was tearing me apart. I was writing a lot of letters and a lot of songs to her which I was sending and never getting any reply... like throwing them down a well and never hearing a splash. I was also reading a book called Letters to Felice, a book of letters written by a besotted Franz Kafka to his girlfriend. The book, however, was only his letters to her and never her response so it sort of spoke to me. This song later became the starting point of our second album even though it was written in time for the first record but, we weren't ready to play it at that point. It was the first song we recorded with Nigel Godrich and he blew the gentlest of wind in its sails and of it went."
4. 'Driftwood' – The Man Who
"There are too many essential Travis songs to pick just 10. There is a story behind every one and a reason it exists without simply having a song to play in a band or, to get played on radio... all of our songs are like little letters to different people or sometimes notes to self but, Driftwood is a good example of how managers and record companies can sometimes play a part in applying certain pressure and in the case of Driftwood, our managers Ian and Colin came over one night and said the collection of songs we had thus far were a bit miserable and perhaps I should push just one more time and while pushing maybe write an uptempo number.
"So I wrote 'The Blue Flashing Light', the hidden track on The Man Who about domestic violence in a cul-de-sac in middle England and 'Driftwood', an ode to my girlfriend at the time and now wife, Nora, who was a bit of a hippy, and just floated through life and didn't really focus all her talents of which she has many... not exactly uptempo but the lyrics in 'Driftwood' are as good as it gets and I could quite happily put it up next to some of the songs by my heros and give them a good run for their money."
5. 'Sing' – The Invisible Band
"After the outrageous and surprising success of The Man Who, we were suddenly in a zone not many bands find themselves, with suddenly all eyes on us but I didn't feel that much pressure because by that point I knew where songs came from and it was all below the neck where there are no maps and no two ways to that elusive little snowflake of a moment we all search for.
"Song writing at its best, is a totally random venture, blindly stabbing in a football pitch sized room with the lights out for a sausage on a string. It's so random that any outside pressure is simply consumed by the thick blackness of the task. So Sing, popped up and was again about my then girlfriend Nora but this time about her fear of singing. Maybe a fear we all have. But when you do it, it's like being set free from a paralysing spell. My old head teacher always told us he who sings prays twice and this song sort of encapsulates in a very simple way this idea."
6. 'Love Will Come Through' - 12 Memories
"I wrote this around four chords which loop. This is the first time I dabbled in this sort of modern pop writing. Loop the chords and change up the melody on top. It came from covering 'Baby One More Time', written by Max Martin and wondering if maybe I could write a similar type of song. It's the most accomplished song on 12 Memories.
"That album is not a favourite of mine. It covers a load of shit I was dealing with at the time, personal stuff that you unconsciously sweep under carpet and then a door opens and the carpet blows over and then you're in a dust storm... astrologists say it's Saturn Returns. I say it's bad emotional housekeeping, but it's unavoidable if you are sensitive, and that album is like the musical equivalent of a spring clean and ‘Love Will Come Through’ is maybe that tidy bit in the corner you're aiming to make the rest of the room like."
7. 'Battleships' – The Boy With No Name
"Here is a song I always wished had been a single. Our A & R man Andy MacDonald whipped the shit out of me on this album as a writer. I liked that sort of thing. I enjoyed the challenge of pushing and pushing and seeing what would come... But this was the album that ended our relationship. It left me empty, and although the record has some real Travis classics, the whole process left a bad taste in my mouth and I'm sure Andy's too as it sort of wobbled on release and underperformed in the UK for his label.
"It's an album which is not really cohesive to me because of this, more just the sound of a jockey whipping an already knackered horse toward the edge of a cliff. In saying all of that, he did whip some pretty beautiful moments out of me and one of them is 'Battleships' another postcard to Nora. We were arguing a lot at that point and trying to figure our shit out which is sort of what happens if you want to stay together. Battleship down."
8. 'J. Smith' – Ode To J Smith
"This is from Ode to J Smith, the album we made in reaction to The Boy With No Name... Out of our record deal and on our own for the first time with absolutely no intention of writing any singles whatsoever, we decided to write and album in two weeks and record it in two weeks on a 16 track analogue tape machine.
"We had made our first three albums on tape and 4th and 5th were digitally recorded so this was a fuck you all record, "this is our ball" album and J. Smith was the centrepiece. Two and a half minutes of stabbing, slashing, screaming guitars. We have a guy, this character I called J. Smith, like a John Doe... an everyman, fucked off with his lot, he decides to take his own life by dropping the radio in the bath... ( I just realised this could be me I was writing about), he ascends to heaven where he is met by a choir of angels who sing to him in Latin, (my girlfriend, the one I wrote ‘Writing To Reach You’ for, her dad is an academic specialising in ancient languages so he translated the lyrics which sort of say “Hail holy soul, we're sorry but you have to go to hell” so these angels cast him down to hell shouting an actual ancient curse "Coal in your arse forever!!" in Latin and he finds himself back on earth walking along the street at the end. All in 2 and a half minutes... I played this to Ryan Adams in Electric Lady and he rested his forehead on the console which I took as a good sign."
9. 'Animals' - Everything at Once
"This song is by Dougie, who has blossomed as a songwriter in recent years. He has had to put up with my prerogative of, if the singer can't get into it for whatever reason then it's not going to happen but this song I was all over... I love it. It's just at the top of my range so I can totally belt it out and feel great afterwards. It has echoes of ‘Turn’ in that sense but lyrically it's a different beast, literally as it's talking about a thing which is close to my heart, that we are really just animals underneath toiling with this higher mind but really when the lights go out we're ruled by shit which is below the neck and waist."
10. 'Idlewild' - Everything at Once
"This is the first duet Travis has recorded. It's my second duet, my first being with Neko Case on my solo record. The singer on this is Josephine Oniyama. I think she's the best singer in the country. Different than Adele but just as vital. She's been about for a bit but I don't think she's had the song which has showcased her voice perfectly yet. I think this song comes close and by the reactions it's been getting when folk have come out of the cinema after the film we made, the song which has had the most love has been this one. As for my bit, the third verse is one of the best passages I think I've written and I can stand it beside my other favourite lyric ‘Driftwood’."
Everything At Once by Travis is out now.
Travis' upcoming UK tour dates are below. For tickets and more information, visit here.
Fri 6th GLASGOW, O2 ABC
Sat 7th MANCHESTER, Albert Hall
Mon 9th LONDON, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Thu 12th BIRMINGHAM, O2 Academy
Fri 13th NEWCASTLE, O2 Academy
Sat 14th LEEDS, O2 Academy
Mon 16th LEICESTER, De Montfort Hall
Tue 17th BOURNEMOUTH, O2 Academy
Wed 18th BRISTOL, Colston Hall