Mon 25 Apr 2016

Interview with… Travis

Ahead of their UK tour and new album release, we caught up with Dougie from Travis to talk recording and life on the road.
So, the new album ‘Everything At Once’ is coming out next week and with the single ‘Magnificent Time’ to follow, what would you say has been your inspiration behind it and how did it all come about?


It’s kind of strange, the process is always the same as far as writing goes. We do it the old fashioned way.  It’s not like we’ve got a gang of writers all sitting in a room going what about this and you know… We tend to write separately, so we’ll go off and just dig away and try and find some little nugget of melody or something that catches the ear, and that you can then kind of extrapolate out into a song, that has a kind of magnetism or something that attracts the rest of the band to it.
We just go song by song, we don’t really think about grand schemes for albums. You start to work out ‘oh, well that song is connected to that song, and these ones have common themes’ and you start to work out what maybe the record is accidentally about. It’s fairly accidental and all fairly, I hate the word but, organic. As far as things being in styling for the record – I think recording in Hansa Studios was really important to the record because it’s a legendary place, Bowie recorded there, U2, Depeche Mode.
Had you recorded there before?
We actually did the very end of the last record ‘Where You Stand’, we did about five days there, just B sides, but it went so well that two of those songs ended up going on the last record. So we thought ‘oh this place is great’. It’s got such a peculiar atmosphere. It’s a strange combination of a heavy, dark atmosphere and it’s really creative. You can kind of feel the history coming out of the walls.
I think working with Michael Ilbert again was really important, he is a fantastic producer. He did a great job for us on ‘Where You Stand’.  I think with this record it’s a continuation and building upon that relationship. The working relationship is just fantastic and he really pulled a lot out of us and pulled a lot out of the songs actually to make them really stand out and make them really be as good as they can be.
What are your thoughts on Berlin as a city in general, and the culture? Is there any favourite part?
I really like Berlin, a lot. We spent a lot of time there over last year. We’d go to the studio for three or four weeks and then go away and write again and then go back to the studio for another three or four weeks. We did this about three times so we ended spending about three months or so there.  
It’s got a great feel to it, the way the city has dealt with its history is incredible. I think it’s quite moving to be there and the way it deals with the monuments, its relationship with art and it does it really well. It feels like quite a young city in a way.  It’s very forward looking and I think it’s an exciting place to be at the moment.
So you did some intimate shows in January at London’s Lexington – how was that for you? How was it playing the new tracks?
We did just two shows in one night at the Lexington in London. We had an amazing time and we came off after the first show and we just thought ‘that was amazing, oh my god, we’re never going to be able to do that again, oh my god, that was so great’ and then we went back on and the second one was even better. So it was really great night and it was like I say, kind of like breaking the seal on the new stuff.
All band start playing in little pubs and little clubs and so it’s kind of, in a way, your natural home if you’re a proper band. So, it was great and it’s nice to play hot and sweaty little venues having the crowd right there, right in your face. Also, it was exciting to be playing new stuff in that kind of environment because it’s unforgiving. You have to be able to do it, it’s kind of like proving yourself.
So going on tour in May, what can the fans expect from these new live shows? Plus what new tracks will you be playing? Is it going to be a mix old and new?
Well the cool thing about this record is the songs are really short. We deliberately had that in our minds because on the last record the hardest part, actually, was once we finished the whole thing and we
were like ‘oh it’s perfect’ you then take things to radio and they go ‘ah, yeah, we love this, definitely play that but you’ll have to take a minute and a half off it’. So for days, Fran, myself and Michael, the producer, would be emailing each other radio edits and it was so hard because you spend months making this thing that you think is absolutely as it should be and then suddenly you’ve got to start hacking away at it.
So a lot of the songs are three minutes or less, so with that in mind, for playing live it’s great because it means we could play the whole of the record and loads of hits in the time it takes to do a normal set. We just did our first full show in Tokyo, last week. I think we played eight out of ten of the new songs and they sounded great live and they went down really well.
There is going to be a movie and lots of aspects to the show, so if it all works out it should look really interesting as well because we’ve never really had that before.  We’ve never really taken that into account. It’s always been set up the amps and play. 
Which city or show are you most looking forward too on this run? Anywhere you’ve got particular fond memories of in the past?
I love Manchester. I think Manchester is a great city and I always really look forward to playing there, and the show is sold out so that’s really exciting as well. And obviously, Glasgow as it’s our home town.  It’s the first show on the tour so that’s going to be a moment I think.
The thing is, it’s kind of nice because it’s the most extensive UK tour we’ve done for a while. For the last record we did probably half as many shows in the UK so I think this is kind of good to get on the bus and just get to these places and get playing so the whole thing should be good.
As a seasoned live performer what are your touring essentials?
That’s the tricky part is keeping yourself healthy on tour. It doesn’t lend itself to healthy eating or a regular lifestyle. Obviously, you walk into a dressing room and it’s just full of booze! The touring essential is to keep your head when it comes to indulging after shows, we don’t drink before shows anyway because that never ends well. As far as things to take; running shoes –  when you get to our elder-statesmen like situation you’ve got to get yourself match fit.
Really, as far as essentials go, there’s a thing that I always take is Vocalzone Throat Sweets because because there is a lot of high backing vocals! I have this habit of wearing the same thing on stage every – so at the moment I have to take a lot of t-shirts, and I decide on jacket at the start of the tour and that me, it’s kind of like putting on a football strip – you feel ready to go once you’ve got it on.
So you’re playing loads of festivals all over the world – is there any you’re looking forward too?
All of them, I love doing the festivals because you get to catch up with people you haven’t seen for years and it’s always really nice. You get to see bands you would never ordinarily see. I think I really like the festival circuit it’s a fun way to spend the summer. Fuji Rock in Japan is one that I really enjoy because it’s just an amazing setting for a festival. T in the park is obviously very close to our hearts, I think this is our tenth time playing T so, that’s quite exciting for us. And I actually really like V Festival as well, I think that’s a great festival and a lot of fun and it’s an interesting bill this year – very pop.
Is there any particular track that you love to perform or does it change on a regular basis?
There is two things that go on; you really enjoy playing the new stuff because it’s new and you have this extra nervous energy that goes with playing new stuff that you don’t have the muscle memory for that you have with the old stuff. But, another thing, which is the best thing about shows, any show is crowds singing along and because singing is a funny thing.
People are really shy about singing, in general, because it’s giving yourself away, and your voice is you to a greater or lesser extent, you’re giving yourself away when you’re belting out a song but you have the protection of a crowd. It’s an amazing thing to see people absolutely feeling at liberty to belt it out and to feel that energy coming off people is incredible. So, with that in mind it is never boring to play the songs that people know, so you play Sing, Why Does It Always Rain or Drift and the things that makes those things come alive every night is not us, it’s the crowd singing along and that creates an extraordinary circuit of energy.
What music are you listening to at the moment, new artis
ts or whose on the iPod?
I’ve been really enjoying the new Field Music record, it’s absolutely brilliant. I don’t think those guys have ever released a bad album but this one is a belter. I really love the new Iggy Pop record. I think Josh Homme has done an amazing job on that. It’s brilliant because his backing vocals on that just sound like Bowie, it’s so great. That record fits perfectly with Lust For Life and The Idiot, it’s like the third part of that trilogy, its absolutely a great record, really enjoying that one.
And the Mystery Jets album is really good. We did a funny thing for Virgin Radio with those guys. We were asked to do a cover and so Fran and I decided we’d do Like A Virgin because it was for the launch of Virgin Radio and it was on a Virgin Train going out live and the Mystery Jets were there and The Feeling were there and this guy, Gavin James, an Irish singer-songwriter, and so they were like ‘oh, you’re doing Like A Virgin? Can we join in?’ So all the bands joined in and did a kind of mass jam version of Like A Virgin which was hilarious.  
I’ve been listening to a lot of The Who, going back really. My eldest son who is 8 is obsessed with Baba O’Reilly, he wants to be Keith Moon… Which is a worry!
Finally, any message for the fans?
Just that we are really excited to release the record, we hope you like it when it comes out and we are very excited to get on tour and play the new stuff for you. So we, hopefully, will see you all at the shows.
Tickets for Travis’ tour are on sale here
The new album ‘Everything At Once’ is out on 29th April, pre-order it here