“…the conversation went along the lines of “why are we putting a fucking record out? The world is exploding, do people really want to hear another Travis record? Really, does anyone give a shit?”…”
From Release: It’s been twenty-five years since the four members of Travis first set foot in a Glaswegian rehearsal room. At various points along the trajectory between then and now, the band have sold millions of albums, they’ve been the subject of the award-winning feature length documentary ‘Almost Fashionable’ and Fran has elicited acclaim from Paul McCartney, Elton John and Graham Nash – all songwriters whose ability to divine a timeless melody out of thin air has sustained them through the decades. And 2020 marks another new chapter in the band’s extraordinarily prolific and unflappable career. ‘10 Songs’ is yet another body of work that showcases Travis as one of the UK’s finest songwriting exports.
At home in Downtown, Los Angeles we Skyped in with Fran Healy of Travis to talk about the bands’ new album ‘Ten Songs’, creating music, releasing music, and 2020 as a whole…
How’s 2020 been treating you?
It’s been… I’ve never worked harder, and I’ve never made so much stuff, like we finished obviously the album we finished in March, March 13, we finished it right on the doorstep of the Covid thing, the doorstep of the pandemic. I came back to Los Angeles on the 14th and then it all kicked off and we had to quarantine, mix the record in quarantine, master the record at the end of quarantine, then started to try to make videos and do all this sort of stuff and it was like “fuck how do you do that?” So the first video we made was for the single ‘A Ghost’, there was no crews, nobody could work and the label was going “well we could get someone to do an animation for you” and I was like “well what’s your budget?” and their budget was shit *laughs* and you’re not gonna get an animation that matches the song, it’s a really strong song, so I’m gonna do it, I’ll do something for it, I’ll go away and in two weeks I’ll send you something. They were getting really nervous, but I went away and got my iPad out and I drew the whole video for ‘A Ghost’ and I’d done a calculation, they gave me thirty days to do a video and I figured that every ten seconds of footage took twelve hours to render, twelve hours to draw. So I thought this song is three minutes and forty seven seconds long so it’s going to take about thirty days, so I did it. I just sat down and went through it, it ended up being sixteen or seventeen hours a day for thirty days but it was perfect because it took me out of this Covid fucking echo chamber and it just soothed me. I don’t know about you but I was getting quite anxious and stressed out about everything.
At a time when many were delaying albums or not even making them you guys chose to release ’10 Songs’. Was there any thought in holding it back?
No, I just I felt very much like… here’s the deal, I’ll give you the honest answer actually I was about to give you the “oh I’m just making this shit up answer” *laughs* I felt something tap me on the shoulder. I had a conversation, a very serious conversation with the manager of the record company in the beginning of this before I started doing the animation and before I started to commit to it and the conversation went along the lines of “why are we putting a fucking record out? The world is exploding, do people really want to hear another Travis record? Really, does anyone give a shit?” and they said, “Look on the internet, new music gives people hope” and they actually convinced me and my friends convinced me as I was having this debate with not only my manager but my mates as well and I think more with my mates because they’re a little bit less of a reason to give me a loaded answer and everyone that I spoke to was like people love music, they want to hear it and this is a fucking great record so get it out there, just put it out. So I thought fuck it, let’s just put it out. The thing is I was talking to Andy in our band and one of the things that most artists are having problems right now with is that we can’t tour and he sort of spun it in a nice way, he said well we’re putting the album out and usually when you go on the road you have an audience who basically just bought the record and don’t know any of the songs, they’ve not listened to it, it’s not sunk in yet and you find that when you do your next tour the songs that they didn’t know on the last tour are the ones that they know all the words. So in a funny way we’re getting this moment where we’ve released the record, we put it out and hopefully we tour next March / April, there’s a tour on sale but who knows what’s gonna happen. We’re hopeful in some point that maybe before we get into our sixties that we’re going to tour this record *laughs*.
You also co -produced this album, so when producing a record, is it hard for you to switch between artist and producer hats?
I’ve done a lot of that, Dougie calls is a benevolent dictatorship, Travis is like a benevolent dictatorship *laughs*, I’m very bossy and I know exactly what I’m doing and exactly I want from everyone, I also give everyone the space to sort of do a bit, if there are things that need help I’ll stand there and say “please could you do this.” So I thought I’d produce it anyway, and what did it help me do? The one thing this album is definitely pushed for me is a bit more film making because I was doing that a lot on the last record, I made a film to go with the album and that was my first foray into that, then I made a documentary about the band and that was my second thing, then the videos for this was my third thing. It’s quite exciting making videos, I quite like it, and doing these ones with social distancing that was quite tricky, I got really, really cool people like on the second video I got the Queens of The Stone Age lighting designer, a girl named Gigi Pedron to do like a lighting design. I got the DP who shot ‘Drive’, just by asking people and saying “here’s the idea” and if they say no, then fuck it, if they say yes, you beauty! So I’ve made a lot of really great friends from that side of thing.
Weirdly when we were on tour and we toured ‘The Man Who’ which was the second Travis record it was like a twentieth anniversary type tour and at the end of that tour it was getting quite depressing and you have to worry about your throat every night and getting a cold and whatnot and I made that wish, like I wish I didn’t have to tour and it’s almost like my wish has come true with this record. So it’s a weird time to be in a band, there’s people I know who have had to get other jobs, all of our crew are working in Amazon factories and shit like that, everyone in the music business is totally fucked and everyone is a bit like wanting help from the government and the government is like get fucked it’s only music. Music and culture these things are like really basic shit that people need sand are always the first thing to get defunded, like all the schools get art departments and don’t get enough money in music departments, but anything you want to lay your eye on in your apartment or when you walk down the street it’s been drawn by an artist, any music anywhere, any TV show that you’ve seen this is visual art, it’s aural art, it’s a massive business but people don’t take it seriously, anyway I’m digressing, I think it’s a very odd time to be in a band is what I wanted to say.
We were introduced to you with ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me?’. Looking back when that took off, what is your best memory of when Travis became that household name?
Best memory, I guess it’s probably getting to number one, getting that number one album and I know exactly when it was it was the 22nd of August, it was in a place called Weston Park and it was in Staffordshire in England and I know that because at the time I lived in a street called Weston Park, at number 228, 22nd August, and I was born in Stafford and I walked around looking at the poster, months before the festival happened, months before we were almost buying our tickets to go home because we thought we were finished and I see this date and get kind of freaked out and I thought well that’s kind of ominous because 228 Weston Park, born in Stafford, I hope something doesn’t happen because we’re playing at this festival on that date and that was the day that we got to number one.
So over your time together it can be easy to say what can change but what would you say is the one thing that’s stayed the same in Travis?
One of the things that when we’re making albums we parody our own songs while we’re making them, and we do it in a really smutty way, you know how disgusting boys can get? And if anyone knew how really disgusting boys can get we’d be in jail, for instance just to give you an example, ‘Waving At The Window’ sort of just turned into ‘Wanking At The Window’ so whenever we were singing that “Don’t want to see you wanking at the window” *laughs* and we have done this right from the beginning until now and it never stops.
Any chance of getting those recorded and released one day? *laughs*
Absolutely not *laughs* although funnily enough there’s a song on the new album called ‘All Fall Down’ and when we were recording it, most of the album is live that’s one of the things I would advise any band to record as much of it live as possible because that’s where the magic is, don’t just fucking overdub and get your bass player to do that and your drummer, go in the room together. So most of this record is us just live and a couple of overdubs after. So we’re doing ‘All Fall Down’ and Neil’s sitting there, Dougie’s sitting there and I’ve got a bit of plastic in front so the bleed doesn’t go in my mic and I do have a take of that song because it’s quite an emotional deep sentimental song, but there is a version of it where I get to the line and a lot of those lyrics are just happening as I’m singing and there’s a line in it that goes “You can cry until your eyes fall out” and Dougie looked at me through the glass and we caught eyes and I just burst out and I just get the giggles and we’re still playing the song and I can’t get it back, I’m trying to reel it in and then I’ve got the version of that song somewhere and no one will ever hear it.
Being in Travis now for almost thirty years, what do you still enjoy about being in Travis?
That’s a fucking good question, man. Things that I like about being in Travis, first of all being in a band is the coolest thing in the world, it is like if you’re lucky enough to have made it to get on a bus and go on the road with your three mates that you met and school and who you get on with great it doesn’t really get much better. Obviously there’s a lot of living in each others pockets and you learn to give people as much space as possible so when you’re off the road it’s just like “see ya later guys don’t let the door hit your in the arse on the way out” and then when you’re on the road you give yourself a lot of space as well. I don’t know, to be honest it’s kind of the best job you can have and when it’s shit I think when people are tired or little things upset people that’s when it can get difficult, and obviously you’ve got to watch for drugs and drinking too much, you’ve gotta watch for all of these things, and it’s like everything else, you just keep an eye on it and it should remain OK. It has, we’re lucky.
Let’s look ahead to the future as we like to do. So forgetting the rest of this year, finish this sentence for me. In 2021 Travis will…
*laughs* There’s two answers to that, it’s like one of those things where you cross out the right one, Travis won’t tour, or Travis will tour, and that’s what everyone in the music business now is thinking, replace the name of the band and put will or won’t next to that in that sentence and that’s where we’re at so it’s kind of a limbo time for us all.
Pleasure to talk to you, Fran. Hopefully one day we can do it in Australia one day.
Thank you, and I’d love it. We were talking about weirdly before this all went tits up we were talking about coming over, so yeah hopefully soon.
From: Glasgow, Scotland
Band members: Fran Healy – lead vocals / rhythm guitar / piano, Dougie Payne – bass, Andy Dunlop – lead guitar / banjo, Neil Primrose – drums / percussion
Latest Release: 10 Songs