Back in the early spring of 1997, myself and Big Dave marched ahead of a long queue of people (it was right round the block) waiting outside The Leadmill in Sheffield. Oh how good it felt to get in the front door straight away as all those people looked on, probably thinking ‘spawny bastards’.
They were there for Mansun; we to interview a little-known band called Travis. Big Dave told me about a brilliant performance by them on Later … with Jools Holland and I was intrigued. Their only release at this point was a limited edition promo.
This is the transcript of our interview with three of the band (Fran was elsewhere at the time but talked to us later) in one of their first interviews, for a fanzine I did at the time, Words Fail Me. It was my fanzine but Big Dave asked most of the questions.
It’s fascinating, and, as they say, they relax more for fanzines and give their best interviews. It’s also in the original font.
They’re from Glasgow and three of them – Neil, Andy and Douglas talked to WFM at The Leadmill, Sheffield.
WFM: You played on Later … with Jools Holland before your first proper single came out. How did that come about?
Travis: His production manager came to one of our gigs and was really impressed. There was a couple of others from Later … they also liked us and that was it. We always thought it was Jools who chose the bands but he’s got nothing to do with that. Just comes in, has his spiel, then fucks off.
WFM: Who else was playing on the show?
T: Lionel Richie, Sting and Tricky. It was a great couple of days. You do one day of rehearsals, then it’s recorded as live as possible but we had to do it a couple of times because of technical problems. It was just after we’d signed to Independiente so it was good to do some telly so soon.
WFM: You looked as if you were really trying to squeeze those notes out of your guitar. You were really feeling it.
Andy: I always feel my instrument.
Neil: As much as possible, eh?!!
WFM: Did you get a chance to talk to Lionel Richie?
T: Yeah, he’s a really nice guy, an absolute star. He spoke to us afterwards and said he really enjoyed us. Sting was a bit .. well he was at the end of a long tour so he was a bit knackered but he gave us his nod of approval.
WFM: The NME said you sound like Radiohead, that you heard ‘The Bends’ and decided to form a band.
T: Bollocks. Everybody who’s written something about us has said we’re based on two songs. Just journalistic pigeonholing, lazy journalism. We marry a lot of sounds so we couldn’t possibly sound just like one band. It’s a nice comparison though because Radiohead are one of the bands around just now that we really respect but it’s becoming a bit tiresome now because we’re
nothing like them at all.
WFM: What would you say were your main influences then?
T: We tend not to be into anything contemporary. Fran, who writes the songs, doesn’t listen to much music which is probably why the songs sounds so good.
I’m more interested in Frank Sinatra and movies.
WFM: What’s it like supporting Mansun?
T: Fine, absolutely fine. Paul Draper always pops his head round the door to say hello but the others are pretty quiet. What’s so good about Mansun is that their album (Attack of the Green Lantern) is doing so well at the moment and that obviously gives us a bigger audience to play to.
WFM: Well, they’re actually queuing around the block already and that was about 6.45 when we came in.
T: It’s been like that since the start of the tour. The crowd is always up for it as well. The last tour we did, we supported Beth Orton, and that was a much different audience, a quieter audience which was nice as well.
WFM: Obviously you’re at a pretty early stage in your career but is there any pressure on you at all?
T: No, because we’re quite out of it. We’ve got Andy MacDonald as head of Independiente and he’s not an industry person at all. He’s got nothing to do with the corporate weasels as he calls them. It makes you think that the industry can be trusted even though everyone says it can’t.
WFM: Do you think that Independiente will push you pretty hard?
T: I think they’ll push us as far as they can but we’re not going to enter into a big hype machine. It’s quite organic, quite natural. We’re developing at our own pace and nobody’s complaining about that. There are certain things you have to do, like promotional work but there’s no world domination plan. We’re just doing this to enjoy ourselves and to go as far as possible so that as many people as can will hear us.
WFM: Are you part of this so-called Glasgow scene?
T: The whole Glasgow thing is just non-existent. There’s always something going on but it never really has much in relation to each other. Teenage Fanclub are a band I really respect but we sound nothing like them. People talk about scenes in Glasgow but all the bands have their own particular style. Bis couldn’t be compared with Geneva, 18 Wheeler have their own sound – fusing rock and dance. It’s usually the press who invent all these scenes – it makes it a whole lot easier fort them to pigeonhole bands as part of a scene. We just happen to be a band from Glasgow. But, anyway, we’re based in London now so we’re a bit aloof from what’s going on up there.
WFM: The press will be determined to lump you in with some scene all the same.
T: As a journalist it makes it a lot easier for them – it’s the way they sell magazines. I can see totally why they do it. It’s quite healthy for the music scene but not necessarily a good thing for the bands. We even got asked the other day by a major paper about being tagged with this New Seriousness scene. If anything, we’re not serious, we just see it as a laugh.
WFM: Are you prepared for the time when the music press will knock you down as they inevitably will?
T: We don’t do this to get good reviews. We are in a band because we love making music and touring. It’ll not bother us if someone in the music press dislikes us. It’s just one person’s opinion after all.
WFM: So, do you prefer fanzines to the mainstream press?
T: You’ve got to do both. Don’t take this the wrong way, but you feel under far less pressure when you do fanzines because less people are going to read it and for that reason we give far better interviews because we’re more relaxed. Fanzines are run by people who know all about music but music journalists tend to be failed musicians or wannabe musicians. Some of them can’t tell the difference between good and bad music. You don’t know if they’ve got an ulterior motive. You can be halfway through an interview and you realise that they’re going for the throat cos they’ll ask certain questions and try to get you to contradict yourself.
WFM: If there’s anyone you would like to emulate who would it be?
T: U2. Their development has been extraordinary. They’ve gone through so many changes yet still keep the songs interesting. It’s crucial to keep that interest factor going. I don’t know how they do it but I’d love to know.
Mibbe it’s because they never go into a studio with preconceived ideas like ‘oh, let’s do another Achtung Baby’ after all, this new one (Pop) was supposed to be a rock album.
WFM: They took such a risk with Passengers, bringing in people like Howie B, Eno and Pavarotti and basically doing an album that was commercial suicide and hardly reminiscent of anything else they’d done.
T: They’re just so willing to take on new ideas. People say they’re self indulgent but so what! Music is all about being self indulgent and that’s what makes such good music.
WFM: So where do you see yourselves in ten year’s time?
T: Hopefully, still doing the same thing. We take this as far as it goes and enjoy ourselves as much as possible.