Travis, a sweetly melodic alt-rock band out of Scotland, keeps some pretty heady company. “The band that invented my band and lots of others,” is how Coldplay’s Chris Martin described the group when he debuted Travis’ song, “Big Chair,” on Britain’s Radio 1 in January 2007.
Along with Cast, Ocean Colour Scene, Kula Shaker and Embrace, Travis was one of the most prominent British trad rock bands in the mid- to late ’90s. Following Oasis’ lead of crafting down-to-earth, heartfelt songs in the vein of classic British bands from the ’60s, Travis was more successful and enduring than some of their peers due to their lively, impassioned songwriting and performances.The group formed in Glasgow, Scotland, around 1990 as something of a lark for its members — singer/songwriter Fran(cis) Healy, guitarist Andy Dunlop, drummer Neil Primrose and bassist Dougie Payne. After finishing their studies at art school a few years later, the foursome became more serious about Travis’ potential and moved to London in 1996. Their self-released debut EP, All I Wanna Do Is Rock, came out in the fall of that year; with its earnest vocals and soaring guitars, it captured the spirit of British rock at the time — which was retreating from some of Britpop’s artiness to a back-to-basics sound. Their second single, 1997’s “U16 Girls,” was released by Independiente Records, the new label headed by former Go! Discs director Andy MacDonald. A few months later, their critically acclaimed full-length debut, Good Feeling, arrived. Recorded in a matter of days with top producer Steve Lillywhite, the album included hit singles like “Happy” and “Tied to the ’90s” — and immediately entered the Top 10 of the UK charts. The following year, Travis began sessions with star producer Nigel Godrich (well-known for his work with Radiohead) for the follow-up to Good Feeling, recording in six studios in as many months. Though it was a slower, darker affair, when The Man Who appeared in 1999, it eclipsed Travis’ previous successes, going platinum six times in the UK and spawning more hit singles, such as “Why Does It Always Rain on Me?” and “Writing to Reach You.” Nominated Select magazine’s Album of the Year (and finishing in the Top Ten of many other publications’ year-end lists), The Man Who appeared on US shores in early 2000, just in time for a tour with their musical big brothers, Oasis.
Debuting at the number one spot on the UK album chart, The Invisible Band was issued in June 2001, just prior to stateside summer gigs with Dido. Two years later, the band issued 12 Memories, which was followed in late 2004 with the singles collection, the aptly named Singles. At long last, Travis returned with an album of all-new material in the spring of 2007, entitled The Boy with No Name, whose arrival was heralded by the release of the single “Closer” (see the video above, which features a cameo from band buddy Ben Stiller). Next up was “Selfish Jean” and then “My Eyes” — written for Fran’s baby son… who is also the “boy” of the album’s title. (Mom and dad needed about a month to come up with the name Clay.)With the latest work has come another chance for these Glaswegians to perform stateside. Hopefully, this time around, the US will catch on to the talent that is Travis.