By Laura Ferreiro
Following a five-year hiatus, Travis have returned with an ambitious new full-length album, "Where You Stand." The Scottish band that has had several Top 10 albums in the UK due in large part to their trademark soaring, catchy choruses, decided to step away from the music business for a few reasons.
"I think we all needed to take a break from it until we felt like maybe we could do this again," explains bassist Dougie Payne. "Things had been pretty constant. I was a new father. We all wanted to be at home and be dads and have that family time that you can't really get back. Really we went away for as long as it took to feel like doing it again."
Following some serious downtime, the band reunited in 2011 for a festival performance. It went well, so they floated the idea of working on a few new tracks together. "We thought, 'Okay, we'll do it tentatively,'" Payne says. "We put aside all thoughts of touring and the business and we went into a room for a week. We did a week in London in (Radiohead producer) Nigel Godrich's studio on our own. It felt like, 'Oh yeah, I remember why I liked you! This is cool.'"
Over the next 18 months the band reconvened in different locations, including New York, where Payne lives half the year with his wife, actress Kelly Macdonald, while she films "Boardwalk Empire," and in Berlin, where lead singer Fran Healy lives.
"We really started to feel like we were getting a good collection of songs together," says Payne. "We were doing it all by ourselves with no music business or management – just us calling in favors saying 'Can we use your studio?'"
The result is "Where You Stand," their new album due out August 20. It showcases their earnest songwriting and penchant for crafting catchy melodies reminiscent of their previous hits, "Why Does It Always Rain on Me" and "Writing to Reach You" from their 1999 album "The Man Who." Although Travis is sometimes criticized for being "inoffensive" – and it's true that there's nothing particularly offensive here – it feels like a breath of fresh air in a cynical time.
Instead of going through a major label, the band resuscitated their own independent label Red Telephone Box, on which they released their debut EP in 1996. They found that it offered them autonomy and flexibility that they didn't get with a major. "We went through Sony for years, and when that was done we made (2008's "Ode to J Smith") and we wondered how we were gonna release it since the music industry had changed so dramatically," Payne explains. "So we decided to reignite Red Telephone Box. It was great to have independence and autonomy but it's very labor intensive, so that (Ode) slipped through the cracks in a lot of ways.
"But with this record we went through a model of label services companies that don't own any of the record." Travis chose to work with Kobalt, an independent music services company with offices around the world that has handled releases for the likes of Dave Grohl and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. "It's a really sensible and good business model for the way the music industry is these days," Payne says. "And we get to keep the Red Telephone Box imprint. It feels new and exciting and we feel energized."
Travis is currently gearing up for a large-scale world tour in support of "Where You Stand," which kicks off in the US with a show in Philadelphia on September 19.