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Travis tickets at University of Wolverhampton at The Civic Hall in Wolverhampton
Mon 9 Dec 2024 - 20:00 BST
SJM Concerts
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SJM Concerts

SJM Concerts
University of Wolverhampton at The Civic Hall
North St
Wolverhampton, United Kingdom WV1 1RD
Mon 9 Dec 2024 - 20:00 BST
Doors Open: 19:00
Onsale: Fri 14 Jun 2024 - 9:00 BST
There is a limit of 6 tickets per person for this event.
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Bio: Travis

“L.A. Times is our most personal album since 'The Man Who'. There was a lot of big stuff to write about back then, the tectonic plates had shifted in my life. I was 22 when I was writing those songs.  They were my therapy.  Over 20 years later and the plates have shifted again. There’s a lot to talk about.” - Fran Healy, February 2024

 

Every great picture tells a story. It’s an adage borne out dramatically by the stunning cover art of Travis’s tenth studio album 'L.A. Times’. Echoing some of their most beloved records – The Man Who, The Invisible Band and The Boy With No Name – we’re once again greeted by the sight of four distant figures, dwarfed to the point of imperceptibility by their vast surroundings. And yet, there beneath the concrete and glitter of downtown Los Angeles at night, there’s something powerful about the fact that these are the same four musicians who first came to prominence in 1996 with their debut EP ‘All I  Want To Do Is Rock’. An unbroken line-up for an unbroken band – Fran Healy (vocals, guitar); Andy Dunlop (guitar); Dougie Payne (bass); Neil Primrose (drums) – the coordinates of their extraordinary journey together marked by this latest in a series of arresting images by world-renowned photographer Stefan Ruiz (New York Times, The New Yorker, Vogue, Time).

That cover image is reflected in turn by the songs that make up ‘L.A. Times’. By Fran’s own account, their most “personal album since The Man Who”, the album’s ten tracks see their creator marking his 50th year on this planet by, inevitably, trying to make sense of the road travelled to this point. He looks back at Travis’s early years, imagining a bay of little sailboats “with all the bands and artists sitting in them, waiting on that freak gust of wind to blow them to fame and fortune.” For some it never comes. For Travis, it would yield a run of hits which included modern standards such as Sing, Why Does It Always Rain On Me and Driftwood, and lifted them to unimaginable heights. Millions of albums sold ('The Man Who' is 9x Platinum certified in the UK alone); multiple wins at the BRITs, Ivor Novello and Q Awards. They’ve been the subject of an award-winning feature length documentary (‘Almost Fashionable’) and Fran has elicited acclaim from the likes of Paul McCartney, Elton John and Graham Nash – also songwriters whose ability to divine a timeless melody out of thin air has sustained them through the decades.

If you’ve heard Gaslight, the first single to emerge from ‘L.A. Times’, you’ll have been reminded that, when the four members of Travis convene to make music, the resulting sound is impossible to mistake for any other band, even when bolstered by horns, handclaps and an emphatic sunburst of voices on the chorus. The song itself, says Fran, is fairly self-explanatory: “People gaslight each other and, of course, politicians do it to the people who elected them. The fact that it’s one of the most googled words on the web tells you a lot about the times we live in. And of course, I’ve had it happen to me on a personal level too.” Does he care to elaborate? He smiles. “Put it this way. For me to write a song about you, I have to really love you, or you have to really piss me off. The good thing is that once I’ve got it out of my system, any feelings of resentment evaporate.”

It was into a world transformed by lockdown that Travis’s previous album ’10 Songs’ emerged – and from his studio on the edge of Skid Row in Los Angeles, events played out around Fran that were to inevitably colour the topic and tenor of its successor. On ‘L.A. Times’’ eponymous closer, distant helicopter blades accentuate a sense – compounded by the mellifluous glide of the music – that we’re distant observers to some sort of surreal nightmare. “The homeless situation here is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I was walking back from the shops one day and I saw a bright yellow Lamborghini driving down the homeless tent lined street. Folk lying in the gutter, others tripping off their faces wandering out into the traffic. The driver had his window down. He was wearing mirrored aviator sunglasses and a white vest, his tattooed arm hanging out the window with at least $100,000 worth of jewels jangling from it. It was a stark image of a city in a very tumultuous phase of its history. The whole place feels like it could explode at any minute.”

Amid a time of upheaval, Fran Healy increasingly found himself falling back on what he knew when seeking emotional succour. Tragedy has a way of sharpening your perspective on the things that really matter. He was at the bedside of his close friend, revered music video director Ringan Ledge, in the hours before his life was prematurely ended by cancer. And it’s Ringan to whom the deeply poignant yet celebratory Alive is dedicated. “A taxi driver said to me a couple of years ago as I got out of his cab, ‘You’re a long time in the ground’ – and this song speaks to that. Whatever that thing was that was bugging you half an hour ago, just let it go. For almost an eternity, there’ll never be another you. It’s like spitting on a hot frying pan – that’s how quick your life goes.”

The merciless passage of time also informs some of the most personal songs on the album. The plaintive falsetto of Live It All Again acts as a tender memorial to the two decades that Fran and his ex-wife Nora spent together before agreeing to go their separate ways in 2019. “I guess,” elaborates Fran, “that this song comes from a similar sentiment to the one which inspired Alive. Given how brief your time on the planet is, regret is a waste of energy. I wouldn’t change a single thing about the time Nora and I spent together. If a marriage ends, that doesn’t mean it failed, or that you failed. A marriage is successful as long as the people within it are happy. And, for the longest time, we were. And we made our son Clay – this amazing, beautiful, gifted human who bears testament to that love.”

Indeed, it was in trying to make sense of the years which see our children morph into adults that Fran wrote two of the most exhilarating songs on L.A. Times. When the life-affirming rolling-stock rattle of Home came together, a slide show of Fran’s life as a dad played itself out in his mind’s eye. “Being a dad is one of the most profoundly meaningful things I’ve ever been part of. Everything you do has an effect on this person. We never get to see ourselves as little kids, but wait long enough and you’ll see it all as a parent.” Similar sentiments inform The River, a loving landslide of fatherly encouragements, perhaps conceived at some level, to outlive the person dispensing them. “I guess there are a few messages in this song, the most important being that your dreams are yours and nobody can touch them. What will set you apart is to have the bravery to turn them into reality. Always reach for that.”

As Fran is wont to repeat, you divine the melody and then the melody tells you what the song is about. In the case of the album’s opening shot Bus, his reverie carried him back to his formative years in Glasgow, the years of standing at bus stops waiting for the number 75 to Hampden Park to take him away or back home again. Bus bears bittersweet testament to that sense of being suspended between leaving and arriving. And now, Instead of waiting for buses, he waits for songs to find him. “Sometimes you get impatient and walk to the next stop and then three drive past when you’re halfway. So you learn to just wait it out. You never think it’s going to come, but if you wait long enough it usually turns up.”

Usually, inspiration descends upon you quickly. But not always. ‘L.A. Times’ marks the completion of a song that started to take shape over 25 years previously. It was during Travis’s first ever visit to New York that Fran came up with the music that, decades later, would form the basis of Naked In New York City. Those timorous, tentative strummed chords represent the baby steps of a young man walking a line between fear and euphoria, straining to marshall his potential. Sometimes it takes decades of hindsight to figure out what your subconscious mind was trying to say. “It was Dougie who remembered the song and pressurised me into finishing it off.” And when Fran presented the song to producer Tony Hoffer (Air, Beck, Phoenix), the latter further foregrounded the song’s vulnerability by insisting that the newly finished track be recorded live in a single take. The hair-raisingly exquisite results speak for themselves.

New York City also acts as the inspiration for one other song, Raze The Bar. The bar in this case is the legendary nameless bar that was located between 3rd and 4th Ave, known to its regulars as Black and White on account of its striped awning. It was the favoured post-gig spot for any bands who played Irving Plaza or Webster Hall. Its co-owner Johnny T looked after countless artists over the years, including celebrated downtown graffiti artist Richard Hambleton, to whom he gave his kitchen as a studio. Fran picks up the story: “During the pandemic, Black and White's landlord refused to negotiate a reduced rent and they had to close. So in the middle of the night, everyone who worked there turned up and removed every single trace and fixture of the bar. Then they whitewashed the whole space so it could never be repeated. Raze the Bar is a song about a fictional last night in the bar. All the amazing characters that have drunk there appear one final time.” And the stellar guest cameos on it? “That was almost an afterthought,” laughs Fran, “I just called Chris Martin in a bit of a panic because I couldn’t figure out what the track sequence should be. When Chris heard it, he was like, ‘That song is the best thing you’ve ever written!’” And because he and Brandon Flowers both live quite near…”

Fran Healy’s voice trails off with an almost apologetic shrug. He makes it sound like the most natural thing in the world, having the frontmen of Coldplay and The Killers drop by to lend their voices to one of your songs. But, of course, it’s a measure of the esteem in which Travis are still held by the bands who emerged in their wake and sought to emulate them. And that’s why it matters that the four musicians just about visible beneath the L.A. skyline are still together, still honouring the unique chemistry that brought them together 28 years ago and 5,000 miles away. Yes, you’re a long time in the ground, but if you find a band of kindred souls to help turn your truth into melody, and you do it to the best of your ability, then maybe, just maybe, your songs might escape that fate. Travis’s unassumingly extraordinary body of work bears testament to that outlook. And, in L.A. Times, they’ve delivered a record that stands shoulder to shoulder with their very best.

 

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