Band returns refreshed, stronger on its latest album
“And the sky is falling down / and there’s an angel on the ground / it’s getting colder.”
These are some of the first words the world’s heard from Travis in four years, and bassist Dougie Payne penned them. But it isn’t all so bleak — Payne wrote the song Colder in New York after a heavy storm and, from his hotel room, he saw people lying on the ground in the snow, making angels.
“It’s got a lovely kind of poetic thing to it,” the Scotsman says, “even though (the lyrics) sound kind of apocalyptic.”
Travis’ latest album, The Boy With No Name, falls into the band’s biography at a poignant time — not quite an apocalyptic one — for singer Fran Healy, guitarist Andy Dunlop, drummer Neil Primrose and Payne. It does, however, follow some tumultuous events: Primrose broke his neck five years ago, which ground the band’s momentum to a halt and Healy has described the period as a down time for the foursome.
The album that immediately followed Primrose’s recovery, 12 Memories, was generally reviewed as a darker departure for Travis. Although Payne doesn’t think the work strayed from the band’s usual scope, he admits circumstances weighed on their shoulders.
“We almost felt the need to prove to ourselves that we could still function as a band,” he explains. “So, as soon as (Primrose) was able to, we went in to make 12 Memories, whereas, maybe, we should’ve taken a break then.”
Instead, Travis released the album in 2003, toured it extensively and followed up with a compilation disc in 2005, Singles. It was then, finally, that Payne says the band took “a break from the industry and everything that goes along with it.”
And then, The Boy With No Name was born ... quite literally. The album takes its title from Healy’s son, Clay, who remained unnamed for a full month after his birth. Reviewers embraced the work as a return to Travis’ roots, but Payne shies from this get-back-in-the-game perception.
“It’s just the next album, you know,” he says. “It’s not like we go into the studio and think … we’ll try to please everybody. There’s never been a grand plan.”
Instead, he offers, perhaps it reflects the musings of a decade-long hard-working band that’s returned from its troubles a little stronger, and come back from a break a little refreshed.
“I think we’re more comfortable with ourselves as people and as a band,” Payne says, “and I think that maybe that’s where that guarded optimism on the record is coming from.”