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Travis | The Man Who | interview | Fran Healy | indie | alternative | rock | Lollipop

Travis

The Man Who (Epic)
An interview with guitarist Fran Healy
by Tim Den

Before I heard the actual album, there were the countless magazine covers on newstands reading "Best Band of the Year!" "Platinum Again!!" "Most Loved Band" that caught my attention and curiosity. I don't usually give two shits about what big corporate mags have to say about what's-good-and-what's-not (since most of their opinions hardly hold up; choking on their own neckties and out-of-touch environments), but the faces on those covers just spoke to me. Travis was their collective name, and honesty was what I felt from their photographed smiles. So I was suckered in by the big glossy prints and got myself a copy of the already-6X-platinum-in-the-UK record, The Man Who (Epic). What I got in return was much more than I'd expected from a band as hyped up as they were; much more than a band who're huge overseas and still trying to hit the charts in the States. What I got was one of the greatest stab-you-in-the-heart, onion-in-the-eyes, everyman's life stories about how it's the little things in life that count. It brought me to my knees. It transcended the luscious songwriting and became a bible: a text that taught to look beyond what's given in this often materialistic, insensitive world. It was everything I've ever wanted to say through music and everything I ever wished I'd hear from a band. True, sincere, and humble. All this from the biggest-selling British band during the last year-and-a-half. Who knew? It'll only be a matter of time before Travis conquers America... assuming we still have enough good nature left in us to relate to their open-armed brotherly love. Or good taste in music, for that matter.

Where are you now?
In a hotel room in Seattle. We just got here last night, and we have today to do nothing until the (U.S.) tour (with Oasis) starts tomorrow.

Before I say anything else, I really have to emphasize how much I love the record.
You know, I've done thousands and thousands of interviews since the album came out, and they all think I'm nuts when I tell people: "it's your record now." Not mine. Yours. Those are your songs.

One of the reasons I love Travis so much is because of this display of humility; this awareness that, after the music is produced, it no longer belongs to the creators. It belongs to the listeners.
Exactly. And I've been saying endlessly how the songs don't need the band to be forever. The listeners don't need the band to love the songs forever. The songs themselves become part of the listener's personal lives that has nothing to do with who or what created them.

Music is in the air, bands are merely the tools that capture it and put it onto tape.
Exactly. I've always felt that every person is born with eight senses. Most of us grow up losing the last three, but some retain it. One of these senses is the ability to "feel" and understand the arts. It's not a special power that only a blessed few receive, but more like a responsibility to deliver what's already living in the world. Things like music. To be able to hear it in your head, deliver it, and be a part of a process that leaves something timeless behind... It's actually quite humbling to be a part of the whole process; you know it's bigger than you or your band.

Why did it take the record company so long to release the record in the States?
Really, no idea.

Did it have anything to do with the fact that other British bands -- fairly successful ones -- such as Catatonia, Supergrass, and Muse are finally being released in the States, and the record company wanted to jump on that wave?
It's interesting that all those bands are being re-released here as well. Maybe it's because we've come over and there's been a real body of hype -- Travis fanmail from the States -- based on I-don't-know-what, and the fact that we only played a few gigs here in the beginning of January to excellent reception, that record companies have seen this as a portal to get more British music through. It's like there's this painful spotlight on Britain all of the sudden. And to be honest, I think it sucks. It's very contrived, saying "that music is British music." Honestly, I don't think we're a particularly good example of British music. In Britain, we've never been a part of any movement. We were never an "indie" band, even though some of the indie bands think we're "cool enough to be indie." I never thought we were "cool..."

But some of your philosophies fit very well with the indie mentality, which could be a big reason why you've been embraced not only by that undercurrent, but also by critics who praise you for what you stand for: the anti-rockstar, the anti-"cool," the "music is all that matters, not the band itself" sentiment...
Because none of that matters. I believe there are four things that will always exist, even if a meteor hit the planet tomorrow and destroyed everything... Birth, death, art, and "humanity" (as in the feelings and emotions of personal interaction). Each of these things is shapeless, but each will floor you when you experience them. In comparison to these four things, everything else you experience seems so over-dramatic. What's cool today or who's famous right now changes. Those four things won't.

I don't know much about foreign scenes, but your ideas identify with the American independent scene. It's probably why you've caught on so much, simply by word-of-mouth. There's definitely an American home-grown love (in the indie world, at least) for bands who praise humility and the pure magnificence of art and not the artists themselves. I think a lot of people have connected with that.
That's good, you know? I think that's absolutely brilliant. But as far as the "big part" of America -- the Middle America -- whether it translates to them is another thing altogether. When you get a song and it comes to you, you've got this fucking... magical thing... and I'm compelled to keep doing this. I can't stop doing this. But some days I don't know if I feel up to it; dealing with everything that comes with it. I feel awkward on stage, I feel awkward with any sort of backslapping and adulation... I hate it. It's uncomfortable, it makes me go "uuuggghhh. Get away from me." Yet you have to do it -- go through all that -- just to get that little song or anything else across.

On the flight over here, I was thinking about America and where it is spiritually at this point. They don't have... there's no sense of spiritual goodness. I can't help but feel that most of America is a bit screwy. Strangely, to me, the last good thing anyone ever said was from fuckin' E.T. That was 1981! And he was an alien! I guess he doesn't count then... I was listening to Bill Clinton's State of the Union Address, and he was talking about this-n-that and all these issues, and it was all commerce-based, money-based. I mean, I think Clinton's okay -- I look in his eyes and I don't see a bad man -- but I was so waiting, just praying, that in the middle of this huge event he would just go, "You know what? Fuck all that... I just want people to be good. Just think about your neighbor, and just be good." Everyone be interested in something without thinking about getting something back for it. It would be so great. And I was so dying to transport myself into his head for one second and tell people to fuck all that money business. I just wanted to say "everyone be a little less fucking selfish right now." Stop talking about anything even a bit political and get more involved physically. I don't know, I think it would be the ideal thing to do.

Right on. And saying something as simple as that will reach more Americans than all the technical numbers and statistics.
Yeah! To pool all into one of those "four things," like the humanity part, would effect so much. I mean, the thing that broke Clinton in the States when he was campaigning to be president was when he appeared on TV to play the sax! That part came from the arts area of the four things, and it had its effects (on Clinton's appeal). Humanity, art, birth, death -- they're all things that really, really touch and everyone understands. But nobody does it. I've been just so frustrated thinking about this...

I think that's why so many bands rally against the Capitalist system. It ensures freedom and rewards based on individual work, but it has -- after 200 years -- turned everyone into soulless, mindless working machines.
I know, I know... The weirdest thing is, it's a very clever ploy. It controls, yet it divides. It creates a scenario where it tells people "you have to have this and that," and once they have those things, they are controlled. "You need the house, you need the car, you need the job, you need the television..." once you've got those things, you're controlled because you've split from everyone else. And that's exactly where "they" want you.

And in your quest to get these "things," you work harder to save up more money to buy more things, which in turn keeps you away even more from your loved ones (and people in general), not to mention with less time to enjoy the things you've bought because you're working all the time.
Yeah! It's a vicious cycle! And also, if you look at it, the whole thing's mental. Because we go and talk about helping other countries -- donating money and all that -- but in reality, we can bomb food to people every single day. They can solve world hunger in one easy step, but they won't because their whole market would crash, "fuck up the stocks exchange," make their money worth nothing but paper. You know, I would love to be able to hide all the money in the world for six months and just see what happens. Take every single penny and bury it in the desert somewhere. That would be cool.

Just to see if humans as a race can live without having to worry about materialistic issues.
You know, from our (Travis') point of view, we've sold two-and-a-half million records now... For me, that means millions of dollars and I'm thinking, "Jesus, I'm not gonna know where I'm at." I'm not gonna know what to do with the money. "I better be careful who I give this money to." Like there's a guy who was a part of the Espirit fashion house, and he sold his shares for billions and billions of dollars. He used the money to systematically buy up land in Chile -- just massive areas of the country -- and he's not gonna do anything with it. The thing is, I thought that was a brilliant thing for months and months because it was like "this guy just saved lots of land for environmental purposes." But then I thought, "Jesus man, he's just giving all that money to the government." Doing that, you've just given the government billions to make guns or create more valleys between the rich and poor. It made me think how careful you have to be when you spend because there are different effects from it. For me, I know I want to do stuff with it. I don't feel good about making money, and I think I'm gonna start using it right when it starts coming in. To build things... starting initiatives for the community. I come from Glasgow -- a really, really poor part of it -- and there's nothing there. I'd love to do stuff for them, and get other people involved as well. Trying to give more to those four areas: birth, death, art, and humanity.
(www.epicrecords.com)

 


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