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With wide eyes and earnest hearts, Scottish quartet Travis brought a sensitivity and passion to the British rock scene in the late ’90s, influencing a generation of bands including Coldplay, Keane, and Snow Patrol. Along with Cast, Ocean Colour Scene, and Embrace, the band was one of the most prominent British trad rock groups of the period, following Oasis’ lead of crafting down-to-earth, heartfelt songs in the vein of classic British rock of the ’60s. Debuting in 1997 with Good Feeling, they made their major breakthrough with 1999′s multi-platinum, chart-topping The Man Who, which featured their most enduring single, “Why Does It Always Rain on Me?” Their follow-up, 2001′s The Invisible Band, fared even better, entering the Top Ten around the globe and earning platinum status in the U.K., Australia, and beyond. While subsequent efforts weren’t as wide-reaching, Travis remained a staple in the U.K. with their impassioned songwriting and lively performances, locked into the Top Five with albums such as 12 Memories (2003), The Boy with No Name (2007), and Where You Stand (2013). In 2020, they began their fourth decade together with their ninth set, 10 Songs.
The group formed in Glasgow around 1990 as something of a lark for its members, singer/songwriter Francis 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 Brit-pop’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 Ten of the U.K. charts.
The following year, Travis began sessions with star producer Nigel Godrich 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 nine times in the U.K. 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 publication’s year-end lists), The Man Who appeared on U.S. shores in early 2000, just in time for a tour with their musical big brothers, Oasis. Without losing momentum, Travis issued their third LP, The Invisible Band, in June 2001. Their second U.K. number one, the effort shot to the top of the charts around the world, earning multi-platinum status in the process and spawning another hit single, “Sing.” Two years later, the band issued the thematically darker 12 Memories, which was loosely based on Healy’s own struggles with depression. A singles collection followed in late 2004.
After years away from the spotlight, Travis finally returned with an album of all-new material in the spring of 2007 entitled The Boy with No Name. The gold-certified set produced their sixth Top Ten single, “Closer.” For album number six, Travis opted for an edgier sound. Comprised of 12 song “chapters” concerning nameless characters, the conceptual Ode to J. Smith arrived in early fall 2008 in the U.K. and later in the season in the U.S. The album’s trio of singles — “J. Smith,” “Something Anything,” and “Song to Self” — wound up being the last Travis songs to chart for over a decade.
The 2010s remained relatively quiet for the four-piece, with just a pair of albums recorded in the decade. Their seventh studio album, Where You Stand, was released in the summer of 2013. Returning the band to the U.K. Top Three for the first time in ten years, the record featured the single “Another Guy,” which displayed a lo-fi, angular side for Travis. For their eighth album, the group returned to the legendary Hansa Tonstudio (David Bowie, Depeche Mode, U2) in Berlin to record 2016′s Everything at Once. Packaged with a long-form film of music videos directed by Healy, the set displayed a more colorful and upbeat side to the band.
Travis returned in 2019 with a series of fresh singles to herald the release of their ninth full-length, 2020′s 10 Songs. In addition to an appearance by Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, the LP also boasted a duet with the Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs on “The Only Thing.” ~ Heather Phares & Neil Z. Yeung