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by Lucy Robinson
Travis, famous for bringing rain at Glastonbury with their performance of "Why Does It Always Rain On Me?", are perhaps the best thing to come out of 1999. Despite the large amounts of rain attached to their name, they have become one of Scotland's most popular exports and are currently working on cracking America and the rest of Europe.
Their recent success, bourne from the release of their second album, "The Man Who", has been a long time in coming - eight years to be exact, after the band formed in 1991 in sunny Glasgow. Back then, Francis Healy, Dougie Payne and Andy Dunlop were all attending the Glasgow School Of Art, the place where Dougie met Fran at an evening life drawing class. Dougie sensed someone looking over his shoulder, watching him draw, "So I turned round and did this fantastic Rolf Harris impression - 'Can you tell what it is yet?' - And we've been best mates ever since." Dougie met Andy during Fresher's Week at the School Of Art: "We got drunk on free lager and talked about the Monkees!" Little did they know, their dads were old acquaintances.
Neil Primrose, the fourth member of Travis, worked in the Horseshoe Bar and had already met Andy through his current band, Running Red. Neil met Fran at his place of work, where Neil asked Fran if he wanted to be a singer in his newly renamed band, Glass Onion, in which Andy was already the lead guitarist. And so three of the Travis crew were united in music, unfortunately, alongside two brothers, neither of whom were Dougie Payne.
A phone call with their publisher soon changed things. He simply said, "Get yourself a new bass player and get your arses down to London". Fran responded, going round to his best mate's house with a bass guitar. "I put it on him and stood him in front of the mirror and said "Woof! You were born to play the bass"". Dougie refused, but he soon changed his mind and within no time at all, Fran, Dougie, Andy and Neil had left Glasgow to kick-start their music careers in London, with a brand new name, Travis, after a character in the film, "Paris, Texas".
Their first release was "All I Want To Do Is Rock", in October 1996, on their own record label, Red Telephone Box Records. They released only 750 vinyl copies containing the b-sides "The Line Is Fine" and "Funny Thing". Their first TV appearance came a month later, when they performed on "Later With Jools Holland" alongside Lionel Richie, Sting and Tricky. With the release of "U16 Girls" on the Independiente label on 1st April 1997, they expected great things. "When we released "U16 Girls", everybody said we were going to be massive. So I expected it to go to No. 1. When it reached 40, we thought, 'Ah, we won't be listening again'".
8th September 1997 saw the release of their debut album "Good Feeling". Recorded in just four days, most of it live, it contains a massive amount of energy. "Good Feeling is clearly the most accomplished, heart-stoppingly exciting British debut album since Definitely Maybe by Oasis", said Select in October 1997. Despite such reviews and the release of four more singles, Travis still failed to make an impression on the music world.
Then there was Oasis. Noel Gallagher personally requested Travis' company on Oasis' arena tour. "The first time I met Liam was pretty amazing. I remember using my bus fare once to buy 'Some Might Say' and walking home quite happily with it in my bag, and so when I met him I was dumbstruck." said Dougie. The tour brought Travis publicity like they had never had before and when "Writing To Reach You" was released on 8th March 1999, it went straight into the charts at No. 14 and gave Travis their debut performance on Top Of The Pops.
From that point onwards, Travis have been growing in strength. "Driftwood" was released on 17th May 1999 and reached No. 13 in the charts. A week later, "The Man Who" was released, and three months later it reached No. 1, knocking Boyzone's "By Request" off the top spot. Travis' infamous Glastonbury performance played a key role in the success of this album, as Fran explains. "The week after [Glastonbury], it stayed at 19. We were like, "Oh bless its little claws, it doesn't want to leave the Top 20". Then it started going back up and one day you wake up and it all means something."
Travis' third single from "The Man Who", yes, the one about the rain, reached No. 10 in the charts, another improvement. It was written after the recording of "Good Feeling". The producer of the debut album said to Fran, "You've got to take a holiday, you look awful". Fran looked in the paper and found the hottest place, which just happened to be Israel. He went by himself, got to the hotel, opened the curtains and as he did so, it started to chuck it down. "It's become a self fulfilling prophecy that song, every time we play it, it rains. It was raining in Israel when Fran wrote, it was raining in France when we recorded it. We played it at Glastonbury, it started raining. When the last chord rang out, whoosh it started raining. I thought we were going to get bottled off. We were quite afraid." (Dougie). Despite the negative link with the weather, "Why Does It Always Rain On Me" was voted Best Song in the 1999 Q Music Awards and is a favourite with almost every Travis fan.
"Turn" is Travis' most recent single to date. It was released on 8th November 1999 and reached No. 8 in the charts. The live version of the single is extremely special because it is the only song, which you can hear Dougie singing on. The tradition came after Fran ran out of breath during a practice and asked Dougie to sing it. "I said all right and slowly but surely I'm beginning to sing in tune". Andy said "Let me just put the record straight, the girls love it!" One of the b-sides to "Turn" is also much sought-after. It is Travis' version of the classic Britney Spears song, "...Baby One More Time". They played it for Mark and Lard and it received such a fantastic reception that they had to include it on the single. "It's been going down very well. It's just a brilliant song", said Dougie.
Travis are a special band. "If any of us left, it would be finished, the balance would have gone. It's not about the four of us: Travis manifests itself as a brilliant thing, which we're all fans of" (Dougie). They don't care about the money, they are in it for the music. "We just keep releasing songs, Frannie keeps writing songs. We never hear a bad song that Frannie's written because he just won't show it to anyone, ever! We never treat anything as a b-side, every song is treated with the same respect, whether it goes on an album, or it goes on to be a top ten single or it goes on a b-side. People are still listening to it, you can't just say it's all right it's only a b-side!" (Andy).
"The thing that sets Travis apart, is that we just get on with it. We've always just got on with it. There's one thing you can't take away from us: our shared history and memories. We've been together as friends for so long, that when it comes down to it, technical ability doesn't even come into it." (Fran).