Travis: '˜The Man Who has got a chilly warmth'

Scottish rockers Travis appear in Hull next week playing their seminal album The Man Who. Andrew Steel reports.

Travis. Picture: Pat Pope
Travis. Picture: Pat Pope

Travis bass player Dougie Payne admits that on their most recent tour, he is readily noticing something that he hasn’t caught before; sharply contrasted demographics, parents and kids from across the spectrum all singing along in unison.

“It’s nice that people who are our age are coming to the shows with their children, or vice versa,” he notes warmly. “It certainly does mean something to have created one of those records that sticks around and crosses the generational boundaries.”

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That record, of course, is The Man Who, the Scottish rockers’ seminal, million-selling album that catapulted them into the upper echelon and a Glastonbury headline slot upon release in 1999, one of the last big albums of the 20th century. The choice to revisit it in full on a tour this year, split between summer and winter legs, is a curious one, but for Travis, was more to push them out of their comfort zone on the road than any other reason.

Travis. Picture: Pat Pope

“There’s been quite a big gap, a couple of months between the end of that first leg and the start of this one,” Payne acknowledges. “But it’s been really fantastic actually, the shows have gone so well and the record is a lovely record to play live. It’s something we’ve never done before and it’s one of those albums I think that…”

He trails off and mulls it over before continuing. “You don’t ever listen to your own stuff so it was quite nice to actually have a reason to listen to it, to refresh the memory on how it runs, how it feels, what it’s sonically like.

“There’s a few songs off there that we hardly play, like She’s So Strange and Luv, and the like. I mean, She’s So Strange, we’ve never played live before so it was about refreshing the memory.”

He stresses it was important to nail the tonal emotion offered up by the record on its first listen when bringing it to the live stage too. “When you listen to the record, it flows in such a great way and really pulls you in, so doing it live, you want to recreate that because it’s got a very specific atmosphere to it. It’s got a chilly warmth, if you know what I mean, it’s kind of wintery but still got emotional warmth. You want to recreate that as much as possible. I think we’ve managed to do it and it’s been going down so well.”

Does he think that audiences will respond differently to it in the winter in contrast to how they did in the summer? Payne pauses again. “I don’t know to be honest because we haven’t done it in the winter yet. We’ll see how it goes with these December shows. We’ll find out. I think it will be different things, though.”

The Man Who was not the only major success story of Travis’ halcyon days at the turn of the century – so what prompted the band to plump for it over The Invisible Band and give it the full performance treatment?

“I think The Man Who was such an important record for us. In Britain especially, it’s the biggest record we’ve had. With The Invisible Band, that’s the record that did best in America and did best in Europe, rather than here, so it felt appropriate to do The Man Who on these shores.”

Picking out an accompanying setlist to fill the rest of the show also presents challenges. “Over the years of touring, you get used to your set closers, the keystones. Songs like Why Does It Always Rain on Me? and Turn. We really had to investigate our own back catalogue to get more creative with the second half of the show. The Man Who’s quite a short record so we have to do a good hour-and-a-bit afterwards. We have to experiment with what everyone wants to play and over time, you’ll hit on a run of songs that really works and comes together.”

The group already have an eye on the future beyond their celebratory jaunt, with Payne saying that a new album is likely in the pipeline. “Well, we’ve started writing. That’s what we’ve been using this break between the two legs of the tour for. When we’re off the road, we disappear back into domesticity. We’ll all write separately and then bring stuff to the rest of the band when we’re rehearsing. It’s an ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’ kind of thing, which can be a little bit awkward. We’ll be discussing all that on the road this winter.”

Travis play at Hull City Hall on December 18. Tickets via www.hulltheatres.co.uk