Not many bands could get away with being as unoriginal as Travis. The Scottish quartet’s second album, The Man Who, is a shameless amalgam of Pink Floyd, Oasis, and especially Radiohead, whose sound they rip off expertly and extensively (they even hired OK Computer‘s Nigel Godrich to produce). The disc’s opening track steals the chords to ”Wonderwall.” And during an interview, frontman Fran Healy drops cliches with a straight face, as if he’s just thought of them. ”What doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger,” he says with a solemn look.
No matter. The Man Who is a stunning collection of cloudy-day pop melancholia, and Travis (guitarist Andy Dunlop, 28; bassist Dougie Payne, 27, drummer Neil Primrose, 28; and singer Healy, 26) are such nice, sincere guys, you can’t really hold it against them. Anyway, ”I don’t care what people think about us,” Healy says. ”Did you sit down in a chair and think about what it was made of? No. It’s got a function, so you don’t care. We can sound like Radiohead or we can sound like Boney M.: I don’t give a f—. [The way we sound] is just a container [for the song]. It could be a bottle, it could be a vase.” Healy’s thick accent and penchant for tangled analogies might make him a bit hard to understand, but he’s right; a few spins into the album you forget all about their, ahem, influences and just hear the softly evocative songs.
When Travis formed in Glasgow nine years ago, almost nobody was listening. ”All the other bands slagged us off,” says Healy. ”We were trounced because we were shite. But music’s something you can practice and get better at. It’s just like wrapping a present.” Increasingly presentable, the band moved to London in 1996 and quickly started drawing attention (the Gallagher brothers were early fans). Their first album, Good Feeling, contained a great single (”All I Want to Do Is Rock”) but didn’t really take off. Then The Man Who hit the U.K. last year. Driven by the darkly amusing single ”Why Does It Always Rain on Me?” the album sold more than 2.5 million copies and made them nearly as huge as Radiohead in Britain.
Surprisingly, Travis haven’t imitated their Brit-pop brethren in one way: They’re famously modest. ”The thing is, we’re reasonable people,” says Healy. ”It’s just songs. Ego is the enemy of everything. Bands will disappear, but hopefully the songs will live forever.” Hey, isn’t that the title of an Oasis song?