"I opened it and there he was. 'Hey...' said Steve (Malkmus) pointing behind him 'I live across the street from you.' We hung out a few times when either of us were not on the road and (fun fact) I recorded all his vocals on Wigout at Jagbags (his 6th solo record) in my basement."
EOTN explores the records that have influenced, motivated, shaped, altered or augmented careers, projects, perhaps even lives. These are the albums that speak for a personal love of and appreciation for music; a career journey soundtracked, a memoir in songs. Obsessed with vinyl? Even better.
Travis photo credit: Ryan Johnston
Fran Healy is the L.A based frontman and lyricist of Travis, the Glaswegian band who have sold millions of records since their debut in the late 90s. 10 Songs, their ninth album and first in four years, is a record about the way life comes at love and what love does to weather those challenges. Every track on the album carries an even load. No passengers. Nowhere to hide. Fran says, "I write songs in an antiquated way, sitting at the bottom of the bed, 'pouring my simple sorrow to the sound hole and my knee', as Joni Mitchell put it."
This band are often overlooked, but are up there with The Beatles and The Kinks. The songwriting of Chris Difford and Glen Tilbrook in the early part of Squeeze is untouchable. Take Me I’m Yours was a taste of great things to come.
I recently visited my friends father’s grave in Highgate Cemetery and while there, stood a while over the grave of Bert Jansch. I was late to the party with Bert. I love to discover music which feels like it has been sitting for decades waiting for my ears. Part 1 is a great place to start if you have yet to be acquainted. His guitar playing style and distinct working man’s voice has a naked quality to it. And he’s from Glasgow.
1st year at Glasgow School of Art. My friend Toby, introduced me to this. Trigger Cut was a favourite. When I heard Steve Malkmus, who sang for Pavement, lived in Berlin, I got his email off Nigel (Godrich) and said “hey Steve it’s Fran... let’s meet.” A few days later there was a tall 6 foot knock at our opaque glass ground floor door. I opened it and there he was. “Hey...” said Steve pointing behind him “I live across the street from you”. We hung out a few times when either of us were not on the road and (fun fact) I recorded all his vocals on Wigout at Jagbags (his 6th solo record) in my basement.
There are 2 bands who probably inspired me more than any other. R.E.M and The Band. I was introduced to R.E.M by my English teacher when he slammed a big book down on his desk and declared “R.E.M are the greatest rock band in the world” He told a friend of mine he thought I was going to be the next Michael Stipe... I wasn’t in a band or hadn’t attempted singing yet so it was curious he should say this. Anyways Green was my doorway into R.E.M. It might be my favourite album of theirs. I remember being perplexed that the cover was a yellow orange colour. I later learned that staring for a while at this colour and then closing one’s eyes created the negative of it in the darkness of your eyelids. Green.
The Band have the best band name. Their music is anachronistic. They were out of time. We recorded our first album in Bearsville with Steve Lillywhite. Bearsville is 30 seconds outside of Woodstock. During the session word got out that Rick Danko was going to be playing at a local bar... we all went down. It was rammed... people packed like sardines all waiting to see if he turned up. In the end we waited for hours and gave up. Next day we heard he’d arrived 5 minutes after we left and played an incredible show. One of my saddest regrets.
Joni is the don. Her artistry and poetry and melody and honesty put her at the top of the songwriting pile. Above Dylan in my opinion. Joni has never masqueraded. She has bared her soul to us and in doing so has healed many broken souls. This record is Joni in her 60s. Her voice here has a deep reedy tone from all the fags, some songs feel like daydreams of her childhood... Cherokee Louise,... others feel current and personal, You Want the Windfall... biblical...Slouching Toward Bethlehem... I’m picking out songs here but the whole record is scorching. She’s my favourite all time artist. If you haven’t seen it, try and see the documentary A Woman of Heart and Mind. It’s wonderful.
First record ever bought?
I was 10. I was at The Barras, which is a big outdoor and indoor market we have in Glasgow. The indoor part of the market resides in the same building as the legendary Barrowlands Ballroom which happens to be the greatest venue in the world. So I was here, and there was a record stall and I found myself looking through the stacks all alphabetically arranged. Got to C and this beautiful face looked out at me. She had a sadness in her eyes I had never seen before. Or maybe I had because I pulled out the 5 pounds I had spent the year saving and bought it then and there for my mum. It was The Carpenters.
Last record purchased?
The last record I bought was a couple of days ago. I pre-ordered the new Blitzen Trapper album. The single they released had echoes of Aurora Borealis by Meat Puppets in the chord structure. Blitzen are a great band. I first heard of them when they released their first Sub Pop album Furr. The artwork for this new one is beautiful. Like William Eggleston had hopped in a time machine in the 70s and snapped a termite inspection on Beachwood Drive in a Hollywood in the present day...
Activity most enjoyed while listening to music?
The activity I most like to do while playing music is the dishes. It puts the time into perspective because it only takes 10 minutes on average to wash the dishes, but no matter how many times I wash the dishes, I always feel like it’s going to take 30 minutes. Then I will lie down and fully immerse myself in whatever is left of the record.
Guilty pleasures are for wankers. That should be a t-shirt.
If the world ends let’s play out with...
If the world were to end I would like to hear all the songs I have ever heard in my life played simultaneously and at high volume from a sound system. But if I had to choose one song to go out on it would probably be... Heart of Glass by Blondie as this is the first song I can remember repeating in my head when I was 5.
Travis - 10 Songs is out now on BMG.