Never overstay your welcome. It’s a rule abided by at dinner parties, during class reunions, and within the music industry.
It also holds true for writing pop songs. Some of music’s most-enduring standards mete out at three minutes. Keep it short, keep it simple — that’s the name of the game, and for Travis frontman Fran Healy, this mindset was the mission above all else in creating his band’s latest record Everything All at Once.
“On the last record we would give songs to the radio and they would tell us, ‘Oh, that’s great, but can you cut a minute and a half out of it,’” Healy tells Vanyaland over the phone. “We would go back into the studio and edit it and it would always feel like chopping a leg off or an arm off and the radio station would be happy but it wouldn’t sound like the song again. So on this record, we tried to keep all of the songs under three minutes. The result was the songs were all really punchy and poppy.”
For listeners that experiment has yielded a dozen-song experience that feels like small Britpop vignettes strung together by a combination of Healy’s prose and the band’s musicianship. Each song stays under the three-minute threshold and doesn’t feel like it’s being rushed out the door.
New songwriting strategies and partners are a huge part of the new album as Healy co-wrote the tune “Magnificent Time” with Keane’s Tim Rice-Oxley. The tune was the result of years of friendship coming to fruition.
“Tim called me up and told me that he had this song that sounded like he was doing a bad Travis impersonation,” Healy says with tongue firmly planted in cheek. “He thought the verse was okay, the chorus was okay, and that it was called ‘Magnificent Time.’ I loved the title of it. We were working on this other song that needed a bridge, and it has this nice energy to it, and we shoehorned his bridge around it and wrote a chorus with the title and sent it back to him in like 20 minutes. I’ve known Tim for years. We toured with them in 2004 we had them on support when they were coming up on their first album.”
On this disc, Healy wore many hats creating an album that includes an accompanying visual album that he himself directed. The videos, most of them showing the cheeky side of Travis that fans have grown to love over the years.
“It the most creative, cool thing I think I’ve ever done in my life,” Healy says. “Every single bit of it came from within the band. And you’ve got Beyoncé doing a similar thing covering the whole album in visuals, but she did it like we did, for a long time with different directors, and people outside from here thing to try and sway what her music is. Having that coming from within the band makes a huge difference. I got really lucky. I got some of the best cinematographers in Germany to help. The lighting guys had done something like 40 to 50 movies, they’re all IMDB guys.”
Healy and the band were stationed in Berlin to record Everything All At Once at the legendary Hansa Tonstudio. If the walls of the Berlin studio could talk it, would assuredly tell tales of Bowie, U2, Iggy Pop, Depeche Mode, and the Pixies. Healy even said that the studio still has some of the instruments that were used on Bowie’s landmark 1977 album Low.
“I’ve lived in Berlin for eight years now and I have a writing room in the Hansa,” Healy says. “We recorded two tracks there at the end of the last record and we loved it. It’s a weird place, the Hansa. And it hasn’t been touched since like 1970. But it still functions as a place where you can still make records. Our bassist is a huge Bowie fan, so he was a like a child in a sweet shop in there.”
Travis are currently touring Europe in support of Everything All At Once, and this week, released the latest video from the album, for recent single “What Will Come.”