Fran Healy's lockdown listening: 'Travis are the opposite of Travis Scott'

The Travis frontman on the power of Public Enemy and falling in love with REM

I’m quarantining in Los Angeles. We’ve lived here for three years and before that Berlin for 10 so I’ve been away from home since 2008. It’s beginning to wear on me now. I miss the British way of handling stuff and the banter. The other night I chatted on Twitter with Johnny Lynch from the Pictish Trail, who lives on the Isle of Eigg. There’s something quite alluring about living on an island, away from the vacuous aspects of modern life.

During lockdown I’ve mostly been working really hard. I’ve had a creative explosion, doing videos, artwork and finishing our new album. Our animated video for A Ghost taps into lockdown. Drawing it on my iPad helped me detach from the news and not get too stressed out. It captures LA’s empty streets. I’d had this secret wish that the traffic would be like the 1960s, and suddenly it is … although I hadn’t bargained on a pandemic.

For the last two weeks, the Black Lives Matter protests have touched everywhere. The protests have brought together kids, grannies, club 18-30. On the very early ones there were a lot of families, but the fucking police were firing rubber bullets at them. Lately, the millennials have been bringing a sound system along and turning things into a massive street party. That’s great, but there has to be a balance between partying and protest or the message will be lost.

Public Enemy – Fight the Power

Public Enemy: Fight the Power – video

I’ve heard this a lot at the protests. The speech [by civil rights activist Thomas “TNT” Todd] at the beginning is such a great use of a sample. Over 30 years later we’re still not addressing the issues in the song. Our “democracy” is an illusion. The cool millennials are hearing this for the first time and learning it. It’s like being a frontman and watching the front rows: you see people singing along who don’t know the words, just the slogan Fight the Power. It’s just a really great piece of music.

Terry Callier – Ordinary Joe

Terry Callier: Ordinary Joe – video

Jo Whiley asked me to suggest a song for her radio show, so I chose this. It’s one of my wake-up things every morning that gets me going. It’s really upbeat but not cheesy.

REM – Driver 8

REM: Driver 8 – video

REM were my favourite band at school. I was a late arrival to them, around [1988 album] Green. Everyone was chatting away in class and our English teacher, Mr McLoughlin, took out a big hardback book and slammed it down and jolted everyone into silence. He paused for a second and then proclaimed: “REM are the greatest rock band in the world.” That weekend it said the same thing on the cover of the Observer supplement, so I sought them out.

Travis Scott – Highest in the Room

Travis Scott: Highest in the Room – video

I’ve been checking to see how our video’s doing and every time I type our name into YouTube I get Travis Scott. Travis are the opposite of Travis Scott, but I watched a documentary about him to understand his music and it’s amazing. Rap music is almost the sound of broken nightmares. It’s the barometer of our country and these young men are telling it like it is. Thirty years ago this would have sounded like it was from another planet.

Bert Jansch – Strolling Down the Highway

Bert Jansch: Strolling Down the Highway – video

Just before lockdown a German friend wanted to go to Highgate cemetery with me to see Karl Marx’s grave, and we saw Bert Jansch’s before we got to Marx’s. He’s my go-to chillout guy. His guitar playing is impeccable and a lot of big players ripped off his licks. Songwriters are like birdwatchers. Songs float by, they draw a picture of them and they fly off, and you’ve got a wee representation of this elusive thing that you can share with everyone. I love that.

  • Travis’s new album, 10 Songs, is released on 9 October on BMG.


Interview by Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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