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Single Review: Travis is a Tourist – Stevie Nicks

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd August 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Intrepid singer/songwriter Travis Gilbert, aka Travis is a Tourist, recently followed his wanderlust in a rather sudden relocation from Northern Ireland to Paris. And true to his peripatetic professional moniker, Gilbert has written a song about the ups and downs of his new venture. The track’s title ‘Stevie Nicks’ reflects only a passing lyrical mention of the Fleetwood Mac singer (“I met a chick, she looks just like Stevie Nicks…I’d marry her on the spot but I’ve been drinking hard”). But its musical arrangement, whether by accident or by Gilbert’s deliberate design, bears more than a passing resemblance to Fleetwood Mac’s style.

The twangy guitar in the intro to ‘Stevie Nicks’ is symbolic of Fleetwood Mac’s early blues-based style, if only in a very superficial way, but other similarities surface as the song progresses. Gilbert’s warm, husky singing voice and languid lyrical delivery make a convincing correlation to Stevie Nicks’ signature timbre. The harmonic change in the song’s pre-chorus is both unexpected and sophisticated, while the chorus itself and the synth-laced bridge are reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s later, mainstream ’80s FM radio sound.

Gilbert’s lyrics portray the dual nature of his experiences abroad. He sings about novelty and excitement in the verse lines “I’m going through the motions without complaint / losing touch with reality but it’s ok / ‘cos I’m playing a show in a brand new place nearly everyday”. But on the other side of the coin, the song’s chorus “carry me home / so I don’t go to sleep alone / ‘cos these days I’m barely holding onto my bones” hints at a yearning loneliness, perhaps even (dare I suggest it?) homesickness.

The Fleetwood Mac references in ‘Stevie Nicks’, both musical and lyrical, are perhaps a bit surprising from a songwriter as youthful as Gilbert. But these, along with Gilbert’s natural knack for storytelling, combine to create a song that is remarkably mature and well-developed, while still keenly relatable and pleasantly listenable.

8/10

‘Stevie Nicks’, the new single from Travis is a Tourist, is available on a pay-what-you-choose basis on his Bandcamp page. TGTF’s previous coverage of Travis is a Tourist, beginning with our first encounter with him at SXSW 2014, is collected here.

 

Album Review: Travis is a Tourist – Weakdays EP

 
By on Monday, 6th July 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Weakdays EP coverEditor Mary and I first encountered Belfast singer/songwriter Travis is a Tourist in a rather fortunate coincidence at SXSW 2014, where he performed both on his own and with fellow Northern Irish artist RAMS’ Pocket Radio. Travis is a Tourist, who is known offstage as Travis Gilbert, has been steadily on the TGTF radar since then, with an appearance at Liverpool Sound City 2014 and now, after more than a year’s wait, a new EP release titled ‘Weakdays’.

The EP’s title is thought-provoking, even before you hear a single note of the music. The tweaked spelling of ‘weekdays’ implies an unsettled feeling, a sense of restlessness and anticipation. Musically, the songs on the EP reflect that sentiment by way of wistful guitar melodies, lingering vocal lines, and perpetual rhythmic motion, while thematically the effect is achieved through the direct, concise emotional impact of Gilbert’s introspective lyrics. Gilbert’s restrained vocal delivery is key to the reflective nature of the songs, and the slight roughness in his singing voice is perfectly modulated to the mood of the music.

‘Weakdays’ opens with a frank and self-revelatory track called ‘Tourist’, whose initial line is a strong statement of intent: “For those who don’t know, I’ve always had a fascination with leaving home”. Melancholy and resigned, the song still retains a confident sense of determination and pace that sets the tone for the rest of the EP. (Gilbert also wins points here with a reference to one of my personal favourite Counting Crows songs in the opening verse.)

The EP’s first single ‘Loosen Up’, which you can download for free for a limited time from Gilbert’s SoundCloud, is a slow burner with a languorous opening verse and a quick, shuffling chorus that will make your heart skip a beat. The simple refrain is warmly memorable, more of a reassuringly whispered mantra than a boldly declared motto, with a repeated bridge section echoing beneath the final repeat. The song was premiered on The Thin Air last week and has already received radio play on BBC Radio Ulster’s Across the Line as that program’s Track for the Day #175.

‘Getting Close’ opens with a chugging muted guitar under the evocative lyrical hook, “evening crept in, just as afternoon had wore thin” before growing into an expansively melodic chorus. Despite its fretful title, ‘Worry’ is uptempo and energetic throughout, with blissed out vocal layers in its chorus, “don’t worry about the morning sun / don’t worry, it’ll still be there when you get up”.

The EP closes, appropriately, with the austere arrangement of ‘Loud’, which exemplifies Travis is a Tourist’s fundamental sound, distilled down to the raw emotional power of a single guitar and Gilbert’s intensely understated vocals before layering strings and backing vocals in the repeated chorus. Gilbert has wisely resisted the temptation to overproduce the songs on this EP, choosing instead to highlight his best assets, namely the fine grit of his singing voice and his honest, uncomplicated approach to songwriting.

8/10

Travis is a Tourist’s self-released EP ‘Weakdays’ is available now on his Bandcamp page.  Previous TGTF coverage of Travis is a Tourist can be found right back here.

 

Liverpool Sound City 2014: Day 1 Roundup (Part 2)

 
By on Tuesday, 13th May 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

The first half / part 1 of my Thursday Sound City roundup is here. For all my Sound City 2014 coverage from Liverpool, use this link; for all my photos from Sound City 2014, head this way.

More Than Conquerors @ Kazimier Gardens
After having more than my fill of Hot Soles in Liverpool, for the second half of my Thursday at Liverpool Sound City 2014, I was back out to Kazimier Gardens for More Than Conquerers, which reminded me that John really needs to come out with me next year for Sound City. After a while, harder rock starts to bleed together in my mind and while this band from Belfast were certainly fun to watch, I couldn’t distinguish them from the many others of their sound level and calibre I’d seen at SXSW. They’ve got long hair and beards, which is to their favour to collect hipster fans, so I’ve been told by music fans from Liverpool to London. The word on the street is that this band is destined for big things – and soon – so my advice is to listen to them yourself and draw your own conclusions.

The Amazing Snakeheads @ Screendelica at the Black-E
A huge programming mistake for Sound City this year was not putting the Screendelica stage not at the thick of things on Seel Street like last year. In 2013, the TGTF team enjoyed Arcane Roots and Future of the Left both tear it up in the wee hours of the morning at the venue behind the Arts Academy. (One of the musicians was seen hanging precariously from a light fixture. You had to have been there.) Instead, this year Screendelica was inexplicably moved to practically the arse end of nowhere, all the way out in Chinatown at the Black-E. The venue itself isn’t bad – I enjoyed the Hummingbirds and the Thespians there last year – but the distance no doubt led to less people venturing out to see the bands playing there. The Anglican Cathedral, which is even more east of the city centre than the Black-E, doesn’t suffer similar problems, as it is host to the headline shows of the festival, which this year starred Clean Bandit, Strokes alum Albert Hammond, Jr. and our Irish friends Kodaline, and therefore are enough of a draw to encourage punters to walk that distance.

Glaswegians The Amazing Snakeheads, whose debut album ‘Amphetamine Ballads’ released in mid-April is already causing a huge stir at the moment, should have been able to command their audience and incite a riot. Singer Dale Barclay, dressed in a decidedly not rock ‘n’ roll crushed velvet shirt, growled and gutturally screamed into his mike between banging chords on his guitar, admirably got a small but good group of moshers going. But the too large space that felt like an empty school gymnasium for a school dance and just wasn’t the right kind of venue for them. I feel like if they’d played somewhere smaller and darker like the Zanzibar, the vibes and energy level would have worked in their favour.

Travis is a Tourist @ Korova
I am a woman who keeps the promises she makes to friends, and earlier the eponymous Travis of Travis is a Tourist had asked me if I would come to see him and his band play at Korova. I told him if I could make it back early enough from the Black-E, I would have a look in. Boy, am I glad I did. Carrie and I had seen them play at Latitude 30 at the British Music Embassy on the Tuesday afternoon of SXSW, when the Austin sunshine still shone outside, after which time Carrie nabbed Travis for this interview. Completely different vibe seeing them in the very intimate Korova, where it felt the small stage could barely contain the liveliness of Travis is a Tourist’s live performance. I now wonder if unconsciously or not are more nervous playing at SXSW than at other festivals, because while their Austin gig seemed a wee bit tentative, there was no such anxiety on display in Liverpool. It probably also helped that their best buds More Than Conquerors were there to cheer them on too as they had done earlier at Kazimier Gardens. Yay for best friends! If you can’t count on friends for support, who can you count on?

Traams @ Shipping Forecast
The one good thing about me coming out to blighty for music festivals in England is I can catch up on any bands I might have missed at SXSW. I’d still not seen Chichester’s Traams, have already proved their mettle to regional festival crowds for years, and due to schedule conflicts, I had to give them a pass in Austin. The downstairs stage at the Shipping Forecast on Slater Street, another claustrophobic venue, seemed tailor made for the South East group to feed off of their fans’ excitement. Their bassist, who had been throwing shapes all night even while he was playing his guitar, was so caught up in the moment, he and his bass made their way off the stage to the delight of the punters. I imagine Traams are a better live prospect than on record, as the singer/guitarist’ s gravelly voice is less exciting than the get up and dance atmosphere they create live in concert.

Sivu @ Leaf Café
While I was in Austin this year, I had serious reservations on whether I would make the trip across the pond for any festivals at all. My heart was not in the right place, I’d had numerous problems securing accommodation that wouldn’t bankrupt me and it looked unlikely that I’d have John and Martin with me in Liverpool and festivals are always more fun to work at when you’ve got mates with you. The odds seemed stacked against me.

The clincher ended up being Sivu convincing me on the Friday of SXSW after I’d chatted with him in the atrium of the Omni and seeing him at the Mohawk that I needed to come see him with his full live band in England, as he had only been able to bring out one of his merry touring band, guitarist Lucy Parnell, with him to Texas. I am sure it sounds strange reading that I was going to a tea shop to see a band play. However, remember that I was going to see an English band there and really, I cannot think of a more civilised way to prepare for going to see your friends gig than having a pot of tea. It sure feels better waking up without a hangover the next day. Gigs in tea shops never happen in America, but I can certainly dream.

Last year, I’d gone to Leaf to see the Chapman Family play at what would be one of their last festival appearances before they broke up in June 2013. That time, all the café tables were still in position, which made for a very strange setup I’m sure for Kingsley Chapman to have only mildly interested café customers staring back at him. The earlier Amazing Snakeheads performance at the Black-E proved to be a stark contrast to Sivu’s set time of midnight. On Bold Street and far away from the larger Duke Street Garage and Nation made for a smaller group of punters assembled, but who were there were a captive audience, and as he’d promised, the immense sound of the Sivu full band setup filled the space beautifully.

I struggle to describe the Sivu sound, as James Page’s voice can run into the falsetto range, so I can see sigur ros / Jonsi fans taking to him, but personally, it’s the surprise in the richness of the sum of the parts, some played, some synthesised, that is Sivu’s greatest triumph. The sweetly delivered lines of ‘Can’t Stop Now’ seem in direct odds with the almost dance rhythms of the songs, whereas in earlier Sivu composition ‘Better Man Than He’ is much darker. How to describe ‘Bodies’? “Each song has its place.” And ‘Bodies’, like all of Sivu’s songs, has a wonderful place in this life. The Sivu full band experience capped off a first night of amazing music.

Stay tuned for more Liverpool Sound City 2014 coverage coming soon on TGTF.

 

SXSW 2014 Interview: Travis is a Tourist

 
By on Wednesday, 19th March 2014 at 11:00 am
 

Photos by editor Mary Chang

The first official day of the SXSW 2014 Music Festival began somewhat slowly for us at TGTF. Most of the official showcases were slated to begin in the evening, so we spent the day picking up our press wristbands and getting acquainted with downtown Austin. Our fearless editor Mary is a seasoned SXSW veteran, and she knew I would need a quick orientation before the action really got started. She showed me around to all the venues I’d need to know, along with a few other places of interest, and once we were done, we had some free time.  Naturally we found ourselves gravitating to the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, where we’d attended the Creative Belfast event the previous night and where we would end up passing through many times in the course of our week in Austin.

When we walked into the venue on Tuesday, we caught the end of a set by a band that neither of us knew, but whose singer looked vaguely familiar. Intrigued by their soulful sound, I asked around after them and was told that the singer was Belfast-based Travis is a Tourist. I chased the band outside after they finished and asked for an impromptu interview, during which I found out where I’d seen them before and received some surprisingly thoughtful answers to my off-the-cuff questions.

As I discovered in the interview, Travis is a Tourist is currently finishing his second as-yet-untitled EP. His self-titled debut EP can be found on his Bandcamp page, and he has several videos available for viewing on YouTube. The following video, for a track called ‘Paperweight’, was shot by Brian O’Kane, who is also working on the Travis is a Tourist documentary referenced in the interview.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/BmTLsm3mIaA[/youtube]

My after-the-fact peek at Travis is a Tourist’s Breaking Tunes page revealed that he has recently toured with Lucy Rose and Nick Mulvey, both of whom have been featured here on TGTF. Coincidentally, I had the opportunity to interview Mulvey before his Communion Music Showcase performance on Friday night; Austin during SXSW truly is a small and weird world!

I wasn’t prepared enough to take photos of Travis is a Tourist during his performance on Tuesday (Mary captured the images seen here), but I did get some shots of him in another context on the Friday. If you’re an astute reader, you might have caught Travis in this photo of Mary’s from Monday night as well.

Travis Is A Tourist (far left) with Rams' Pocket Radio.

Travis Is A Tourist (far left) with Rams’ Pocket Radio.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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