Last summer, shortly after returning to LA from a two week trip back to the Ozarks with my oldest nephew to visit my dad on his farm, The Brian Travis Band was offered a last minute fill in gig at Kulaks Woodshed. “The Shed” as it is lovingly referred to by a cross section of Los Angeles acoustic guitar playing folk musicians, is a quirky venue in Studio City/Vally Village area of The San Fernando Valley that hosts live music 7 nights a week while live streaming every performance on their website. I agreed to play the gig (which was a headlining slot) on very short notice and went into the performance pretty much ‘cold’ as the band and I had not rehearsed in well over a month at that time.
I remember arriving at the venue early and meeting a guy named George who was mixing the live sound. George was hoping that The BTB could do a sound check early prior to the first act of the night but since I was the only band member who had arrived early I told him that a line check would have to suffice right before we started our set because the rest of the band would likely not show up until 10 or 15 minutes before we were scheduled to play. After years and years of gigging in LA. that is how we roll. I remember watching Annie Boxell perform her set and enjoying it thoroughly. Annie is a quality songstress with a great voice and a tremendously fun personality. I hid in the back while the second artist of the night did his thing and just as I thought, Mark, Steve and Joe showed up about 15 minutes prior to our set. We quickly line checked the equipment and launched into our set. It was easy going, acoustic and fun. The band and I didn’t give a fuck and we were playing for the joy of doing what we love and the audience was responding in a very positive way. I remember the performances being very relaxed yet rocking. After the show, we were getting an ample amount of attention from the audience who were giving us some great positive feedback.
At one point during the ‘afterglow’ period of the show when were were chatting with the new fans we made, George-The-Soundman complemented our set and asked for a CD. I happened to have one ( I only brought a few haphazardly stashed in my guitar case) and I handed it to him. He also asked for a card or a way to get in touch with me. I think I had one card left in my wallet and I gave that to him as well. I went on talking to friends and fans and winding down from our set. Eventually I left the venue feeling like we had done a decent job of providing quality entertainment to the people who came to see the show. Marissa, the lovely lady who booked us to play that night, confided to us that we were easily the best act of the night and that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
A few days went by and while checking my hotmail I noticed an email from George. He once again complemented us on our show and also told me that he was a producer/engineer who had worked with some bigger bands in the past and that he was interested in “doing something with us”. One of the bands he mentioned was No Doubt. This very nice and down to earth sound guy engineered some cuts off Tragic Kingdom and had also worked with a number of big name acts. I emailed him back telling him that he had my attention and I wanted to know what “doing something with us” meant. We agreed to meet up for coffee that week.
At the meeting we spoke in depth about the current state of the music industry and also talked about doing some preliminary tracking at a big recording studio in LA. Just a few songs to see if we got along in the studio. George said that if things went well, he would consider producing a full length album. He also said that he would cover the cost of the recording for an agreed upon cut of the CD sales once the recording was completed. I told him that all sounded great to me and we left the meeting with the intention to get in touch soon about scheduling a session.
After the meeting I stuck around the cafe in a daze thinking, “This feels like a record deal…” after a few more surreal moments I concluded, “Holy shit, this is a legitimate record deal offer from a real producer!” I was thrilled and a bit stunned. It was a lot to take in because on one hand it was “about damn time” and on the other hand, I really felt that the band and I were past the stage in our career where something like this was going to happen. But then I did the math. We have been at it for 10 years in LA…most bands spend about 10 years paying dues before they get a big break…could this be ours? It was starting to feel a lot like it.
I died my hair hot pink and then went to Burning Man to celebrate. I confided in a few camp mates about the record deal and spent my week in the desert looking forward to getting back to LA to schedule the recording session. Once back in LA, after a few scheduling false starts, we booked some time at Snuffy Waldens Taylor Made Studios on a Saturday afternoon in mid October. I remember the rehearsals leading up to that session. We had just started playing gigs with a new guitarist and he was still feeling his way around the material trying to sort out what kind of sound and identity his guitar playing should take.
We tracked up 4 songs that afternoon…two more than we had planned. The session was highly productive and after we tracked the third song George sat us down for a bit of a pow wow and he told us that our music was “a cross between REM and Oasis” and that he was “all in for producing a full length BTB album”.
That was it. After 10 long years of playing shitty club gigs and endless amounts of thankless promotion, touring and hard work, The Brian Travis Band had scored a record deal.
The album began to take shape during the subsequent recording sessions which happened in fits and starts over the course of a full year. Schedules had to be made and adhered to, last minute sessions took place, sessions got cancelled in the eleventh hour. We were at the mercy of when and where George could book sessions between paid engineering gigs. During this time our bass player, Steve Wiel, left to tour the UK and Europe with his band Margate who had also been signed to a 360 deal with an indie label started by El Hefe of the band NoFX. Margate left for 3 weeks in the summer to open for NoFX and because of this we lost participation from Steve while he focused on finishing up the Margate record and prepped for the tour. The BTB carried on without him and tracked up 4 more songs that I had written starting with acoustic guitar and vocal takes recorded to a click track. We built up the tracks with other instruments and had the tracks all ready to for Steve to lay down the bass parts upon his return. During this time George and I were also composing music together and the theme of the album was starting to present itself through the songs and lyrics that I was writing. George really gave me the permission to write material that had an emotional connection to what I’ve been going through as a person. All of the songs are in some way connected with some repetitive themes and lyrical imagery recurring throughout the songs. I remember writing the last two songs, “Evaporate” and “Make Believe” I wrote them both in the same week. It has been a long long time since I’ve been that prolific. Most of the material written for this album stemmed from the opportunity we were given to record. We did not have 10 or 11 songs locked, loaded and ready to track…we had maybe three. The rest of the album had yet to be written and we wrote it as the recording sessions progressed. There are more band compositions and co-writes on this record than any of our previous albums where I have been the main songwriter. Another big change is Joe, our new gutiarist. Joe Arena is a complex artist in his own right who has added arrangement ideas and layered guitar arrangements to the BTB soup. His musical contribution to this album cannot be understated. I cannot wait for you all to hear it!
“How can I hear this album” you may be musing to yourself…at least I HOPE that is what you are thinking by now. Well, I am SO glad you asked. The album is in the final stages of recording and the album art has also been designed and I am happy to report that the brand new shiny Brian Travis Band CD is available now to pre-order!
If you are interested in pre-ordering a signed advance copy of the new BTB album, you can make a Paypal payment of $15.00 to firstname.lastname@example.org / This includes shipping so be sure to include your mailing address so we know where to ship your advance signed copy.
The album is expected to be completed sometime between October and before Christmas 2012. All pre-orders will ship two weeks prior to the “official” release date and will be signed by the entire band…along with a pony and a Daisy air rifle!
Okay maybe not a pony or air rifle…
Pre-ordering a copy directly helps the band fund the duplication costs to manufacture the physical CD so by pre-ordering you are directly helping the Brian Travis Band in the final stages of the album release. And by getting the album two weeks prior to the official release date, you can be sure to memorize all the words to the songs so that you can sing along with the band at our CD release shows!