“It’s the cool TV show, The Waltons and the name of a renowned UFO abductee combined. It sounded kind of country, which was what the music was like back then.” A Dan Flay solo project, when he moved from Cambridge to Bristol, has expanded over time to the current three-piece alt-rock, “loud indie” incarnation of The Travis Waltons. Flay met Danny Watts at an all-dayer at The Fleece in 2012. Watts gave Flay a business card. The die was cast.
Incidental recruitment perpetuated in 2016, when the duo acquired Amy Bevan on bass. “We were at the Stag and Hounds for a gig and we saw her play. We really had to ask her to be in the band,” Flay explains, with Watts adding, “Amy has breathed new life into our band. We were bashing around as a two-piece, generally being too loud and lacking the percussive element that bass brings. Her singing is awesome, and again adds the harmonies we were missing (as I never learned to sing and play drums at the same time).”
“Dan’s songwriting and voice are incredible. If we don’t make it big now, he’ll be discovered by future generations after he’s dead – which hopefully will be a long way off,” adds Bevan. Three people in a band reaches Flay’s point of maximum logistical faff, although he concedes, “Smashing Pumpkins were my favourite band, so now we’ve got a brilliant drummer and a female bassist, we’re gonna need a keyboard player soon.”
2014’s debut, Your Neck Is Bleeding, was a self-conscious reference to the TV show, 24, rather than a connection to the sleeve artwork of some bloke in the front of an 80s saloon car, amorously attached to a woman’s throat. The televisual connection furthered with one of their biggest moments to date, the video to ‘Homewrecker’, beginning with Breaking Bad’s, Aaron Paul, as Jessie Pinkman, declaring the band and the single to be “a bitch”.
“There was a competition up to the end of Breaking Bad where you could win things if you donated money to charity. The more you donated, the cooler the prize,” Flay explains. “It cost a lot, but it made a bunch of people take us seriously. We probably could have spent that on a whole PR campaign!”
The second album, Separation Season is even more autobiographical. “I broke up with someone,” Flay continues. “It’s about doing all the things that you did with someone else, but on your own, whilst seeing them out with other people. The idea of the ‘separation season’ comes from films like Shanghai Noon, where Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson fall out – the time when they stop being friends.”
Their third album has been part-recorded at Invada Studios in Bedminster, and is “so close to being done; if we had money for studio time, we could have it finished in two days,” according to Flay. “We put out ‘Bright Eyes’ from it, because it was upbeat. It was an exercise in trying to write a love song for someone – not being able to tell that person how much you care, then doing it through a song instead. It turns a bit dark at the end!”
The band played three new songs at their July Hy-Brasil show, with more to come at the Louisiana on 4th August. They esteem Bristol’s venues for variety, quality of their sound and willingness to give bands a go, while lamenting the demise of the Stag and Hounds. They cite Bristol band Measures as their current earworms.
Our chat turns to aliens, naturally, and what they would make of our planet if the band was abducted. Bevan says, “I’m sure they’d wonder what the point of life on Earth was, much like we do,” while Flay adds, “I’d like to think that if we played to them, they’d reckon the Earth had pretty awesome music.”
The Travis Waltons play The Louisiana on 4th August. The band are currently working on their third album, set to be released later this year. Check out ‘Bright Eyes’ below.