So, here we are... Ten years, ten albums. "Recorded/Recordings" is the capper -- a best-of retrospective. Then, later in 2009, the box set, which will be the final nail. We are breaking up (on purpose), feeling that the band has run its course and the last few releases are a great way to close off the quote-unquote "career."
As has become tradition with these best-of releases, I think the best thing to do in summary is to provide a track by track, so everyone knows why these songs landed on this collection. I also added notes on who played what instrument (if I knew).
When in doubt, start with an anthem. This track actually comes very late in our debut album. For the debut, our writing had a totally different process from all our other albums. I recorded Kelly playing drums, multi-tracking as he liked. We kept the takes to under five minutes with little regard for song or structure. Then over a couple weekends, I overdubbed all the instrumentation, using the framework Kelly laid down. Lastly, Matt would do vocals. The entire record was done in less than two weeks. This number came towards the end of all those sessions, so that's why it probably ended up late in the record -- we just got used to it, but it works equally well as an opener. The track was based on PAVEMENT's "Starlings of the Slipstream," a fairly recent track of theirs at the time (1997), which appears on their excellent "Brighten The Corners" LP. When I did the guitar track, I had just purchased a new amp and wanted to use mondo distortion, which sort of took away from the "Starlings..." intention. Matt's vocals sound so amazing because of his really inventive melody coupled with a cheap Green Bullet microphone. (Drums: Kelly; Instruments: Darren; Vox: Matt)
This track was a straight, 100% improv session from 2006 that landed on one of our many 2008 releases. It is probably our most rockin' number, so seemed good to place it early. I went into the tracks, particularly the bass, and "snipped out" various pieces to give the number its hurky-jerky feel. I also layered a few of the tracks with different EQs and then pulled the tracks up or down in the mix, so sometimes things are really dry and bright, other times really muddy. The lapping vocals are a combination of a false start from another take and the final main line. The weird rattle sound you hear is me hitting the top of a Sovtek amplifier. (Drums: Kelly; Bass: Matt; Guitar: Darren; Guitar: Mike; Vox: Matt)
The music was recorded during a pause in the 2002 recording of "A Sleep + A Wake," which was mostly made in Eric's 3-story house. We had instruments in all the rooms in support of that record -- an ambient experiment. I began to play the 8th note chug-chug-chug and Matt joined in. Since the drums were in the basement where Eric happened to be standing, he hopped on them and played along. If it sounds off-time in places, that's because we had to listen to each other through the vents; easier to do for ambient music than for rock, apparently.. A few years later (because we forgot the track existed,) Matt laid down some great, saving vocals that landed the song on our b-sides compilation. It also has an excellent (and maybe better) live version on 2008's "Travel Comes @live" -- a release we decided to exclude from this compilation, but is worth seeking out. (Drums: Eric; Guitar: Darren; Guitar: Matt; Vox: Matt)
"RATTLE ME IN AND
OUT " (2008)
My favorite TRAVEL track of all time. Love the atmosphere, love the groove, love the vocal treatment and the lyrics. Love how the analog synths come in on the back half. Plus, I get to play drums. (Drums: Darren; Bass: Kelly; Guitar: Matt; Guitar: Mike; Synths: Darren; Tambourine: Darren; Vox: Matt)
The epic closer from "= Writes," tin a radio edit. Originally, I tried a lot of different things with the vocals, but ended up just letting the full first take run without changes. Despite our "lyrics from a hat" vibe, I think this track carries some strong emotional weight. All the music was improv first take and I think it will be hard to ever recreate it live. Not sure who is playing drums or bass on this one; we kind of forgot. (Drums: Kelly; Bass: Mike; Guitar: Darren; Guitar: Matt; Vox: Matt)
"WAVES OF CONTROL"
Top-notch rock n' roll track, right up there with THE PIXIES or TELEVISION (imho). Feels like a signature TRAVEL number. Weird, hooky, noisy, brutal. Matt's vocal is terrific, kind of a rock/rap hybrid. I dig how the two choruses are over completely different music but have the same melody. In the second chorus, I don't think I'm even playing notes. And, best part, this entire thing was an improv beginning to end and is completely untouched here. Check out the change out of the first chorus -- it sounds like we practiced that! Which we didn't. Ever. And, even stranger, this was the second "thing" we did in our 2006 marathon session and none of us had been in the same room for 4 years. So this is how we sound after ten minutes of chitchat. The first thing we improved became "To The Books" from "Anti-Social Butterfly." So that's some real quick chemistry afoot. (Drums: Kelly; Bass: Eric; Guitar: Darren; Guitar: Matt; Vox: Matt)
"DAD'S ABSTRACT PRESCRIPTION
PAD " (1998)
Though "Rattle Me..." is my fave TRAVEL track, I think this is the best song I've ever had a hand in writing over all my other bands. "Rattle Me..." was improv and collaborative, so I can't count that. Like the rest of "Opus...", this track started with the drums. I played Kelly 1994's "Overcome" by TRICKY and he kind of aped that. Then, the music was all written on the afternoon I learned my friend Timmy Taylor (lead guy of punk band BRAINIAC) had been killed in a car crash. I didn't intentionally make it sound like BRAINIAC, because I got the call halfway through the writing, but I certainly am channeling a bit of that vibe (for example, the staccato synthesizers.) This also set the mark for the future compressed and distorted bass tracks which became a schtick for us. I think this track is perfection -- wouldn't change a thing. No chorus, which is silly, and the best "we rock on the red path to mars, let me drink you in the stars" lyric from Matt. (Drums: Kelly; Instruments: Darren; Vox: Matt)
"ROCKETS PROVE NOTHING"
Radio edit of the opening cut of "= Writes." Standard punk rocker, but a good one. (Drums: Kelly; Bass: Mike; Guitar: Darren; Guitar: Matt; Vox: Matt)
"CRUSH AT THE BAR"
Our second album, "This Is Our ~Music," still remains a classic noise record and our defining moment as a band. It's the first record with the four main players on it and it was the birth of the all-improv, cut & paste notion. That album's almost a greatest hits in-and-of itself. I think our last two records rival it for songwriting, but probably not for production value or sheer chaotic energy. "Crush At The Bar" is one of our best-known songs because it appeared on some compilations and was on the live album. I think the whole "I'm in love with repetition, I'm in love with repetition, I'm in love with repetition..." lyric is brilliant. (Drums: Kelly; Bass: Eric; Guitar: Darren; Guitar: Matt; Vox: Matt)
Another b-side that ended up being liked as well as an album track. Sounds like old Camper Van Beethoven? The piano we used was barely working and I think housed a few rats. Can you tell? (Piano: Darren; Guitar: Matt; Guitar: Eric; Vox: Matt)
"COPS AND ROBBERS"
Matt Hart's favorite TRAVEL song. I didn't really like it on the day it was recorded, but think it's dandy now. (Drums: Kelly; Bass: Matt; Guitar: Darren; Guitar: Mike; Vox: Matt)
"ONLY A TRANSMITTER"
Like an old new wave track from New York City in the late 70s, "Only A Transmitter" is a great "lost" track. I mean literally lost. I remembered it from the 2000 session from "Me & My Friend Noise," but Eric actually mixed that one, so I never had the master tapes. In 2004, I was at his house going through a box of old recordings and said, "Dammit, I know this track exists!" After much searching, I found it, revived it, and it became this nugget. See, I told you I didn't dream it. (Drums: Kelly; Bass: Eric; Guitar: Darren; Vox: Matt)
An ambient interstitial from our best mellow record, "Spoken Wor[l]d." Because the ambient stuff was a-typical, it didn't fit easily onto "Recorded/Recordings." However, we wanted some representation, so chose this one. (Guitar: Darren)
"NEW YORK CITY IN
1979 " (2008)
Speaking of New York City in the 70s... (Drums: Kelly; Guitar: Darren; Guitar: Matt; Piano: Eric; Vox: Matt)
"THE BIG HEAD BILLOWS"
The best moment of "Me & My Friend Noise" and it comes first, as "The Big Head Billows" is the lead track. The guitar treatment that Eric did is really fantastic -- brittle and brutal. (Drums: Kelly; Guitar: Matt; Bass: Eric; Vox: Matt)
Originally, I really liked the foundation of this track, but after the vocals were laid in, I felt that it lacked any dynamics. That's when I added about ten layers of synthesizers to it. Now, it's much more dramatic and interesting. It may feel that there's even too much going on sonically, and many might feel it's a bit overloaded. But I say what makes the track work is the thickness of presentation and its happy/sad vibe. (Drums: Kelly; Turntables: Mike; Guitar: Matt; Guitar: Darren; Synths: Darren; Vox: Matt)
"THE PRINTING PRESS"
An experiment I liked, so I kept it. Basically, it's just some amp hum that's treated, plus someone tuning their guitar. (Not sure who played on this one.)
ELO -- better watch your back. (Drums: Kelly; Electric Piano: Darren; Vox: Matt)
"ASLEEP AT MY TYPEWRITER"
Chug-chug-chuck rock n' roll with a really unusual choice of vocal harmonies. (Drums: Kelly; Guitar: Darren; Handclaps: Matt & Eric; Vox: Matt)
The epic. Best guitar solo in TRAVEL's long career. This is one of the few improves where we actually did three or four takes. The song actually went on another ten minutes before we noticed the tape had run out. The end sound effect is actually a hospital gurney, for those who can't tell. The warble after the solo I overdubbed because I had made a horrible guitar gaffe and needed to cover it up. We left this one as closer of both "This Is Our ~Music" and "Recorded/Recordings" because, honestly, where else are you gonna put this? (Drums: Kelly; Guitar: Matt; Guitar: Darren; Bass: Eric; Vox: Matt)
So...twenty songs that represent the best-of TRAVEL. I know the band isn't for everyone and has some detractors ("Was that even a band?" I heard said), but I have to say it: TRAVEL is my most accomplished musical project. I don't think a mass audience is ever going to take to this noisy stuff. And it doesn't matter. I have had an absolute blast on this sustained art project. I loved working with Eric, Matt, Kelly, Mike, Blaise, Po, and anyone else who had a hand in making this happen. Thanks to everyone!