Good feeling again for Travis 

In retrospect, Fran Healy didn’t set out to plumb the sonic and lyrical depths into which he descended on "12 Memories," the ’03 album from his typically optimistic chime-pop outfit Travis. But there’s a good reason the Scotsman courted bad vibes on such dirges as the abuse-themed "Re-Offender" and the anti-war "Beautiful Occupation."

"I wasn’t particularly comfortable talking about this at the time it came out," he explains at a recent pre-release party for his band’s latest recording, the conversely chipper "The Boy With No Name," on Epic.

"But ‘12 Memories’ was about going into therapy, and the record was the therapy sessions. I was feeling really, really bad, and I didn’t want to take any drugs to get myself out of it. So I had three months of hypnotherapy instead, where you went back and fixed your memories. So that’s where the album title came from, and each song on it was a memory I wanted to address."

Psychoanalysis handed Healy a solid, if somewhat sinister, concept album. And a sense that he’d purged his personal demons.

It was easy, he says, "because I’m the biggest blab — I will confide in everyone. But my worry about going into therapy was, ‘What if I fix what’s wrong with me, but I can’t write songs anymore because I fixed the thing that makes me write songs?’"

Compounded by his getting so caught up in world affairs, Travis performed at the MTV Europe Awards among some hundred naked people onstage who were holding up signs saying "no war" and "no bombs"; the band also publicly expressed its displeasure at Tony Blair’s performance.

But the 33-year-old Healy is over politics and out of his funk.

"I feel older and wiser," he says.

That’s the reason there are no protest songs on "Boy," just playful, ringing odes to his wife, Nora ("Closer," "Battleships"), old friends ("Selfish Jean"), and his year-old son Clay ("My Eyes"), whose birth last March softened the singer’s steely heart.

"He’s a beautiful little guy, really cool and calm," pop says of the boy, who’ll accompany him on tour when Travis hits the Fillmore tonight. "And I had a lot of friends saying ‘Oh, when you have your child, it’s going to blow your mind; suddenly you have all this responsibility and you grow up.’ But I realized that I’ve been a father already for 10 years in Travis. I mean, just looking after Dougie [Payne, mischievous band bassist] alone is serious business, so I’ve been preparing for fatherhood for a long time."

There’s also a certain sense of parental concern involved with songwriting, admits Healy, who’s actually issued more single B-sides than album tracks. "You give birth to the music, nurture it, introduce it to its audience."

He adds, "And then let your songs go into the world to do their own thing — even on ‘12 Memories,’ an album of all dark moments and not a lot of sunshine."

Travis

Where: The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. today

Tickets: $35

Contact: (415) 421-8497 or www.ticketmaster.com

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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