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Chandler Travis

A Conversation with Chandler Travis

Puremusic: So rest assured that in the setup of this interview I will describe in detail the circumstances of our first meeting.

Chandler Travis: That was so much fun.

PM: Oh, yeah, that's part of setting the mood.

CT: Yeah.

PM: And let me say that it's a very fond and special memory, running into the Chandler Travis Philharmonic in a Folk Alliance hotel room.

CT: Oh, same here, that whole bunch is very close to my heart. We've been trying to get back these last couple years. It's just hard for that big of a band; they make it kind of hard.

PM: So I looked back, and that indeed was 2004. Have you been back since then?

CT: Yeah, once. Now, when we did it with you it was in San Diego, right?

PM: San Diego it was, right.

CT: We were back once in Austin. And other than that we haven't done it.

PM: In San Diego I remember first being in a big hurry somewhere, running through the hall when I heard good music coming from a room, and when I passed by I saw guys playing in pajamas and top hats and thought--

CT: [laughs]

PM: --"hmm, definitely have to go back there."


CT: Yeah, yeah. I'm dying to do that again. I just really like fucking with those people.

PM: So although both solo and as a founding member of Travis Shook and the Club Wow, you toured all over the country and beyond, do you identify yourself as a Boston player, or a Cape Cod player, or New England or how do you--

CT: Yeah, sure.

PM: One or the other, or all of the above?

CT: Well, it depends on where I am. It depends on whether people know the difference between Cape Cod and Boston.


PM: Yeah, exactly.

CT: It's whatever is handy.

PM: I think the genre you've literally founded is fittingly original, "alternative Dixieland."

CT: Well, you know how it is, you spend all your time trying to do something that no one has done yet, and then people ask you for some kind of label for it. And the "alternative Dixieland" was actually something that somebody else came up with. But I thought it was a great way of saying it.

PM: It's really funny.

CT: Lately we've taken to calling it "gospel music for atheists."


PM: Because, really, like your friends NRBQ, the wonder of the band is that they'll incorporate many styles of music in any evening's entertainment.

CT: Sure, yeah. Well, and again, like those guys, it's partly just being voracious listeners and record collectors. And obviously as a musician, when you hear something you love, you want to figure out how to play it. And then once you figure you're close enough [laughs] you try and lord it over everybody else.

CTP at Rodeo Bar NYC

PM: I feel really lucky that I happened to be in New York City when you guys were booked at the Rodeo Bar this past Monday. That was a phenomenal show.

CT: Oh, such a gas seeing you, man. Everybody was just--well, I guess not everybody, but me and Fred and Dinty were just so excited to see you. Frank Goodman! Yeah! All right!

PM: It was so exciting to see the band live. Some bands need to be seen more than others, but certainly the Philharmonic, it's a must-see thing. The records are great, but it just needs to be seen.

CT: Yeah, well, we're always so far ahead of the records. I just write a lot. So best case, if you're listening to the records, you're going to be listening to two years ago.

PM: Right. You are a very prolific person, then?

CT: Well, it doesn't really feel like that much, but I guess sort of--I don't know, that's what people keep telling me. The thing is that I don't really think I write a whole lot more that I like enough than about an album a year. I don't really think I'm all that prolific, relatively. I just took a lot of years off. So there's nothing extraordinary about it. It's just pretty much the same clock everybody else is on.

PM: Are you always that many pieces, or do you also gig in more stripped-down versions?

CT: Well, as you know, because we did the Folk Alliance, yeah, I'll put something together for whatever I can do. If it's called Philharmonic, it's usually at least seven pieces, and that's our usual lineup is what you saw: eight pieces plus singing valet.


PM: That is really amazing. Who does those unbelievable horn charts?

CT: Well, a few people do, different horn guys, Keith Spring has done a few of them. Ken Field did a few of them, an alto player who wasn't with us the other night. Mark Chenevert, our usual horn leader who also wasn't with us the other night, has done a bunch of them. Bob Pilkington, our trombone player who was with us the other night has done them. I've done a few of them, just by singing parts to other guys. And I'm a constant meddler with other people's work, for better or for worse.


PM: Who was that trumpet player on stage the other night? He was awful good.

CT: That was Grayson Farmer.

PM: Yeah, Grayson Farmer, I like that.

CT: Yeah, he's the only guy up there who really hadn't been with us all that much except for that week, and maybe three or four other gigs other the years.

PM: He had a nice sound.

CT: Oh, he's a good player, yeah. And if you're going to write something about us, by all means, try and get some stuff in about the players, because that's something that gets overlooked.

PM: Well, yeah, we ought to talk about the players, then.

CT: Yeah.

PM: Because what I'll do, really, we'll do this interview, and I'll run it as it was. I'll trim it up some. Say whatever we say about the players.


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