The Trav Cats

Once upon a time in a dark corner of ‘ampshire were a band of the most hard-drinking, womanising; music-making roughnecks who made a name for themselves touring around the music festivals of the South, emptying barrels of cider in their wake. Their music took influence from legends of the past combining Skiffle with Punk, adding a bit of Rockabilly along with some more modern styles. The band have made cracking tracks over the years that have become firm festival favourites, including the autobiographical “We’re Not A Band”; a good old fashioned howler of a tune “Wolfman Of The Ol’Bull Bush” and possibly the best drinking song this side of the Solent ‘Special Brew’

At the end of 2016 drummer “Crazy Uncle Gray G” gave the band notice that he was taking some time out to go travelling and it seemed like things were going to quieten down in the Trav Cat camp. The Cats started spreading their musical wings in other directions and Lee was kept busy feeding his chickens. Crazy Uncle Gray G (The Old Codger) was struck down with sciatic nerve issues before he could honour his last gigs, them Trav Cats had to think quick – and so, in steps drummer Liam Blundell, local friend and fan of the band. After learning 30 songs in the space of a one week and playing a blinding couple of shows, it was clear them cats weren’t going anywhere. Who needs that cowboy hat wearing Crazy Uncle Gray G anyway?!

With a new lease of purpose going into 2017, the Trav Cats knew some new music was needed to keep up their momentum. Also in that time band members Darrell Swainston, Chris Bravery and Liam all had babies due within 6 months of each other. (There’s something about the synchronicity of fertility with the men in that part of the world). Darrell found this very exciting and uncertain moment of first-time fatherhood intensely inspiring when coming to writing the new Trav Cat release. The emotional exercise definitely made the right connections within his brain, that had laid somewhat dormant since the last Trav Cat release.

The result of this reproductive cycle was a brand new 7 track EP called “Hornswoggled”, named after a word that Mark Hamill recently used to describe how he felt about the narrative treatment his Luke Skywalker character received in the recent Star Wars films. As you will hear the band have certainly not stood still, they have evolved and tried to push their boundaries in making new sounds and something very different from anything that they have created before.

The EP kicks off with a bit of Jaw Harp at the start of opening number “Joey Coconoah”; a rootsy blues number about a man who suffered an accident at work, couldnít pay his bills and very soon found himself in trouble with the law. The tune features the band’s typically infectious rhythms; as well as a guest vocal courtesy of an American friend James Weston from Noblesville, Indiana. They met this gravel-voiced bastion of cool while he was compËre for the Bredy Farm festivals in Burton Bradstock. It features a Louisiana Bayou feel to it and you can imagine this playing as you are sat on your rocking chair on the porch, overlooking the swamps while chomping on your crawfish stew.

The next tune “Michael Fish Hands” is a nod to the BBC weatherman and a ridiculous, gibberish metaphor about clairvoyant weather forecasters trying to predict our futures. Their forecast could just predict the doom and gloom bad weather would bring at a Summer festival or any event. The song has a really infectious feel to it with some nicely rolling Mandolin and some great vocal harmonies. “The Ballad Of Les Elvin” is pushing the envelope and really sounds nothing like this band have produced before. Some new sounds and textures; with a rockabilly percussion backbone, a tune that takes a few listens before it all really comes together. The lyrics are actually ripped from a Eulogy about the life and times of Local legend Les Elvin, written by one of his best mates Jim Worsley. Les Elvin also happens to be Lee Mellor, Trav Cat bassist’s step-Dad.

The Trav Cats

“Dissecting Frogs features some more Cajun influence; this time with a happy-sounding accordion, with the band trying to create a real carnival feel it. Darrell explains “the song is about coming of age, intimacy and vulnerability”. Though I also early on didnít want to explain too much about the song, with E.B Whiteís quote in mind ìexplaining a joke is like dissecting a frog”, you understand it better but the frog dies in the process.î On Track five Chris Bravery ably takes over on vocals as this tune delves head-on into a political debate; the song is short, punchy and to the point. It musically takes a strong influence from the distorted acoustic rumble of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “King of carrot flowers parts 2 & 3”.

One of the best offerings on this collection is “Carlito’s Burrito Challenge” and true Trav Cats fashion it has a large slice of humour at the heart of it. Darrell explains “I went on a stag do to 2000 Trees festival and beforehand the best man asked me if I could write a little song for the groom that I could perform in one of the open mic areas. Once it came to the festival the best man had forgotten all about it (no doubt alcohol had something to do with that) and I had totally chickened out on the idea. It wasnít quite ready so I picked it up again when I realised how suited it was to the Trav cats. So itís just an ode to a great friend, relating his thoughtful nature to the preparation of a delicious burrito.” It’s a toe-tapping classic and I’m sure it will become a live favourite at this Summer’s festivals.

For the final number, the Travs let their hair down with a radical Country reworking of Lady Ga Ga’s “Bad Romance”, stomping all over with their own individual skiffle style and yet more humour. This year the Trav Cats celebrate their tenth anniversary together and in that time they have more than anything else had so much fun playing together and making new friends wherever they go. While music is at the heart of what they do, the band is so much more than a band; they are an extended family. Anyone who buys a CD or puts on a t-Shirt is considered part of that extended family and are welcomed without any prejudice. The band here show they are happy to evolve, trying new styles and bringing in new influences to their songs. While it is nice to hear the band’s studio work, it’s so much better to get out and see them live as their unforgettable live shows bring so much more to their songs than you get on this EP.

Track Listing
Joey Coconoah
Michael Fish Hands
The Ballad of Lee Elvin
Dissecting Frogs
Food For Thought
Carlito’s Burrito
Bad Romance (Lady GaGa Cover)

The Trav Cats Are…
Darrell Swainston: Vocals, Guitar, Mandolin, Accordion
Chris Bravery: Vocals, Guitar, Banjo
Lee Mellor: Double Bass
Liam Blundell: Drums
Mike Wilson: Harmonica, Washboard
Phil Ramshaw: Washboard, Monkey Stick
Crazy Uncle Gray G: Percussion


Words & Picture by David Chinery (Chinners).

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to MySpace