Here’s a couple minutes from the Catbirds recent show at Herring Cove beach in Provincetown a couple weeks ago (great venue, by the way, and the Philharmonic will be back to wrap up their series of concerts on the beach on Aug. 27), videotaped by Brian Tarcy, who also included some kind words (thanks, Brian!) on capecodwave.com
By Scott McLellan, Globe Correspondent – December 06, 2012
At the moment, Chandler Travis is a member of the Catbirds, the Chandler Travis Three-O, the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, and the Incredible Casuals.
“I’d be fine with one band,” Travis concedes in an interview from his Eastham home. “But it’d have to be a really restless band.”
Still a prolific songwriter, Travis creates songs that range from roaring garage rock to pretty chamber pop to mutant big-band compositions to Christmas songs. This year he released “Catbirds Say Yeah” with the Catbirds, “This Is What Bears Look Like Underwater” with the Three-O (a quartet, no less), and is gearing up for three stagings of his annual Christmas Cavalcade concerts, which will bring in the Philharmonic and many of Travis’s musical allies.
Travis calls himself a human monkey wrench in the sense that he is happy gumming up the system and defying expectations. He knows that can be counterintuitive from a business standpoint — releasing two very different albums so close together was probably not helpful to either project he says — but artistically, Travis is just following the lead of the people who inspired him.
“It’s like Dylan coming up with a whole new voice for a record,” Travis says. “Or Paul McCartney. You listen to ‘Lady Madonna’ and you go, where’d that guy come from?”
‘I love Christmasmusic. I’m just fascinated by a holiday not only with its own music, but one that is so aggressive about it.’
Travis first gained notice in the ’70s playing with Steve Shook in Travis, Shook and the Club Wow before forming the Incredible Casuals in 1980. The Casuals became a Cape Cod institution, performing every Sunday for 32 years at the Beachcomber in Wellfleet, where the band delivered a good-humored blend of primal rock ’n’ roll spiced with R&B. The Casuals no longer hit the Beachcomber every Sunday, but instead show up there about four times a season amid other gigs.
Travis says he piled up songs that didn’t fit well with the Casuals, and those paved the way to the Philharmonic’s configuration with horns, keys, and mandocello. Of course, the sprawl of the Philharmonic posed its own problems, especially in finding venues big enough for the nine-piece band. A few years ago, when offers came for some smaller gigs, the Three-O was born with Travis setting up a band with the Philharmonic’s bassist John Clark, multi-instrumentalist Berke Mc-Kelvey, and singer Fred Boak.
Around the time the Three-O came into shape, Travis also cooked up the Catbirds, a band that makes a glorious racket of jittery rock ’n’ roll of the sort teenagers make after hearing “My Generation” for the first time. Except in this case, these “teens” have a few decades of solid work under their belts, with Steve Wood playing unbridled electric guitar, Philharmonic cohort Dinty Child switching between guitar, mandocello, and accordion, Rikki Bates on drums, and Travis on bass.
“This is a band where I get to play like I did when I started playing,” says Bates, who first started working with Travis 35 years ago in Travis, Shook and the Club Wow and carried on into the Casuals, the Philharmonic, and now the Catbirds. “I like to hit the drums hard.” (No kidding; Bates busted a bass drum during a recent Catbirds show at Johnny D’s.)
Bates also likes the breadth of work Travis presents. With the Catbirds, Bates drums in the moment, maybe tossing in an extra half-beat that triggers a response from the guitar and so on; in the Philharmonic, it’s all about nailing the precision and nuance of the songs.
Boak, who went from diehard Casuals fan, to band’s merch guy (“I was at all of the shows anyway”) to Travis’s “valet” in the Philharmonic, to eventually becoming a full-fledged Three-O singer, echoed a point also made by Bates: Travis makes sure to tend to the details in his songs.
Chandler Travis leading the Catbirds in a recent set at Johnny D’s in Somerville.
“Chandler can do all of these interesting chord things and have a good hook,” Boak says. “He understands the concept of the hook.”
And Travis takes the hook wherever it needs to go.
“I love Christmas music,” he says, noting his four albums of holiday music and 26 years of annual compilations he’s made for friends. “I’m just fascinated by a holiday not only with its own music, but one that is so aggressive about it.”
And the Christmas Cavalcades are Travis’s showcase for all that is good about the seasonal songs, especially those that capture the opposing forces of joy and despair unleashed in December.
The 8th or 9th Annual Christmas Cavalcade to Benefit the Homeless happens Dec. 13 at Johnny D’s in Somerville and features the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, Livingston Taylor, Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents, Barrence Whitfield, Jennifer Kimball, Vance Gilbert, the Catbirds, Ray Mason, Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers, the Jessica Schroeder Dancer, Miriam, Shaun Wortis, Bird Mancini, Aaron Spade, Kami Lyle, the Darlings, the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band, the Philharmonic Trombone Shout Band, and the Athol Thingerth. All proceeds from the show will go to the Somerville Homeless Coalition.
The Cavalcade then stops into the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater on Dec. 15 and presents the Three-O, Sarah Swain and the Swain Sisters, Christine Rathbun, Fred Magee, Robertchez, and the Trees.
The second Cape Cod Christmas Cavalcade happens Dec. 16 at the Jailhouse Tavern in Orleans and features the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, the Ticks, Siobhan Magnus, the Rip-It-Ups, Tripping Lily, Bruce Maclean, Kate & Tad from Sidewalk Driver, the Catbirds, Steve Shook, Christine Rathbun, Fred Fried, Carla Kihlstedt & Matthias Bossi, Jay Cournoyer, Sarah Burrill, Sarah Swain & the Swain Sisters, Kami Lyle, Lydia Parkington, Stephen Russell, Toast & Jam, and the Athol Thingerth. Both of the Cape shows benefit the Noah Shelter of Hyannis.
No matter which Cavalcade you hit, count on hearing nothing but Christmas tunes — some originals, some vintage, some out of left field (there’s usually a lot of dibs on Robert Earl Keene’s “Merry Christmas From the Family”).
Then after the holiday, Travis will likely get back to feeding his bands.
“I write whatever pops into my head. I may wake up with something and just write it down, not sure where it’s going to go,” he says. “I love the process. They just float into my head.”
Chandler Travis is a bit of a madman. Fans of the Chandler Travis Philharmonic know this already. His e-mails pushing the Catbirds’ album release party for “Catbirds Say Yeah” — at Johnny D’s on Nov. 1st — are part poetry, part philosophy, part genius screed: in one he joked about not needed a press photo because the band was old and ugly. But I can’t hold that against the Catbirds. How could I? “Red Red” is so good.
One of the choice cuts off “Catbirds Say Yeah,” “Red Red” (listen or buy here) has the same raw thump as early Los Lobos, mid-period Replacements and late Blasters. These are all meant as complements. That Steve Wood guitar tone is wicked cool — also digging the punk of “Leaving Here,” sludge of “The Crutch of Music” and drunk bar blues of “All I Wanna Know Is.”
If you’re looking to wake up with your ears ringing and mouth dry after too many Slumbrews, this is a great show to see.
The details: Thursday, Nov. 1 – Catbirds with special guests Kangaroo Court plus cameo appearances from Sal Baglio (the Stompers), Shaun Wortis, Frank Rowe (the Classic Ruins), and Kimon Kirk at Johnny D’s (17 Holland St., Davis Sq., Somerville, 617 776-2004), 8pm.
By RACHAEL DEVANEY
Eastham native Chandler Travis has been creating bands and original music for years. But he says his latest project — the Catbirds — is a band that allows him to play his rock ‘n’ roll “louder and rougher” than ever before.
A CD release party for “Catbirds Say Yeah” will be held Friday at The Beachcomber in Wellfleet; Travis calls the venue the perfect place “to make a loud racket.”
“Its getting hard to find a place to blast on the Cape,” Travis says in a phone interview. “There are so many bars that are really restaurants … and our music just isn’t designed to be played at low volume.”
The band, formed in 2010, is composed of Travis on bass, baritone guitar and vox; Rikki Bates, dubbed “the drummer in a dress”; Dinty Child on drums, guitar, mandocello, accordion and vox; and Steve Wood on guitar and vox. All of the band members have played in Travis’ other bands — The Casuals, Chandler Travis Philharmonic and Chandler Three-O. But Travis says Catbird members wanted to use R&B and rock ‘n’ roll to “fight the war on boring” and get their fans “moving again.”
“We wanted to play real music and something different,” Travis says. “We all have different bands that we are doing, but the Catbirds scratch the same itch for all of us — and that’s noise — and I need that itch scratched every now and then.”
So with that goal in mind, the quartet converged and in 2011 released the EP “Viborate.” Travis says the recording sessions for the EP amounted to enough material for their current album release.
“We had all four guys in the studio blasting away. I think we recorded 20 songs in two days. We play with voracity (throughout the album) and people dig it, and we just love the music on that album.”
With back-to-back shows during the summer season and an upcoming performance and CD release party at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, Travis says the Catbirds will “be under foot constantly” during the fall music season — locally and beyond.
“The climate is different, and it’s tough for noisy bands, but we will persevere; we usually do,” he says. “The Catbirds is ‘Dig in and rock’ pretty much, and it’s fun doing that — we just love the music and we are all music life-ers you know?”
If you go:
Who: The Catbirds.
When: 10 p.m. Friday.
Where: The Beachcomber, 1120 Cahoon Hollow Road, Wellfleet.
Tickets: $10. Information: 508-349-6055 or www.thebeachcomber.com.
Two Incredible Casuals (Rikki Bates and Chandler Travis), one Greenhead (Steve Wood, also a charter member of the Freeze) and one Dinty Child (also of Session Americana and the Chandler Travis Philharmonic) make up the Catbirds, who present their first recorded collision with the “Viborate” EP, an urgent message from Those Who Still Rock. The quartet spent two days in a studio last November and cut more songs than they could reasonably fit on one album, so consider this the appetizer for the main course, which will follow in the fall.