Piebald's Travis Shettel: A Conversation with An Accidental Gentlemen
The dance between melody and melancholy is often at the forefront of Piebalds offerings, a band that has travelled the waters from hardcore ‘94 to turn of the century indie quite gracefully.
With a string of releases showcasing the songwriting talents of Travis Shettel and his contributors, they encapsulated the honest longing and disruptive distortion breaks with a sound thats influence can still be felt in the landscape of guitar driven rock.
Taking a bow in 2008, the band went separate ways for a eight years with Travis pursuing other musical projects. They found their way back for a reunion tour in 2016 and are still currently racking up highway miles.
One of the most intriguing things about Travis writing style is his love of wordplay, the tongue and cheek with a wink mixed with the diary style observations of a traditional singer songwriter. There’s power in the balance.
GPBH: Wordplay seems to have always been an important part of your lyrics and song titles, do you feel humor is used as a mask or an opening for topics that may be uncomfortable? And why?
Travis: I guess I'd say that it's both. I've never been into music that takes itself so seriously that there isn't a laugh here or there. And I also think uncomfortable topics are more easily discussed with a good dash of humor. Why do we chose that path? Because we don't take ourselves to seriously and there is a lot of discomfort in this world.
GPBH: Piebald got to participate in this years BostonCalling festival, was this something the 1995 version of yourself would have ever thought possible? What was that experience like for you?
Travis: I definitely did not imagine us playing a festival like that 23 years after our inception. I had no idea that the response would be so positive for the 'bald playing reunion shows. Playing BC was incredible. Couldn't believe the sea of faces.
GPBH: I first became familiar with you through the 1996 split 7” with Cave In, which at the time, was an interesting contrast to experience. I always felt that your writing lent itself to more of an anthemic style compared to some of the other bands associated with the MA scene, that record helped showcase the difference. Is there an approach to your writing that you feel has changed over the years? Upon going back to rehearse some of the older material for these reunion tours were there any songs that you found challenging to reconnect with?
Travis: I think we just got more experienced at song writing; for better or for worse. I know sometimes when we know too much or have too much experience, the raw immediacy can get pushed to the side or somehow forgotten. Our older songs definitely were less fluid and more all over the place, but I know that for some, that is their favorite Piebald. Lots of songs we're challenging to relearn, especially the oldest and the newest. I think it's because over the course of us really being a band, the newest and the oldest songs were the ones we played the least, so they are the ones that are least connected to our muscle memories. But I really don't know what I am talking about.
GPBH: Back in 2007 my friend Shon and I toured in a van that was converted to run on vegetable oil inspired by (and I believe configured by) Piebald. Have you guys resurrected the veggie bus for these tours? Back then it seemed everyone was singing the financial praises of the veggie conversions. In your opinion, what are some ways that current bands can help offset expenses to make touring more feasible?
Travis: We did not resurrect the vegetable oil vehicle for these tours. We had two vehicles like that over the years, but we don't even own a van anymore. We just rent when we are hitting the road. I am not really sure how to make touring more feasible. It is not easy to do. I guess vegetable oil as fuel is one way. If you have friends and don't have to stay in hotel rooms everywhere that also helps. I suppose if you didn't eat anything you'd save money, too.
GPBH: What attracts you the most to a piece of music, is it a sound or a feeling?
Travis: Both. When you can be whisked away by the vibe of a song, that is magic. And when that guitar hits and at sounds like a sweet punch in the face, that is also magic.
GPBH: Finally, what three albums by other artists should someone who is just learning about you listen to for a better understanding of your material?
Braid 'Frame and Canvas'
Superchunk 'Here's Where the Strings Come In'
Fugazi 'Red Medicine'
I'd say these three albums have had the most profound affect on our way of creating music. I "stole" more bits and pieces and ideas from these three albums than I would like to admit.
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