Written by: Lauren Vukicevich
The Travis Larson Band released their 6th album on July 12, 2013. It has been 15 years since Travis Larson, Jennifer Young, and Dale Moon put out their first album, and they are still going strong! “Shift” once again reveals the band’s versatility and true talent as rock musicians. While on tour in Ohio, Music Motive instructor and Travis Larson Band drummer, Dale Moon, kindly took the time to answer a few of my questions.
What was your favorite part of creating the new Travis Larson Band album “Shift”?
There were a couple of songs that weren’t overly worked-out before we recorded… we wanted the final product to be spontaneous and immediate, so we were leaving things to chance and hoping we would have a good day in the studio. You can’t really plan on chemistry, so it was a little nerve-racking. It went great, though, and it was a relief when those songs turned out well.
What was the inspiration behind Shift?
The motivating force behind all of our albums is to keep getting new music out there for our fans to enjoy, and and to keep the pressure on ourselves to keep creating. That probably seems like a politically correct answer, but it’s really true! As for the album title, that came about because we had a whole concept in place and ready to go, and then realized that another artist in our genre had a similarly titled album! So our bass player, Jennifer, who does the graphic design, came up with the title “Shift,” because she had to come up with a new concept, title, and art in about a week… and it was a big Shift.
How do you and the other members of the band collaborate on writing songs?
Our collaboration process is that Travis, who writes all of the songs, will make a rough demo recording of a song and give everybody the digital file. The melody and basic form of the song will be in place, along with a click track and some rough bass. Everybody records their ideas onto this, and emails the ideas to everybody else. Once in a while we’ll have a conference call to discuss the direction a song is taking, or to tell somebody that a particular part needs work. Travis keeps all of the progress in one master audio file, and pretty soon, it’s a song! Then we go in and record the parts for real.
How do you feel that you (and the band) have evolved since the release of the first album in 1998?
I think that the basic musical direction of the band has stayed pretty much the same, but we’ve evolved to be better at every aspect of it. We’re better as players, Travis’ songwriting has gotten more sophisticated and branched into some new areas, and the production has gotten better. It’s hard for us to notice because we’re close to it, but when I look back at the early records or live footage, I can see how far we’ve come.
As for myself specifically, I’ve developed a lot of techniques that I wouldn’t have developed if I was in a more commercial type of band. For example, I’ve always been into polyrhythms and metric modulation, but there’s just no place for that in most bands. I’ve had a perfect outlet to develop those types of concepts with TLB. I’ve also developed as a soloist while I’ve been in this band.
After having been in a successful band and even on tour, what do you think is the most important thing to teach your students?
Great question. For drummers, the most important things we can bring to a band, BY FAR, is good TIME and good FEEL (translation: find people to jam with, and practice with a metronome!) In lessons, we’re usually learning different styles and techniques, but I remind people to use a metronome while practicing, because it really comes down to doing it at home. When people see my band, it might seem like it’s all about technique and tricky time signatures, but it’s STILL all about time and feel. For drummers, EVERYTHING is about time and feel!
And then there’s the Big Picture: Once you’re playing at a pro level, the most important things are non-musical, and it comes down to working hard, being easy to work with, and treating people with respect. I have met some truly great players who don’t work because nobody wants to ride in a van with them.
What kind of effect does touring have on your life, and how does it influence the band?
Touring affects every aspect of my life. It affects me emotionally (sometimes it’s lonely, and sometimes it’s great); it affects me financially (for good and bad), it affects the kinds of relationships I can sustain, the way I eat, and how much I can exercise. Touring’s not for everybody, but if the lifestyle suits you, it’s amazing.
What was your proudest moment as a member of the Travis Larson Band?
Appearing on record with Victor Wooten, and then later with Steve Lukather, were both high points for me. But to be honest, just being part of a band like TLB, where everyone works so hard and plays at such a high level, is really gratifying. Being proud of who I’m playing with on a night-to-night basis really keeps me going.
TLB will be playing in downtown San Luis Obispo on September 5th at Frog and Peach, so bring your friends and come enjoy some rock and roll!
Check out the new album “Shift” on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/shift/id673586037.
Find out more about the Travis Larson band on their website: http://www.travislarsonband.com.