Travis vocalist Fran Healy really hoped to lay low and blend in. He moved his family to Berlin, temporarily put his band on hiatus after blitzkrieg touring behind its sixth recording in 2008, and set aside songwriting to become more involved in his son Clay’s life.
He even competed in a 10K relay race to raise money for junior’s grade school.
“I had a leg injury, so it was like a scene from ‘Saving Private Ryan’ at the finish line,” he recalls. “So the past two years have been great, just hanging out with my son, being a father, and getting my hands dirty for the good of a normal life.”
But anonymity has eluded the secretive Scot. One of his son’s teachers recognized the rocker and asked him to write a new anthem for the school because it was changing its name, says Healy, who brings a newly reunited Travis to town this week. “So that kind of put me on the spot, and I was like ‘Oh, f—!’ But I said yes, and I wound up writing this really, really nice song for the school.”
Healy, 40, recorded the track, called “Berlin Bilingual,” and got German musician Herbert Gronemeyer to play piano and Pavement’s Steve Malkmus to play bass on it. He says, “Now it’s the official school song, and all the children sing it. It used to be that if people wanted to get something from the school, they could just buy T-shirts and this and that. But now they can get an amazing CD featuring a superstar band!”
And Travis has a great new record, “Where You Stand,” which recaptures the iridescent textural majesty of the quartet’s Britpop-“The Man Who” heyday.
Healy once composed everything. This time, credits are divided between him, guitarist Andy Dunlop and bassist Dougie Payne, who is also in family mode; he and actress wife Kelly MacDonald just had a baby.
Mortality is a recurring theme on “Stand,” as in Healy’s toe-tapping “Reminder,” which considers his own death. “It’s about not being here for Clay, and leaving a Ten Commandments list of rules for him to follow, so he’ll be OK,” he says. “And if he hears this song when I’m gone, maybe he’ll remember me by it.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Regency Ballroom, 130 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $35 to $38