Days of the New
Some people play music because they want to; some play music because they have to. There is a singular, intangible quality separating the two. You can hear that x-factor resounding loud and clear throughout the self-titled debut album from Days of the New, a quartet invested with a passion and vision far beyond their years.
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"I can't really remember a time in my life when I wasn't playing, writing or working on something to do with my music," says Travis Meeks, the 17-year old frontman of the Louisville KY-based band. "I've always lived music 24-hours a day and never really cared about much else. Sometimes that was a problem, but it's turned out to be a blessing."
On the dozen songs that make up Day Of the New, Meeks pours his darkly introspective lyrics over sinuous melodies possessing both evocative beauty and anthemic power. This combination is partly why Scott Litt decided to make Days Of The New the first band signed to and produced for Outpost Recordings, the label he founded in early 1996.
"Not only did I hear something in the songs, I felt something special from the first time I sat down with the guys and their families," says Litt. "It's the first time in a long time I could really believe music and passion were the entire reason they were doing what they were doing. This isn't one of those run-of-the-mill music business stories."
While many of Travis' compositions are plainspoken (folks who know him well know the exact location of the "Shelf In The Room" described in the albums opening track), he's equally adept at weaving strands of fantasy into a compelling narrative, as evidenced by cuts like "Whimsical" and "Freak." "A lot of those songs were based on a vibe I was in at one time, where I thought no one would listen to a single thing I said, Travis explains. "My head wasn't totally together and I was in a lot of pain - these songs were my only escape."
This unfettered emotion comes across in both the singer's highly charged delivery - occasionally reminiscent of kindred spirits like Jim Morrison or Eddie Vedder - and the dynamic playing of his bandmates. Though it is rooted in the interplay of acoustic guitars, Days of the New's sound is seldom temperate: As Litt notes, "These guys play aggressively - like they think they're playing electric guitars.
Having spent their formative years in working-class Charlestown, Ind., Travis, bassist Jesse Vest and drummer Matt Taul grew up faster than most, developing a resolute maturity heard in their music. The three hooked up with guitarist Todd Whitener after moving to the more musically sympathetic environs of Louisville. Whitener's intricate leads provided a fitting counterpoint to Travis' intense lyrical journeys.
"We've always wanted to do stuff that was really wild, stuff that pushed people's imaginations," say Travis. "But it's not like we go out of our way to be weird or anything - I think people can relate to our songs." Judging from the band's reception at their first show, in Louisville - a town known for its demanding audiences - this is indeed the case. Days of the New didn't take long to develop a reputation as one of the must-see bands in town, eventually going on to win a regional Battle of the Bands contest at a gig that sealed Litt's conviction to bring them to Outpost.
Once ensconced in the studio - Day Of The New was recorded at Nashville's Woodland Studios in late October and early November 1996 -- Days of the New and Litt quickly found a groove that enabled them to preserve the raw impulse characterizing songs like "What's Left For Me?" and "Touch, Peel and Stand."
"People always ask me how a 17-year-old can write the kind of things I do, and I never really have an answer for that," confesses Travis. "I can only write from deep inside, about things that have happened to me, things that haunt me. You change in some ways as you grow older, but what's inside never really changes at all."
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