Travis Hayes

Travis Hayes is not a new name in the San Francisco music community. Many know him from his run as the booker at Thee Parkside, or maybe for his new gig setting up shows at Neck of the Woods, an Inner Richmond venue that he’s helped resurrect from its Rockit Room days. With the release of his debut album, Young Daze, he will, for the first time on a full-length record, expose his singer/songwriter core, the fuel behind his career on the business side of the music industry.

“I’ve always wanted to do music,” explains Travis. “Music’s always been my first passion, but I knew it would take a little while to catch up to where I wanted to be.”

He continues, “Knowing that what you want to do is so far above you sometimes, you have to just keep trying at it, because you’re going to put out a lot of shit before you get to the point where its like ‘I have arrived,’ so I feel like I knew it would take me a little while to get to that point. Now I feel like I’ve gotten closer to that point so I’m starting to put my own music out.” Hayes has since built his life and career around music, not only working on his own material but also integrating himself into San Francisco’s music community through booking shows.

As he honed his songwriting style, he kept himself busy in the ways that many 18 years olds do. “In the meantime, I needed to go to college, choose a profession, and figure out what I was going to do with my life,” Hayes recalls.

“So, I decided to put on shows. I like bands and my friends are in a lot of bands so I’ll put shows together, so it just sort of came together. I’m an organized person, so taking care of putting bills together and taking care of this or that for bands who aren’t always…,” he trails off and laughs. “It’s hard enough to even plan band practice and get that stuff together in addition to the business side of things.”

Eight years later, after moving to San Francisco, graduating from USF, and making a name for himself as the talent buyer of Thee Parkside and now Neck of the Woods, Hayes is ready to release his first full-length album, Young Daze, and we are proud to premiere it right here on The Bay Bridged.

Engineered and co-produced by Bozho Lasich at his own home studio, the record encapsulates Hayes’ history in ways beyond its lyrical content. “Some friends of mine and I, we got together and found an engineer on Craigslist from SAE, the recording institute,” he begins. “We went in for a weekend to work with him and we did this fun little song, the four of us. We went in and did a song and I remained friends with the engineer

[Lasich]. We did a couple of demos since then, because I wanted to have a few demos for the first time I went out to South by Southwest. We’d be working together since he was in school, and coming out of it he was building a studio in his house, and I said. ‘I want to do this record with you,’ and it kind of gave him fuel, motivation to finish the studio.”

A month into recording, and after laying down bass and drum tracks at Fault Line Studio, Hayes moved the project to Lasich’s completed home studio. “We worked everything in stages,” remembers Hayes. “This is the first full-length he’s ever done, and it’s the first real full-length at I’ve ever done so it was cool to work with someone who’s also trying to figure it out. He co-produced the album and also engineered and recorded the whole album.”

Featuring Matt Cline on bass and backup vocals, as well as Nathan Blaustone, who creates music under his own moniker BLAUS, on drums and keys, the record also includes a short snippet from singer Emily Whitehurst. While she is featured prominently on Hayes’ 2013 single “Warm Bodies”, Whitehurst makes only a brief appearance on Young Daze, taking a single line from the beginning lines of “Take Me Home”, though Hayes assures, “We’re doing a lot more stuff now that’s going to be on the next thing.”

On Young Daze, Hayes bridges his affinity for folk composition with the honest, uncensored lyrics and distinctive inflection of the music of his youth, embracing the post-hardcore, emo, and pop punk that he devoured during his formative years and transforming it into a modern tapestry that people in their mid-twenties to early-thirties will immediately understand on both a sonic and thematic level.

“It’s a whole storyline,” he explains. “Or rather, several story lines that culminate to the overarching theme. For me, cut and dry, it’s essentially the coming of age in San Francisco that I experienced. You grow up and you have this adolescence period of being at home and kind of like ‘I hate mom and dad!’ or ‘school sucks,’ or ‘this small town is whatever’ and you kind of have the initial coming of age, but I feel like few people talk about your adult life coming of age, which is when you’re finally on your own, the first time you move away from everything you know. So this album is the culmination of figuring it out once I moved to San Francisco. It’s the second part of my life when it felt like I was doing everything over again almost — love, romance, life in general, trying to sort the trials and tribulations to figuring shit out in a new place. San Francisco bares a lot of that.”

While not overtly present in his lyrics, the city is reflected clearly in the album art: An image of the Golden Gate Bridge, shrouded in fog and shot from the drivers perspective, while the reverse side is a photo of the empty rear of a MUNI bus. “The record is very much San Francisco centric without namedropping a bunch of San Francisco things,” says Hayes. “It has that weight and feeling to everything. San Francisco’s this beautiful place, but living in it, it’s a very real place too. You can get caught up in the Peter Pan syndrome,” he laughs. “The ‘Forever Young,’ sort of thing. The album touches on that a bit too. You’re going through all these things even in your twenties, and then in your thirties that might seem like things you went through in high school. That’s why I ended up calling it Young Daze. And it ends with ‘Teen Haze’ which is the end all, where you can finally say goodbye to that part of your life and move on to the next.”

He explains, “Initially I wanted to call the entire thing Young Daze, Teen Haze, but that was too long so I made those two songs bookends to the whole album.”

The accessibility, and to an extent the isolation, in his lyrics is a natural occurrence for Hayes, who prides himself as a songwriter and storyteller above all else. “When I started playing music I never wanted to spend six hours in my bedroom learning how to play the coolest guitar solo ever,” he describes. “I wanted to learn how to play four chords and write a song and tell a story. So my whole thing is that I’m not the most talented player in the world, I’m not reinventing the wheel by any means, but I take pride in being able to tell a story. I want it to be personal to myself but also engaged with someone else. All the songs are very personal but I want people to relate to them. Though, I don’t go out of my way to try to make it that way.”

He concedes, “I’ve attempted to be in the cool, hip San Francisco band, and I’ve tried that route and it just — you can only do what you do. So once I owned up to that, I accepted that I write very direct, honest, heartfelt music, and this is what it is.”

Embracing his intrinsic, candid style and foregoing the fickle trends of the day and age, Hayes releases Young Daze with the hope that his music and narratives resonate within the constantly shifting musical landscape. “I want my music to last for a long time. I’d rather, instead of writing for what’s cool and hip and trendy now, I’d rather write the songs that I write and hope that I still like them in ten years. Because I have songs that I wrote ten years ago that I actually still don’t hate. I mean I have a lot that I hate,” he laughs. “But I feel like this album, I’ll still like it in ten years, I’ll still like it in twenty years. I’ll probably want to change bunch of things but as I progress I feel good about that. If I feel that way, hopefully other people will feel that way.”

That idea of progress, of constantly moving forward, is for Hayes, one of the most exciting things about music. He explains, “I think maybe why I like music so much is that there’s always a new thing. You’ll never top out. There will always be another thing, whether its another guitar chord to learn or some business aspect, some online thing, some Facebook or Twitter thing. Something! It’s never-ending. I don’t see an end in sight. It’s just going to last forever. In my mind it’s going to last forever. For me when I was 15 or 16 I picked up a guitar I knew this is it, this is what I want to do. So everything I’ve done from that point on has been towards music in one shape, form, or another. So that’s why I’ve learned to do some business side stuff on top of the playing and writing end of it.

He is fully confident he will land somewhere in the music world: “I’ll probably be an 80-year-old guy with some divey bar with music in the back room or something like that. And I’ll be happy.”

Though he has bigger aspirations for where he’d like to see his own music. “Deli Radio premiered ‘Bath Salts’ and the guy who wrote it said that when they inevitably do the remake of Can’t Hardly Wait, I hope Travis Hayes will be on the soundtrack,” he laughs, before continuing without a trace of irony in his voice. “And that was the best thing! Another review said my music would be really good in a romantic comedy and that was funny because I love romantic comedies.”

He did, after all, name the instrumental intro of his album “Song from a Movie”, and it’s tailor-made for the grand gesture/reunion/triumph climax that all romantic comedies have in common. “It’s a guilty pleasure of mine but it was funny to see two different sources say that,” he says, joking. “I will have arrived, once I’m in a romantic comedy. A romantic comedy with John Cusack or something. That will be it.”

Hayes celebrates the release of Young Daze this Friday, July 11, at Bottom of the Hill just before heading out on a short tour. Bring a date, your best friend, John Cusack or just someone you care about, and let Hayes transport you into your very own movie.

Before The Brave, Travis Hayes, Trebuchet, Christian Lee Hutson
Bottom of the Hill
July 11, 2014
9pm, $10

Travis Hayes Tour Dates:
07/17 – Pismo Beach, CA – Shell Cafe
07/18 – Los Angeles, CA – Hotel Cafe
07/19 – Las Vegas, NV – Gold Spike
07/20 – San Diego, CA – Sycamore Den