Prove your humanity

We teed up with Levi Mellington, one half of the Ballarat two-piece Travalley, to discuss their punchy new single, developing their sound, and the chilli-eating marathon of a music video they made just in time for lockdown.

How are you going in these crazy times?

Not too bad. We had a whole east coast tour booked but that got cancelled. That was for November. We’ve gotten to the point now where we were going to do a fair few regional shows because I think it would be easier to sort them out. Rather than going to Melbourne and playing to 50 people, you can go home and whatever the laws are there it would be easier to actually have a decent show and not worry about being heavily restricted there.

So, what reaction have you had to your latest single, Dear Babe?

We’ve had a fair bit of people getting around it, which is awesome. We’ve had Tone Deaf, Pile Rats, Music Feeds all do a review on it which is great because they’re probably some of the three biggest music blogs in Australia. It’s going to get on Rage, which is pretty insane to think we’re just a local band who’s going to get on Rage. We’re hearing back from a few radio stations as well.

Set the scene for us, what’s the ideal setting for listening to the track?

Just driving in your car, going down the highway or something. It’s quite an upbeat song but I don’t really see it as a super punky song. A lot of people have been categorising it into that field where it’s super upbeat, but I feel you can just relax to it. You can just sit there and chill, which is nice. The other thing would probably be to listen to it just before you go out, as a pump-up song.

The music video for the song is pretty intense, where you and your brother, Sam (drums, vocals), munch on a bunch of chillies. Can you talk us through where the idea for the music video came from?

We sat down one day and just thought, what is something stupid that we’d be able to catch peoples’ attention? I always used to watch the Dune Rats and DZ [Deathrays] film clips of where they just smoke heaps of bongs and drink lots of spirits straight. So, I just thought it would be a pretty funny thing to get involved with what they’re doing and keep that culture going. There hasn’t been a band that’s done that in quite a while. We just thought, what’s the best way that we can do this without it obviously being illegal, and we thought we’d just eat chillies the entire time. During it, it wasn’t as hard as we thought it was going to be. It was more after that was the painful bit.

Yeah, ‘cause you guys are tearing up and getting milk poured all over you!

Sam face-dived into the chilli. He’s an idiot for doing that. I was more in pain the next few days after. I was sweating chilli for the next few days.

Would you do it again?

Ah, probably not. No. It was horrible. My stomach is a still a bit stuffed from it. It’s gotten to the point where it’s enough.

What’s the story behind the song?

It’s just my inability to not say the right thing at the right time. I just put it more into perspective of the flirting situation. A lot of people find it hard to say the right thing or they can find the right thing to say, but as soon as you’re put in that position, you end up just loosing exactly what you want to say or you want to sound really cool but it never comes out that way. It’s a pretty simple meaning and it’s just something different I haven’t sung about. I generally sing about loving life and I was just like, “nah I’m going to sing about something that’s a bit sillier” and a lot of people will be able to look at that and go, “yeah that’s happened to me before”.

Tell us about your writing and recording process.

So, I wrote everything on this really shit guitar that I have. I left it in my car when it was like 40 degrees and it pretty much broke from the heat. It’s changed the format of the guitar, so every time I restring it, it snaps the high E string. It’s got five strings on it, it sounds absolutely shit. But I always write stuff on that because if it sounds good on it, it’ll sound good anywhere.

Is that the guitar that you actually used to record the track with?

Nah, I record through a Strat. I obviously play the bass and the guitar and everything, so we always split those two things up, and then we just add little adlibs in or whatever we want to put in it to make it a little bit fuller for the recording. But this one was written, recorded and put out in about a month, so it was super quick. Before we knew it, it was already out.

You did this all in lockdown?

Just before we went into lockdown. The video that we did was two days before they said you can’t go out, so we got in the perfect time.

What’s your setup like?

Most of our stuff is pretty big and punchy. We try to make it as big as possible to try and fill the gaps. With the actual transfer from the recording to the live setting, we’ve got a separate pickup called a Submarine pickup. What that does is you put that behind the strings and it’s got six coils, so you turn whatever ones you want off. So, I can plug it into an amp, and it can just play one string, which is exactly what you want as a two-piece because you want to have a separate output rather than having it joint. It’s great for us because when you play live, it’ll pick up the one string and then I’ll put that over an octave pedal and then it goes to the bass amp. It’s like we actually have a bass player playing along, but it’s just whatever I play. It’s a really clear signal, which I’ve found generally replicates what we’re playing when we record stuff.

Speaking of live performances, I know you can’t go to live gigs at the moment, but you did an Instagram Live gig to launch the single. What was it like performing in front of a virtual crowd?

It was weird. It was very awkward. You’d finish and people would just wave at you. I think the biggest thing was no reaction. It’s really hard, because if you’re just sitting in your room playing guitar, you’re not expecting anything but when there are 30 or 40 people, you can see them. They don’t do anything; it’s just a bit strange. We ended up being idiots the entire time and didn’t pay attention to what people were saying. We just ran it on our own accord and looked at what people were saying at the end.

The Travalley sound is quite akin to some big indie-rock bands in Australia like Hockey Dad and Skegss. Do you have any artists that inspire you and do you have a dream collaboration?

I’ve always listened to The Jungle Giants and Last Dinosaurs growing up. I’ve got a lot of the chord progressions and shapes from The Jungle Giants. Obviously being a two-piece, we took a lot of inspo from Hockey Dad because they have that exact same situation as us. You have to make everything quite riff-based to make it sound good unless you have an amazing voice, but then you have to make everything a bit less full-on. So, we thought we’d go the first avenue where we’d make all this up-beat stuff and have the vocals sitting behind the mix. It is really hard to put a finger on who has given us the most inspo. As soon as you sit down and start writing stuff, that’s where it all comes out. You take little grasps from everyone and put it together. Then, you find your style, which I don’t think we have. It’s going to be an interesting choice to see where our style goes, but we’re just evolving as much as we can which I think a good band always does.


Dear Babe is out now.