Travis Stever is best known as guitarist and founding member of progressive titans Coheed And Cambria, but has recently he has teamed up with a veritable supergroup of post-hardcore musicians – including Frank Iero of My Chemical Romance, Tucker Rule and Tim Payne of Thursday, and Anthony Green of Circa Survive - to form the band L.S Dunes, who have just released their debut album Past Lives on Fantasy Records, which will be followed by a tour of UK venues in early 2023.
Playing a fiery brand of post-hardcore with an urgency that belies their years, the record is full of intense riffs, reverb drenched guitars and all capped off with Anthony Green's trademark croons and howls.
MusicRadar spoke to Travis from a hotel in Berlin where he was currently on tour with Coheed and Cambria. We talked about the upcoming L.S Dunes album, creative remote working as well as the 10 albums that changed his life and influenced his musical outlook.
L.S Dunes is something of a supergroup, featuring members of Thursday, My Chemical Romance and Circa Survive, as well as yourself. How did you all get together?
"Well, I had been in touch with Tucker (Rule, Drummer) about trying to do something for a while now. It kind of all began with me playing with Thursday for Signals V2, which was a livestream event that they did online.
"A lot of people will do that in bands, just pitch the idea of doing something together but never really get around to doing it. The idea started to become more and more serious, and he and Tim (Payne, bassist) were really itching to work on more music together outside of Thursday.
"It was my manager who basically connected the dots and told me that Frank (Iero, guitar) was open to it too. We already had an open dialogue, and were sending back and forth stupid texts and memes to each other and keeping it low pressure and low expectation.
"We set the standard early by agreeing that if the music we made didn't work, to not be upset, but what we had was undeniable. That spark was definitely there with the initial four of us."
What excites you and what inspires you about this project?
"I'm very excited by how much meat and sonic substance is in the record. I think it is a very full experience for the listener and I couldn't be more proud of it. I sent some riffs over which would become the song Antibodies, and within a matter of hours Tucker had drums, Tim had bass, Frank had guitar parts and it was amazing – the skeleton of a song was there in a matter of hours.
"Tim also sent some basslines before anything else which was a process I had never experienced before – all of us writing off off a bassline before anything else. There's a good majority of the songs on the record which started in this way, which is a really cool and interesting way to work.
"Once we'd determined that that spark was there with the initial four of us, we had to start thinking about who was going to sing on this record. Tucker actually tricked Anthony (Green, vocals). Those two had been in touch for some time about potentially working together, so Tucker sent him a version of Antibodies and claimed it was just some of his local friends and was hoping he would add some vocals to it. He did that and it became an actual song – and it was awesome, of course. Then he said that everyone who is in this band really wants Anthony to be the singer, and then he dropped the bomb and told him everyone who was actually in this band – and Anthony was like, 'Holy shit!'.
"When it became time to record the record, we got together in Frank's basement. We were actually only all together twice before we recorded the album which is kind of crazy.
"A lot of the music was born through text and email and Dropboxes and what have you, but once we all got together in a room and we were doing the pre-production, this felt like a band and not some online project. It was very organic with no expectation. Yes, it was born out of a need to be creative during the pandemic but it is so much more than just a pandemic project."
You recorded the record with Will Yip – How was it working with him and what did he bring from a production standpoint?
For me it was my first time working with Will, but I had to work from a distance because of the Covid restrictions that were going on at that point. Tucker and Frank went into Will's studio to record drums and guitars, but Tim and I still had to work remotely.
"From a distance, I got to hear what magic Will was bringing to it and work with him in that way. It was also really cool because working this way made me feel better about myself as a musician.
"Besides one or two songs, he basically just left the parts as they were. He re-amped stuff and played with sounds, but from a performance perspective the majority of it is just what I did. That's the case for everyone else too, and I think all of the work we did remotely through sending everything back and forth was a type of pre-production in itself.
"The real magic is in the way that Will works with Anthony, because those two have made so many records together before. These guys have a rhythm and work that well together."
You have UK tour scheduled for early next year, but how much are you planning ahead after this?
"It's too good to not want to keep feeding it in every way possible. Yes, everyone has their other commitments but from my perspective, I got to play on the two best records that were released this year – that's how I feel about it, and there's no way that I shouldn't be giving attention to everything equally because they're equally as awesome to me.
"For L.S Dunes, it's this whole other process. The way we write is like no other project i've done, it's such a collaborative and creative effort and this turned out so good not just musically but our friendships have also gotten closer because of it.
"I can't wait to do more shows with this band, so no, I definitely don't consider it a 'side project'. I want it to have equal attention. Is that hard to navigate for everyone? Sure. But we're all willing to do it."
Do you think that sometimes when there's less pressure and expectation on you, you produce music that is easier and less stressful to create?
"I do think that, but the more you get recognised the more pressure that comes as a result of that anyway. So in a way, pressure is a good thing. If there's absolutely no pressure, you kind of know that nobody gives a shit! [Laughs].
"Pressure and expectation can live on two separate islands. Expectation is your perception of it. If somebody has expectation of us that is not necessity, then we don't have to... I mean, I wanted to talk to you about this today because I'm so excited by it. And if I wasn't excited about it, then I wouldn't really want to do that. And you take the consequences of that. We did release it with a label – Fantasy Records have been backing this and I think it is a really different project for them. They have James Taylor and Gov't Mule and artists that I'm actually a big fan of, but are very different from what we are doing.
"I know many people will compare it to the bands that we are in, but it's very different than any of that. The aspects are there, and each one of us brings a certain sound that you can hear – Especailly Anthony, as his voice is so distinct, but I think he sings differently on this record compared to anything else he's done in his life, and it's beautiful. There's all this other stuff going on musically that is new for a lot of us, but also has that comforting sense of being able to tell that it is us.
"That comes with the expectation that we were talking about earlier. The expecation was not there to try and make it sound like something people might be expecting. We're not trying to make it sound like any of our bands, just the natural result of what would happen if we played and wrote together. Everything else, Fantasy and all that, came after we already had a whole record of material
"I think that's something I was looking for. It needs to have something else, and it helps with finding yourself a little more. I feel like I speak through music for the most part. My memories are built through music. It is only natural to crave having another narrative and more life, musically. I'm making things left and right constantly, but I was still surprised. That feeling of something being missing that has been found."
Do you think it helps keep Coheed fresh as well?
"Absolutely. It gives you more patience, and it's nothing but good for being in Coheed and for everything else that i'm doing."
Travis Stever: 10 albums that changed my life
1. Led Zeppelin – III (1970)
"When I was a kid, I would say that I became the biggest Led Zeppelin fanatic first. This just became the record that was so diverse and had such a switch up, with all of the acoustic elements.
"The Immigrant Song is definitely one of my favourite Zeppelin songs. I just gravitated towards this. A lot of the acoustic elements had Jimmy Page messing with pedal steel and lap steel guitars and I just loved all of the sounds that were created. Everyone has their favourite Zeppelin record and I usually end up settling on III."
Van Halen – Women And Children First (1980)
"I would never say that I can play guitar like Eddie Van Halen by any means, but his playing, and in fact the whole band itself was a huge influence on me. David Lee Roth's screech was one of my favourite things, and I remember trying to do his screech millions of times in life.
"The pizzazz, the personality, just everything about them was really influential to me. I wouldn't by any means call it under-appreciated, because Van Halen is Van Halen – all of their early records are rightfully known as classics – but it's definitely one of the least mentioned when discussing them.
"It has all these incredible riffs and songs. Songs like Loss Of Control are so good but would probably be considered what people call a deep cut but there's just this momentum to the record where you can tell that it was created maybe more organically than some of their other records – less produced, if you will.
"That's something that I became attached to. It felt more like one of those scenarios where they were just throwing a lot of paint at the wall, and I remember reading a description of how they made it and it wasn't one of those albums where they really went nuts with holing up and writing, and it felt a lot more raw by their standards.
"With 1984, which is an incredible record, there's all of these legendary stories of Eddie hiding the masters from Ted Templeman and stuff like that. With Women And Children First they were still such a young and hungry band so they weren't in their prime yet. Funnily enough, their prime seemed to bring all of the drama, which is something that seems to happen. You can definitely hear the hunger in this album."
3. Iron Maiden - Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988
Iron Maiden's album covers are always what made me so excited to listen to them when I was a kid. This album in particular is important to me because it has my favourite Maiden songs on it.
"The Evil That Men Do is one of my favourite Maiden songs. Coheed And Cambria actually had the luxury of being able to open for them on a tour of the US east coast and they were essentially performing the same setlist that they did in the '80s for this album. To me, it brought it all back around to solidify just how much I love that record. It was a departure for them at the time because it was stretching towards their proggier influences."
4. Deftones - Around the Fur (1997)
"I have many great memories from this record and the tour they did to support this record. It was the first time that I saw them perform live. It was actually my birthday and I was with Claudio (Sanchez, Coheed & Cambria vocalist / guitarist).
"I was turning 19, stood outside of Irving Plaza with my friends who all had tickets, and I was really bummed because I didn't have one – but luckily someone had an extra ticket and I was able to buy it off of them. Seeing the band live is what really gripped me, and for years after that Around The Fur was the soundtrack."
5. Neil Young – Decade (1977)
"My father was a singer-songwriter so I heard a lot of music through him, but I really came around to Neil Young's music on my own through finding both Decade and Harvest in my uncle's record collection when I was a kid.
"Decade is the one that made most of an impact because it's a compilation of some of his best songs, and it's the one that started me down the Neil Young rabbit hole. He's my favourite songwriter that I've ever come across."
6. Blind Melon – Soup
"This is an underrated record, but it has become a little more known in recent years. Unfortunately it is the record where Shannon (Hoon, vocalist) died during the touring cycle for it.
They didn't get appreciated enough for how much they stood out – or rather should have stood out – during that era. There was so much music going on at this time but this album was a big influence on me and Coheed, and is still an influence.
"Anthony [Green, L.S Dunes vocalist] and I have shared a love for this record – And there's a lot of aspects on the L.S Dunes record where I can hear Shannon in Anthony's voice. I always thought actually that he had a Shannon aspect to his voice, I don't think he's doing it intentionally but it's channelled there, and it shows how much of an influence he has been."
7. Midlake - The Trials Of Van Occupanther (2006)
"This is an early 2000s record that I just keep going back to. There's something about this record that i've always loved and I would tell people to check it out. That's about all there is to say about that!"
M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming (2011)
"M83 was something that I was turned onto by a drummer that Coheed had for some time – Chris Pennie. He mentioned their name one day and it was prior to them releasing this record. I had already dipped my toes into them, but it was this record which really blew my mind.
"All of these records we are discussing, I constantly go back to and revisit – but this one especially. There was a hit song on it called Midnight City which was basically on every commercial ever at the time, and it's one of those songs that you know is great because you never get tired of hearing it."
9. Sunny Day Real Estate – How it Feels To Be Something On (1998)
"That's just an incredible record, and I think it influenced most of the people I know. Every time I listen to that record, I return to being 20 years old. Again, that's all there is to say about this! Everything that can he said has been said."
10 Faith No More – Angel Dust (1992)
"Faith No More was a band that I had already liked at a younger age, but I was in my grandmother's kitchen doing some work for her – Claudio was there with me and he had brought a couple of cassettes over for us to listen to while we worked. He put on Angel Dust, and I was hooked.
"It just became this constant for years to come. The good bands that came around in that era, I think they were all influenced by the finer side of Faith No More. You can throw in those Faith No More albums, some Bad Brains, some earlier punk and hardcore that really mattered, and you get bands like Deftones – but I think it all started with Faith No More."
- Past Lives is out now on Fantasy Records. For more info visit L.S Dunes