Locals: WVWhite and its quiet frontman make a glorious noise

By Columbus Alive
From the October 3, 2013 edition

Though Tyler Travis described himself as an introvert — he said in high school he was the quiet kid who tended to keep his head down in the hallways — the WVWhite singer/guitarist never once felt uncomfortable taking the stage with his band.

“It has never really bothered me,” said Travis, 21, in a recent phone interview. “I liked my songs. I thought they were good enough. There’s a lot of garbage out there people really like, so why not give it a shot?”

It helped, of course, that the frontman grew up idolizing musicians; his father, a home improvement contractor, drummed for rowdy locals The Gunshy Ministers in the mid-’90s, and Travis regularly attended rock shows by bands like the Meat Puppets at places like The Summit, Cafe Bourbon Street and Carabar.

“My dad would call [the venues] when I was like 16 [and ask] ‘Is it cool if I bring my son?’ I thought I was hot s---,” Travis said. “He would always talk about how the Columbus music scene was so beautiful and how all the best bands were on Anyway Records.”

Fittingly, WVWhite will release its still untitled full-length debut (“I thought about calling it The White Album, but I haven’t run that by anybody else yet,” Travis said) this January on none other than Anyway, bringing the singer’s childhood dreams full circle.

As with the band’s debut EP, Enter: WVWhite, a hazy, guitar-laden effort that sounds like the work of a bunch of kids who grew up idolizing indie-rockers like Built to Spill (precisely because it was), Travis wrote many of the songs on the full-length as he struggled with depression and isolation.

“I wrote a lot of the new album … when I first started college [at Ohio Wesleyan University],” he said. “I felt like I didn’t make friends here because I was in a band and down in Columbus every weekend. When I’m going through a weird period [songwriting] comes more naturally.”

Even so, WVWhite songs tend to be far from autobiographical, and Travis has penned tunes inspired by everything from Henry Miller’s novel “Tropic of Capricorn” to a sculpture by British artist Marc Quinn of a pregnant Alison Lapper.

“[My songs] are 50-percent metaphor and 50-percent nonsense,” Travis said. “I’m very self-conscious of writing music that’s too personal. I write the songs, but I don’t want them to apply too much to me as an individual. I always want them to be WVWhite songs.”

Photo by Meghan Ralston