Parenthood and life on the road shape the patient, promise-filled 'Travelogues'
At its core, Travelogues, the new album from Doc Robinson, a rock-soul quintet anchored by duo Nick D'Andrea and Jon Elliott, is overwhelmingly optimistic — a collection of battered road songs in which the pair sings of hope even in those moments when rising waves threaten to capsize the boat, as they do on the album-opening “Lighthouse.” (Even playing in a landlocked band, the two songwriters have continued to display an affinity for nautical language.)
D'Andrea attributes this, in part, to some element of positive affirmation — “You're almost willing yourself to feel it,” he said — as well as to the fact that both he and Elliott are parents to young children, and it's difficult to raise kids and not at least attempt to see promise in the world to which you've brought them.
“With (2017 album) Deep End, our first daughter was coming at the end of that, and we had babies in the studio all the time, and it was the same thing with this record,” D'Andrea said. “With [the song] ‘Next Time Around,' that was definitely directly connected to parenthood, thinking about the imprint you leave on the people you loved. When you die … what do you leave your kids with?”
“The substance of this record is so much different from the other two albums,” said Elliott, who will join D'Andrea and bandmates Aaron Bishara, Jeff Bass, Terrance Farmer and George Barrie, who also co-produced the new album, in a record release show at Ace of Cups on Saturday, April 20. “There are songs about leaving home, and being away, and changing.”
“It's pinning down the kind of person you want to be when you get back [from tour],” D'Andrea said, chiming in. “You have all this time on the road to reflect, and a lot of times it's like, ‘I want to get home so I can start that process of being the person that I want to be.'”
Other songs, on first glimpse, appear to touch on life as a working musician, be it on good days (“We're caught inside a dream,” the band sings on the swooning “Shoreline”) or on those days when carrying on can feel like more of a struggle. It's difficult to listen to “Wild Beauty,” for instance, which Elliott described as a straightforward love song, and not pick up undercurrents of, not quite resignation, but perhaps a growing acceptance that maybe those brighter stage lights aren't to come, and that maybe that's OK, too.
“If nothing ever comes of this,” the band sings, “I'm glad the love I felt exists. And I'm just glad that you're alive.”
“You go through that endless feeling of anticipation, especially when you're in the music business, mostly because of conversations you have at Thanksgiving where your uncle is like, ‘How is everything?'” D'Andrea said.
“Do you still do music full-time?” Elliott added.
Continuing Doc Robinson's musical evolution, Travelogues is a more spacious, patient effort. Rather than throwing every instrument at a track, as the pair has in the past, some are minimal, songs like “Shoreline” opening with little more than soft-stepping guitar and Elliott's beachside vocals before blossoming midway through.
“Thinking about Deep End, we put so many instruments on so many different songs, which is cool in theory … but how much does it really add to the song?” D'Andrea said. “Sometimes what really makes a great player is knowing what not to play.”