Days of the New
Days of the New
Days of the New
Days of the New is the tale of a man, not a band. Though Travis Meeks surrounded himself with talented musicians, he always made it clear that he was the boss. In his short career he never had a problem cutting ties abruptly so he could pursue his goals in his own way. "But the thing is [the other Days of the New members] weren't really a band," Meek told Rolling Stone after he dissolved the band. "They were just the musicians that happened to be there at the right time. When I was being looked at by record companies, we just kinda got thrown together. It was like the record companies said: 'Travis, you need a band.' So it was like, 'Well, I know these guys I used to play with.'" With a brazen attitude and the talent to back it up, Meeks has had a career of astonishing highs and painful lows.
Travis Shane Meeks, born on April 27, 1979, in Jeffersonville, Indiana, grew up listening to the sounds of Nine Inch Nails, Pantera, and Guns 'n Roses. He struggled to make friends in school and always felt like an outcast. He had a number of learning disabilities that only made life more difficult. But Meeks found peace listening to his favorite music. The grunge scene made sense to him and he had a hunger to write songs that soon became overwhelming. He didn't know much about music but his instinct was to just start trying and to hang out with musicians.
Meeks traces the roots of Days of the New to a night he spent walking his neighborhood streets. As he strolled, guitar in hand, he composed a song called "Freak" and immediately knew it was the beginning of his career. The lyrics, which expressed his self-image so well, felt right to the 17 year old. With a clarity and purpose that exceeded his years he set out to make music with a band.
In 1995 Meeks hooked up with Jesse Vest and Matt Taul in Louisville, Kentucky, and they started up Dead Reckoning. When they were introduced to Todd Whitener, he was impressed with the front man and joined up. Together they formed Days of the New. They focused on acoustic music—a bit of a departure from the hot music of the time—but the sound of the band was still heavily influenced by the grunge style then sweeping the country. Days of the New performed in a local contest and caught the eye of R.E.M. producer Scott Litt, who not only heard good music—he saw a natural performer in Meeks and immediately signed the band to his Outpost label.
Days of the New released "Touch, Peel and Stand," the first single from its self-titled debut in 1997. The song caught on immediately nationwide. MTV picked up the video that highlighted Meeks's good looks and captivating voice. The other band members didn't mind—they knew he was a star in the making. "Touch, Peel and Stand" shot to number one on the Billboard rock chart and stayed there for a record 17 weeks. Two more singles were released as follow-ups: "Shelf in the Room" and "Downtown." Both hit the Billboard top 40 as well, cementing the band in the national music scene. Their first album sold 1.5 million copies worldwide and gave them the kind of exposure that landed them a slot in a Metallica tour in the summer of 1998. Meeks, always keeping his eye on where he wanted to go, convinced Litt to fund a recording studio for him in Louisville. Litt, knowing Meeks could make good use of it, fronted half a million dollars and Distillery Studio was born.
Rumors surrounded the band as they toured. Word from stage hands and assistants was that there were serious tensions between band members. Meeks often complained about his bandmates to interviewers, leading the press to brand him a prima donna. Fans wanted to know what was going on behind the scenes, but they would not get a clear answer from Meeks. He would go from blasting his band to lauding them in a single breath. Once he even went so far as to announce that the band was done. The label stepped in and clarified that Meeks tended to run off at the mouth. Indeed, the band was "broken up" twice before they finally separated.
When all four band members walked out onto a stage in Florida with black eyes, bandages, and even a broken jaw there was little doubt left about the gossip's veracity: the band was in trouble. Though they continued to tour for a while longer, the journey ended when Meeks thanked the guys and hopped a bus for home without telling anyone he was leaving. Days of the New, or what was left of it, had to cancel their remaining gigs.
The three other band members had seen it coming. Meeks had been claiming for quite awhile that Days of the New was never a band, it was just him and others who were along for the ride. In response to the escalating tension, the three others had started to lay their own tracks. When the other shoe dropped and they were let go, they had good material to fall back on. They started a new band called Tantric and went on to release a platinum album of their own.
Meeks, for his part, locked himself away in his new studio, insisting he needed to do everything himself. Litt, still his producer, didn't see Meeks for weeks at a time, but whenever Meeks emerged, he did so with great new material. Days of the New's sophisticated second CD, Days of the New 2 (also known as the "Green Album") was released in August of 1999. Meeks had brought in some studio help, including drummer Ray Rizzo. The new band realized they were most likely in it for the short term, but everyone was pleased with the results. Even critics acknowledged Meeks's talent and branded him an artist in transition, just beginning to find a unique voice. The CD didn't sell well but Meeks, undeterred, went on tour to give his fans a taste of his full repertoire. Once the album's sales began to fall he went back into isolation in his studio to work on a third album.
In June of 2001 recording for Days of the New 3 (known as the "Red Album") was complete and Meeks and Litt asked producer Ron Aniello to put some finishing touches on the material. Once again the album met with critical success and decent, if not outstanding, sales. Meeks was an oddity in the music world—people were almost as hungry to hear the latest gossip about his behavior as they were to hear his new work.
Indeed, Meeks was having a rough time. He seemed to be on top of his game but behind the anger and unpredictable behavior was a drug problem. He hid himself away for weeks at a time in his home and studio, riffing and experimenting. The material he came up with was good enough to get concerned friends and partners off his back. To them, he was a genius in seclusion, who just needed his space. But the fact was that Meeks needed help. It was only when he contemplated suicide that he picked up the phone and called his label for help. He wasn't a one-man band any longer, now he was just alone.
For the Record …
Members include Mike Huettig , bass; Travis Meeks (born on April 27, 1979, in Jeffersonville, IN), vocals; Chuck Mingis , guitar; Ray Rizzo , drums; Matt Taul , drums; Jesse Vest , bass; Todd Whitener , guitar.
Group formed in Louisville, KY, c. 1995; released debut album Days of the New, 1997; single "Touch, Peel and Stand" hits number one on Billboard rock chart; Meeks performed "The End" with remaining members of the Doors for VH1, 1998; released Days of the New 2, 1999; three of four members leave band to form Tantric, 1999; released Days of the New 3, 2001.
Addresses: Management— Larry Mazer Entertainment Services Unlimited, Main St. Plaza, Ste. 303, Voorhees, NJ 08043.
Meeks went into rehab in Pasadena, California, to treat his addiction to methamphetamine. He also admitted to doing cocaine and crack cocaine. It was a difficult month-long stay that, in the end, seemed to do the trick. When asked by Rolling Stone about what he learned in the hospital, he responded, "Unlearn. Unlearn that hate. Because I came out with hate. On that first record, I was very pissed off, and then my second record was just like, 'No, I'm a perfectionist,' and the third album was like, 'Help, help!'"
Meeks has kept a low profile as he works on Days of the New's fourth album, tentatively called Purple. He's moved on to another label and plays solo gigs at smaller venues to stay grounded and to experiment with new material. "I've done a lot of things and I'm just living now," he told Rolling Stone. "I'm trying to have a good time … I'm learning how to go with my flaws. Walk with my flaws, instead of being so judgmental about myself all the time."
Days of the New, Outpost, 1997.
Days of the New 2, Outpost, 1999.
Days of the New 3, Universal, 2001.
Billboard, November 1997; September 1999.
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, January 2004.
Rolling Stone, January 1998; November 1998; February 1999; September 1999; June 30, 2003.
Teen, August 1997.
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"Days of the New Continue to Confuse," MTV Online, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1427904/19980825/story.jhtml (March 7, 2004).
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"Days of the New's Travis Meeks Tells Fans He's Dropping Bandmates," MTV Online, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1427905/19980623/story.jhtml (March 7, 2004).
Days of the New
DAYS OF THE NEW
Members: Mike Huettig, bass (born 29 June 1968); Travis Meeks, lead vocals, guitar (born Jeffersonville, Indiana, 27 April 1979); Ray Rizzo, drums (born 19 February 1971). Former members: Chuck Mingis, guitar, vocals (born Louisville, Kentucky, 14 February 1967); Matt Taul, drums (born Jeffersonville, Indiana, 30 August 1978); Jesse Vest, bass (born Jeffersonville, Indiana, 10 May 1977); Todd Whitener, guitar (born Louisville, Kentucky, 25 May 1978).
Best-selling album since 1990: Days of the New (1997)
Hit songs since 1990: "Touch, Peel and Stand," "Shelf in the Room," "The Down Town"
Days of the New is an ongoing musical exploration by the guitarist, singer, and songwriter Travis Meeks. The group began as an alternative-rock quartet in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1997. Although the group scored several hits from their debut eponymous album, Meeks parted company with the other three members after their first prolonged tour. For subsequent albums, Meeks experimented with different guest vocalists and utilized different instruments, from lush string orchestrations and studio effects to Celtic singing and Native American chants.
In its first incarnation Days of the New was signed to Outpost Records and released their first album in 1997. All of their albums are eponymous and distinguishable only by color. The Orange album received favorable reviews and the influence of such alternative pioneers as Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains was duly noted. The first song to be released, "Touch, Peel and Stand," received generous airplay and reached number one on Billboard 's Mainstream Rock chart. This song displays their musical economy, with the guitar and bass doubling parts of the melodic line. "Shelf in the Room" is a dark ballad with a pervasive guitar riff and a claustrophobic melodic line that is almost absurd in its simplicity. "The Down Town" reveals a larger harmonic palate and provides a moment of respite from the one-dimensional sound of their first album.
During a tour with Metallica and Jerry Cantrell, frustrations within the band began to escalate. Meeks eventually left the band, and the remaining three members reformulated themselves as Carbon-14 (subsequently, Tantric). Meeks retained the band's moniker and returned to Louisville, immediately working on a second album. The Green album (1999) reveals a completely different approach, with varied harmonic progressions and an expanded instrumental sound. Meeks embellishes his hard-rock aesthetic with string and brass orchestrations, textural doublings, and Celtic sounds. The songs overlap the track designations, providing a certain continuity. "I Think" keeps the Metallica-influenced sound of early Days of the New, with its pounding introduction and screaming chorus. "Last One" is an epic song, drawing on the sounds of American Indian chants and the tabla, while "Bring Yourself" begins with an organ and multitracked female voices in a pseudo-Celtic style. Occasionally self-indulgent and sophomoric, Green exhibits an ambitious approach to hard rock production techniques and songwriting.
With the third album, Red (2001), Meeks struck a balance between the first two albums. Working as a trio with Mike Huettig and Ray Rizzo, Meeks penned straightforward rock songs with a renewed energy. The opening track, "Hang on to This," shows a varied melodic line with a memorable chorus: "Cause I'm doin' what I got to, what I got to hang on." The experimentation found in the Green album is evident in the sitar introduction of "Giving In" and the vast orchestrations of "Dirty Road" and "Dancing in the Wind."
The driving force behind Days of the New is undoubtedly the singer and songwriter Travis Meeks. His penchant for experimentation has revealed a creative force deeply rooted in a hard rock aesthetic. Although the Orange album strove too hard for a singular sound and the Green album overindulged in studio effects, Days of the New seem to be negotiating a natural balance between these two approaches.
Days of the New— Orange (Outpost Records, 1997); Days of the New—Green (Outpost Records, 1999); Days of the New—Red (Outpost Records, 2001).