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It is a very rare occurrence when one is afforded the opportunity to correspond with one of their heroes. Luckily, for me these events are beginning to occur with startling regularity. To wit, I was recently gifted the pleasure of interviewing one of my all-time favorite guitarists, who is rapidly evolving into one of my apex songwriters as well. Travis Stever, amongst other things, is the guitarist for a little-known group called Coheed and Cambria. You will see that this site is littered with reviews of their material, so I certainly need digress no further in stating that I’m both familiar with and fascinated by Travis’ talents.
 
Today, however, we’ll be discussing his most-recent work with his current side-project, Davenport Cabinet. (If you’d like to hear my thoughts on the band’s latest release, you can read my review here) Their folk-influenced, harmony-laden 2013 release, Our Machine, is easily the group’s strongest album to date… and we decided to probe Travis’ brain for a little further insight into its creation and his future plans for the band.
 
Travis Stevers Editorial Portrait
 

AmpKicker: Good day, Travis! Just wanted to take a moment to thank you for making some time to speak with us today— it is thoroughly appreciated! We’ll get started by having you introduce yourself to the uninitiated amongst our readers.
 
 
My name is Travis Stever. I play guitar in the band Coheed and Cambria and I am a multi-instrumentalist/vocalist in Davenport Cabinet.
 
How did this current incarnation of Davenport coagulate? How did everyone meet?
 
 
Well, other than Rory Hohenberger playing drums on some songs and a couple of friends guesting on a few songs Davenport Cabinet was a lone venture. Our Machine began that way 3 years ago. I had a group of songs: some had Rory playing drums and some I played drums on just as before. At the time I was working on stuff with my cousin Tyler, and he had put background vocals on a song I released on an EP. In working with him I realized how much the material benefited from the collaboration beyond just Rory and me. So, with that, Tyler became a permanent fixture in the Cabinet.

I also always had some friends and family guest on a few songs. I play drums on a couple of songs on the album, but for the most part I relied on Rory’s playing to add something new to the music as well. That way, when trying to take the project live, it would be easier for him to recreate the feel because he created it in first place.
 
 
I’m a rabid Coheed fan, and I absolutely loved the Afterman albums. For you to produce a record with Our Machine that stands on equal footing is quite a feat. How long had you been working on this particular group of songs?
 
 
Thank you. That is a huge compliment. Some songs are much newer. Some are 3 years old. A lot are still on a hard drive at home. A few were added as extras to the digital and vinyl versions, but the bulk of the actual songs that are on the album itself differ from song to song with the time-frame. I liked the way they fit. It’s a journey into the past few years of our lives.
 
 
Tell us a bit about the formulation of Our Machine. Are there any aspects of recording the album that were particularly memorable for you? Are there any instruments/elements you wanted to include that aren’t typically in your wheelhouse?
 
 
One song that has an interesting approach is, “Black Dirt Burden.” It started with the banjo part that is in the intro and that banjo part comes in-and-out of the song. Usually most of the songs will start that way— with an interesting riff, and I build on it.
 
“Sister Servant,” was built off a drum beat I was experimenting with. I cut the drums and then recorded the guitar and bass to it. I actually had a verse fully-built and a chorus that was only drums. Then Tyler came along and put a perfect riff down for a chorus and then came up with the vocals: an interesting approach. A song like, “Our Machine,” went the old simple way. I wrote the verse and chorus with an acoustic—vocals and everything— recorded it, and added everything else after. Tyler added a beautiful bridge vocal melody as well. There are a few that were that easy and organic. It differs from song to song.
 
Travis+Stever
You certainly receive a fair share of accolades and fanfare from your work with Coheed— what is the most fulfilling aspect of having another project like Davenport Cabinet?
 
 
It’s a place for me to experiment and stretch musically. In Coheed I speak through my guitar. In Davenport I speak through whatever the fuck I want –haha.
 
I feel like there is a distinct difference between the tone and timbre of your voice on this effort versus the English Panther album and earlier Davenport efforts. Do you feel you’re becoming more comfortable as a vocalist at this point?
 
Absolutely. I feel like I really cared about it this time as well. Singing a lot more has made me much more comfortable. Working with Tyler and his incredible voice also helped me to be better.
 
Not to mention working with an amazing vocalist like Claudio all these years… I have learned many things.
 
 
There are definite semblances of sound between Davenport and Coheed, but the differences are definitive. What aspects of your personal style do you feel you exorcise in this material that you don’t normally incorporate into a Coheed record?
 
 
A big part of it are the folky aspects of my playing that I don’t explore as much in Coheed. It has come out in there at times, but it’s very dominant in this project. There are a lot of finger picking techniques that I wouldn’t usually use in Coheed, and of course I stretch out and use whatever instrument I get my hands on.
 
 
I know that you are currently touring in support of Descension … do you have plans for a Davenport tour at some point?
 
 
We have gotten together with friends who play on the record and created a band that can play live. We had a few rehearsals and it went well. When I get home we will practice more. So, yeah, I look forward to doing shows.
 
 
Are there any individuals you’ve met through touring or circumstance who you’ve yet to work with that you’d like to involve in future Davenport records?
Travis Stevers Editorial Portrait
 
Everyone! haha
 
And now for the James Lipton portion of the interview: 
 
Do you have a Desert-Island Top-Five albums (or Artists)?
 
 

The CureThe Head on the Door
 
Leonard CohenSongs
 
Neil YoungHarvest
 
Chuck Stever (my dad)— For the Children
 
Jane’s Addiction—  Nothing’s Shocking (new meaning to Up the Beach haha)

 
 
What single song has the highest play-count in your music library?
(Check your Mp3 player, iTunes, etc. or plead the 5th if it involves Jessica Simpson or Olivia Newton John and John Travolta)
 
 
“Sailing” – Christopher Cross
 
 
What is the best live show you have ever attended?
 
 
Neil Young with Booker T and the M.G.’s… the openers were Soundgarden and Blind Melon.
 
 
Any artist living or dead you would like to collaborate with (could be recording, tour, or write with)?
 
 
Joe Walsh.
 
 
And that, sir, concludes the interview. Thank you again for taking the time to speak with us— I, for one, am eagerly anticipating hearing what you get up to in the future! Keep cranking out the hits, sir!
 
 
Thanks so much – see you soon.

 

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