One night three years ago, a young singer-songwriter named Travis Hayes hit the stage at Amnesia to try out some new songs he’d been working on. Hayes was about to record his debut solo album, Young Daze, and was still perfecting the warm introspection and soul-searching that would ultimately shape the record.
In the crowd that night was an already established and well-loved figure in Bay Area music. Emily Whitehurst — one-time singer of North Bay pop-punkers Tsunami Bomb and current frontwoman of Survival Guide — approached Hayes after his acoustic set and suggested the two collaborate. Whitehurst ended up on Hayes’ 2013 debut single, “Warm Bodies,” but the two were so enamored with working together they began regularly sharing a stage.
Further recordings became an inevitability and now the pair performs together as part of Travis Hayes & The Young Daze, a band Hayes describes as “an ever growing and evolving project,” thanks to its “rotating cast of Bay Area musicians.” The beating heart of the band, of course, is Hayes and Whitehurst.
“We’ve learned so much from each other,” 27-year-old Hayes enthuses. “We’ve found a nice space where we can take a vocal idea and really bring it to life. I tend to write the initial melody line and Emily creates amazing harmonies. And the full-band sound has been really well received.
On March 28, Travis Hayes & The Young Daze played to a packed house at Doc’s Lab to celebrate the release of Love Songs, a heartfelt EP of acoustic folk-pop that Hayes originally wrote as private gifts for loved ones — “Kate’s Song” for his girlfriend; “Megan’s Song” and “Night Swimming” for his best friend’s wedding.
“Somewhere along the line it made sense to share these songs with everyone,” Hayes explains. “But I also really wanted to capture what Emily and I have been spending the last year or so working on together. Songwriting and storytelling has always been cathartic for me.”
The new tracks proved popular at this year’s South By Southwest Festival in Austin, where the quintet was repeatedly offered extra shows after its performances. Now Hayes and Whitehurst are excited to start working up enough new material for a full album.
“Truthfully,” Hayes says, “everything’s been said before — but no one is telling the story like we tell it, because it’s our own. That’s the beauty of art. And we’re ready to do it all. . . I hope folks can warm up to that idea, ’cause we’re not going anywhere anytime soon.”