After the demise of Britpop and its ensuing hangover, guitar-led music in the UK was in the doldrums.
Dance music was in the ascendant and indie-rock was receding back into the margins it had occupied before the likes of Oasis and Blur dominated the charts.
It was into this uncertain world that Scottish four-piece Travis emerged. Their 1997 debut Good Feeling had snuck into the top 10 and combined with hard touring, had given them a solid foundation to build on.
But the sound for their second album, The Man Who, was a marked departure from its predecessor's rockier sound. Its lead single, the heartfelt Writing To Reach You established the tone for what was to come.
And when the album came out in May 1999, the band were obviously proud of it, but there was very little sign that it would go on to become the defining album of their career.
'It was very much a slow build,' recalls bassist Dougie Payne. 'When we put the record out, we knew it was different, we knew it wasn’t another rock record – it wasn’t a rock record, it had a different atmosphere.
'It had a kind of magnetism to it, so we were quite excited, to the point where when we knew the reviews were coming out, we got all of the magazines and all of the papers and we took them round to [frontman] Frannie’s house. They were in a big pile and we started going through them, and it got an absolute slagging from absolutely everybody, across the board, it got a total pasting, We were just shocked. We thought, what are going to do now?
'We thought we’ll just get out and play and see what happens.'
By Dougie's admittance, after a few weeks the album was 'sliding down the charts, it was disappearing.'
Fortunately radio started to get behind the singles, and their appearance at that year's Glastonbury has become the stuff of festival legend. During their middle-of-the-bill set on the Other Stage, as they began to sing the then-new song, Why Does It Always Rain On Me? the heavens opened on the previously sunny event.
'By the time we played V Festival a couple of months later it was number one,' says Dougie, still sounding a little bemused by how things panned out.
The album eventually spent 11 weeks at number one and has sold more than 2.5m copies in the UK alone – it remains in the UK's top 50 best-selling albums. Ivor Novello and Brit Awards followed. It arguably paved the way for other mega-selling acts like Keane and Coldplay and they returned triumphant to Glastonbury in 2000 where they headlined The Pyramid Stage.
While Travis have gone on to further success, do they ever feel this album has cast a shadow on their subsequent releases?
'I don't think it's cast a shadow. It’s a big record and it’s nice to have a big record. Our next album, The Invisible Band I think ended up being bigger elsewhere. But it’s nice to have those records that enter people’s consciousness and stay in people’s hearts and minds, that’s a really lovely thing to have, to be part of the fabric of people’s lives.
'I know what it’s like to have those records that define a moment or make you think of people or places where you were at the time. It’s a bit of a privilege.'
Now this month, in the first of two legs, the band is going to be playing the album in full, including a headlining spot in The Big Tent, closing this year's Isle of Wight Festival on Sunday, June 24. They start the second leg on December 12 at Portsmouth Guildhall.
How have the band felt, looking again so closely at The Man Who?
'We probably still play more than half of it in the set, but there are songs, like Last Laugh Of The Laughter which we only played on the first run of Man Who dates, so they haven’t been played since '99, maybe 2000.
'[Album track] She’s So Strange, I don’t think we had ever played live until we started doing the shows last year – we did two last year in Blackheath and Manchester – just as a trial, to see if the whole album would work in a live context. It was interesting, but the most interesting thing was the effect it had on the rest of the set. After playing for 20 years or so, you get your traditional set closers and traditional encores – you get a familiar arc, but with playing The Man Who, basically 90 per cent of our set closers were gone by song seven.
'So we were like, "Oh, crikey!" But what that did, it made us do two things – it made us reevaluate our back catalogue, and it also made us reevaluate our big songs, songs like Turn, Driftwood, Why Does It Always Rain…, it turned them back into just another song in the set – as they were when they written, before they became ubiquitous and were on the radio every five minutes. It was really nice, because it made those songs feel different, and like they should, you know? They’re back to being "just" songs.
'It’s been really nice. After doing the two shows last year, it was like, right this is going to work – it’s not just an exercise in nostalgia, it’s actually interesting for us, and it’s a record that works as a whole. I hadn’t listened to the record in full, pretty much since we’d made it, if I’m honest.'
They're also looking forward to return to the Isle of Wight. They headlined the main stage in 2005 as last minute replacements when former Smiths frontman Morrissey dropped out.
'It’s a great festival to play. We played there when Roxy Music were playing, we stepped in when Morrissey wasn't playing – we did a great version of [his song] Everyday Is Like Sunday that night, that was fun. We’re looking forward to coming back to this one.'
And the group has started looking ahead to album number nine, the follow-up to 2016's Everything At Once.
'We’ve started talking about it for sure. The way that it tends to work now is that when we get together to rehearse for shows we’ll play each other demos of wee things we’ve been working on, and that’s working out quite nicely. It’s like I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.
'We’ll do this first block of shows, then we’ve got the autumn clear when we’ll hopefully go into the studio, and then we’ll go back out in winter and hopefully have some new material by then.'
Isle of Wight Festival takes place at Seaclose Park from June 21-24. Kasabian, Depeche Mode and Killers headline the main stage. Friday tickets are £65, Saturday or Sunday £75, and £209 for the weekend. Go to isleofwightfestival.com.