As the queen of thump, the goddess of thunder, the sista of 60Hz, Abby Travis has traveled a musical journey that has rumbled across the musical spectrum. After building herself quite the 30-year career as the go-to badass session/touring bassist in town, she’s now fronting her latest revelation, Sumo Princess.
Travis has thumped alongside the Go-Go’s, KMFDM, Eagles of Death Metal, Masters of Reality, The Bangles, Beck, Elastica and, yes, even Cher. Her partner in din, Gene Trautman, has a similarly impressive CV, having pounded skins for the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal, Mark Lanegan and the Miracle Workers.
Together the duo blast forth an unholy racket that surely must register over at Caltech’s Seismological Laboratory. Best described as some sort of deconstructed gonzo jazz stoner metal, Sumo Princess is Frank Zappa copulating with Motorhead and then birthing unidentical twins named White Stripes and Ornette Coleman. None of it makes any sense, which is, of course, why it does. Having been hired guns for so long, this project allows Travis and Trautman to flex their muscles without restraint, hence the unconventional song structures. Their lyrics are playful on the surface, and wryly political underneath.
Let’s discuss Travis’ amps for a moment. The ordnance in question are Travis’ dual Ampeg SVT heads atop massive SVT 8×10 cabinets. The Department of Defense may want to consider weaponizing them. To be honest, they’re quite terrifying. You can “feel” them rearranging your organs. Somewhere in the afterlife, Lemmy is smiling approvingly.
And when you’ve worked with as many people as Travis has, well, why not use those connections? Her podcast Sounds Off with Abby Travis has featured guest luminaries such as Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Exene Cervanka (X), Alice Bag, Norwood Fisher (Fishbone), Monique Powell (Save Ferris) and more. (Another preeminent bassist, Mike Watt, interviewed Travis for his show as well.)
Directed by Steve Carter, the video for their latest single “Kali Ma” invokes the Hindu goddess Kali. The playful puppetry by Emily Connell conveys joy, but Travis explains that there is a deeper message, “It’s my view that humankind is hurtling towards an inevitable tipping point of destruction / renewal. There is an awakening chaos form of the feminine. See it macro in the effects of climate change and micro in the rising tide of feminism in response to the tightening patriarchal stranglehold. Kali energy is the trigger. She is action and transformation. On a lighter note, who wouldn’t want a four-armed drummer?”
Their full-length debut, “When an Electric Storm,” came out on May 8 (vinyl on Ruined Vibes).