Local Guitarist Travis Prillaman Is Too Cool for School

Travis rocking out at Crescent Ballroom.
Travis rocking out at Crescent Ballroom. Luxicon Photography
In Pound for the Sound, Phoenix New Times gets technical with local music community members about what "gear" they use to create their signature "tones" in our community.

Travis Prillaman, guitarist for Ali and the Agency, is a proud son of Rocky Mount, Virginia, situated in the "Moonshine Capital of the World," Franklin County. While growing up in Virginia, he learned to play music by picking up an acoustic guitar his dad had lying around the house all the time. His two uncles also taught him the ropes, one showing him blues and bluegrass, the other helping him master '80s heavy metal techniques. Eventually while he was in high school, he got a "real" guitar teacher for a few years and really started digging into everything.

As time went on, Travis began playing in bands. He joined the Agency in high school, but took a hiatus once college rolled around. There, he helped form Marley Thorn, in which his cousin played drums and played bass. After graduating, he decided it was onto browner pastures, and in 2011, he made the drive to Phoenix with two "very freaked out" cats. Prillaman moved to Arizona with the intention of completing the audio engineer program at CRAS (Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences), but after setting down roots in 2015, he decided to return his financial aid and postpone classes at CRAS to avoid going into debt. He reconnected with Ali Adkins, lead singer of the Agency, and now lives the dream of playing guitar in his own band.

Travis also has a passion for young people and their connection with music. He currently works at Perry Library in Gilbert, where he runs a free music and story time program for ages 2 to 5. He also spends his extra time away from work and the Agency performing and recording with Chrome Rhino and Black Water.

Prillaman, and the rest of Ali A and the Agency, have a special performance coming up at Rogue Bar this Saturday, August 25. New Times was able to squeeze some words in with Travis about his gear, his kids classes, and the band's upcoming show.

Phoenix New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone?

I try and keep it pretty simple with my setup, so I think that might be my secret weapon. I love pedals, but they can also be somewhat mischievous and wreak havoc if they decide they don’t want to play that day. I pretty much only use one pedal reliably (Ibanez Tube Screamer) for solos, but I do have a Cry Baby Wah-Wah, a TC Electronic Reverb Pedal, and a Digitech digital delay pedal. I’m going to be using some of these for some new Agency songs which I’m excited about. I pretty much always use a standard Strat when playing and run it through a 180W Tube Fender Hot Rod Deluxe which has a really nice built-in reverb as well. That amp actually might be my secret weapon; I love how it makes the clean tones still have some bite. I recently replaced my factory pickups on my Strat with Lace noiseless pickups and I’m digging it.

click to enlarge
Travis's pedal board.
Travis Prillaman

What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?

I love the Tube Screamer. I usually kick it on when I need a boost for a solo or some extra power. It gives solos such a thick tone.

Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?

I played bass for years in a band from Virginia called the Post-Apocalyptic Blues Band. I’m obsessed with the Beatles, and Paul McCartney’s bass-playing blows my mind, so I bought a $200 Rogue Violin Bass when I was first starting to play. I think that might be the best instrument I’ve ever owned. It had such a great, deep, thick sound but also had some great treble. I loved that bass. I never had a case for it, so it was super-gnarly, had stickers and blood and all kinds of other fun things on it. Unfortunately, it was stolen a few years ago and I haven’t worked up the nerve to pick up a new one.

We just listened to your track, “Transmogrification.” Great song, and stellar guitar work on the track! We we loved your soulful, classic rock, and even slightly metal edge tones happening throughout. Also, really nice solo at the end of the track. We are curious what inspired a fade-out for this specific song?

Thanks! That’s a fun one to play live. We usually jam on those ending chords for a while live, but for the studio version we thought we would just fade it out during the solo to give a taster and then live we can crank it.

Aside from rocking in your awesome band, you also teach the little guys and gals of Gilbert over at Perry Library. Can you describe your classes to our readers and why you do them?

I do a storytime called Rockin’ & Rollin’ All Ages Storytime a few times a week at Perry Library for ages 2 to 5. I get to play guitar and do a lot of children’s music and movement songs and read a few books as well to get kids interested in music and books. It’s something I never thought I would do, but I love doing it. And the audience likes to get wild, which is always fun.

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Ali A and The Agency perform Saturday, August 25, at Rogue Bar.
Luxicon Photography
You, and the rest of Ali A and the Agency, have a show coming up at the Rogue Bar this Saturday, August 25. Any words you was to share with readers about that show?

Rogue is so much fun, we love playing there. The lineup is killer: the Woodworks, Page the Village Idiot, and Wurmfur. They are all so good live, we’re looking forward to it. Rock and roll!

Ali A and the Agency. With the Woodworks, Warmfur, and Page the Village Idiot. 8:30 p.m. Saturday, August 25, at Rogue Bar, 423 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale; 480-947-3580; Admission is $8.
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Henri Benard
Contact: Henri Benard