SURROUNDED by newspaper clippings, four young Scottish men sat in a London flat surveying the wreckage of their future.

Years of creative collaboration had been assessed and dismissed, their tilt at the dream of the big time kiboshed in a critical battering.

A year later, four young Scottish men sat in a London arena, surveying the Brit Awards they’d just been given, as the Best British Band who’d made the Best British Album.

“At first we thought that album was the last one, because everyone was telling us it was,” says Fran Healy, the man who wrote the album everybody hated, and then everybody loved.

“I wasn’t thinking beyond that. But when you look back at footage of us playing Glastonbury in 1999, you can see a look in my eye – I’m having this, I’m going for it. It was like I just really didn’t feel it was over, even though I was worried that it was.”

This month, Healy and his three best pals Dougie Payne, Andy Dunlop and Neil Primrose will take the first steps towards marking the 20th anniversary of the year Travis released The Man Who, the flop that would make them one of the most successful bands Scotland has produced.

In a pre-digital age, when reviews in the music press still mattered, the band’s second album was roundly panned by opinion-formers like NME and Q. Select didn’t mind it, and a cub journalist writing a review in the entertainment pages of the Greenock Telegraph quite fancied it, too, unaware he’d be interviewing them about it almost 20 years later, with sufficient time having passed – and nostalgia having set in – for it to be considered a modern classic.

Famously, the difference between the band’s success and failure is down to the serendipity of a summer shower coinciding with a catchy chorus during their set at Glastonbury that summer. With the album sliding down the charts, a rain cloud spilled over on the Worthy Farm crowd just as they started singing a pleasantly bouncy song. Why Does It Always Rain On Me had just been released as the album’s third, and was getting moderate radio airplay.

But their biggest hit?

Not yet.

“We came off stage thinking, ‘ah well’,” says Healy, casting back to 1999 on the phone from his home in California. “We thought we could have done better, it was uneventful. I got home, switched the telly on, and I heard the band’s name being mentioned by Jo Whiley and Jon Peel on the highlights sitting round the campfire. They were saying, ‘Travis made it rain.’

“That was the fulcrum. There was everything before that moment, and everything after it.”

Everything before that moment included the band’s debut Good Feeling, a rambunctious collection of boyish exuberance produced by Steve Lillywhite, which arrived to favourable reviews just as the Britpop party was calling for taxis.

Everything after it included Why Does It Always Rain On Me becoming a summer hit and the the album spending 11 weeks at the top of the charts, soothing the heads of the Britpop come-down, and setting four boys from Glasgow up to sell more than seven million records, inspiring bands like Coldplay and The Killers along the way. Healy won two Ivor Novello Awards, and, in music magazines around the country, harsh words were eaten.

Travis have gone on to produce a consistently shimmering discography of pleasant indie pop spanning two decades – two decades more of a stretch of the imagination than even Travis themselves might have been willing to indulge sitting in Healy’s living room that afternoon in 1999.

Tonight, the band will embark on a UK and European tour playing the entire album in sequence, starting in Madrid and culminating with a performance at the SSE Hydro in their hometown on December 21, on the eve of the LP’s 20th year.

There’s also an intriguing documentary, Almost Fashionable, being premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, more of which later.

For bass player Dougie Payne, The Man Who represents the “blossoming” of his pal’s songwriting ability, sprinkled over with magic from the fingers of producer Nigel Godrich, who’d produced Radiohead’s masterpiece OK Computer two years previously and who turned unfinished songs Healy had written years before, like Turn and Writing To Reach You, from hopeful sketches into tunes that would become their greatest hits.

There were recording sessions in France and Abbey Road Studios, made famous by The Beatles, stylishly composed videos to singles and b-side covers of old classics like Joni Mitchell’s River and The Ronettes’ Be My Baby.

The album was dedicated to neurologist and writer Oliver Sachs, whose book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat inspired the title, and the late film auteur Stanley Kubrick, who died in the months before the LP’s release, and whose work the band loved.

If Travis really were done after album two, at least they’d go out indulging themselves.

“When The Man Who came out, the album as an art form was still very such a thing,” Payne says when we meet over coffee near his home in Glasgow’s west end. Britpop had been a big monstrous rock party, but then we had these records coming out like The Verve’s Urban Hymns and Radiohead’s OK Computer which were a bit more reflective and maybe a little more thoughtful.”

Eighteen months after its release, The Man Who was the biggest-selling album of the year, defining an era characterised by chiming acoustic introspection.

“The difference wasn’t anything too highfaluting, it was just something in the air,” says Payne. “I think The Man Who just caught that slightly autumnal, pensive, slightly melancholic mood, which people seemed to respond to. I’ve always characterised it as the soundtrack to the Britpop hangover.

“I’ve been listening to a lot of Motown recently, and a lot of those songs have the quality of being sad songs which make you feel upbeat, or upbeat songs about sad things. And it’s that balance if you get it right, which is a beautiful line to walk. I think a lot of The Man Who walks that line between sadness and joy and how they interact. It has such a specific atmosphere, you can’t put your finger on it.”

The foursome followed up with The Invisible Band, an album which propelled them around the world, did big business in America and elevated the Glasgow lads into the Stateside celebrity stratosphere, hanging out with the likes of Julia Roberts and making appearances on David Letterman.

“That world is a funny world,” says the bassist, who last year split from actress Kelly Macdonald, his wife of 14 years. “I really enjoyed that time, it was all good fun, thrilling, very exciting to be almost on the other side of the camera. The downside was that we basically toured constantly. I remember we were at the end of an 18-month tour in LA, took a day off, then went into a recording studio to start recording the next album. Then we released that, and went on another 18-month tour. It becomes madness.”

The Man Who also contained the forgotten quirk common to many 1990s albums: the hidden track. Blue Flashing Light, a raging semi-autobiographical call of claustrophobia, domestic abuse and alcoholism came on like an angry wake-up call after the album’s woozy end-of-a century wind-down.

“Bands were putting hidden tracks on three minutes after the end of the record, because everyone assumed people would be listening to the whole record and it would come on as a surprise,” says Payne of the production quirk. “It’s given me many a fright over the years.”

Not as much a fright as he got reading the early responses, though. “My abiding memory of the album is the day the reviews came out,” he says. “We thought we’d made a great record and went to Franny’s house. We were sitting with the papers round us and it was a wall-to-wall bloodbath. It was a disaster. Every single review was a total slagging.”

It might have taken almost 20 years, but some might now consider Healy to be exacting his revenge with a documentary which charts the band’s career and their 2016 tour through Mexico. The film, directed by the band’s frontman, is seen from the point of view of journalist Wyndham Wallace, a Berlin-based writer who has been critical of the band and certainly few would consider him a fan.

Healy says: “I thought it would be more interesting to get that angle than from someone who liked the band. I’ve always found it odd when people spit at us, I’ve always thought there was something weird going on there. So this guy came on the tour. That’s the basis of the story. It’s a lovely portrait of us, and it looks at journalism and critics. It’s also a lovely portrait of Mexico at a time when that numpty president (Trump) was saying horrible things about that country, and a good time to ask what he was talking about. I’ve shown it to people I thought would be critical and I’ve had good reactions.”

Of course, if Fran Healy and Travis know anything, it’s that critics have been known to misjudge the mood in the past ...

Payne, while unable to be objective, is hopeful.

“It’s really good. And it’s funny,” he says. “It’s a good perspective, asking what is it about a certain type of music journalist who responds to us in a really bad way. It’s a really nice piece. Fran worked his arse off on it.”

Healy, though, isn’t alone in pursuing alternative creative outlets away from the band. Payne was studying at Glasgow School of Art when he met Dunlop, having already met Primrose when he worked in Schu on Glasgow’s Union Street. Primrose, by then in the band Glass Onion with Dunlop, had recently auditioned a certain vocalist he rated highly.

Between the Saturday shift conversations in the basement of a shoe shop, and the jam sessions drinking Thunderbird and jamming Small Faces songs at the Arts School’s printmaking building, Travis took shape.

Now back in Glasgow after years living abroad with Macdonald and their two young sons, Payne has returned to his fine art roots after 20 years of pop.

He was among several artists and musicians who recently submitted work for a collection at the Queen’s Park Railway Club in Glasgow. Payne contributed a drawing, a sculpture and a piece of music. Edwyn Collins, Eugene Kelly of The Vaselines and Bob Hardy from Franz Ferdinand also featured.

“It was really enjoyable, and great to be taking the art side of things semi-seriously again,” he says. “After I graduated I had a place on a masters post-graduate. At the same time, the band were talking about going to London. Douglas Gordon (the Glasgow-based Turner Prize winning artist) told me to go to London for six months, and if it didn’t work out, come back and do the masters then.”

He jokes that his mates from art school refer to him as the one that got away.

“Once you’ve been to art school it never leaves you, there’s always something bubbling away,” he says.

“I’ve continued making bits and pieces since then, and I’ve really enjoyed it. It activates different parts of the brain. My wee studio downstairs is split in two, for art, and for music.”

There’s talk of the band coming together to record after the current UK tour, with a possible ninth album in the near future, possibly their first to be recorded in Glasgow, 20 years after the rain saved their career.

Their last release, Everything At Once, landed in the top five of the album charts in 2016, but the knowledge that success can’t be predicted has been hard-won.

“I know loads of people who spend years making something like a film, they bring it out and it disappears like a snowflake in a fireplace,” says Healy. “All that time and energy put into something that people don’t see. We’ve been lucky, plenty don’t get through.”

And while that luck has carried him all the way to a life lived in the sunshine of Los Angeles with his photographer wife Nora and their son, he’s forever tethered to the lessons learned in what some might consider a less glamorous ‘hood.

“I grew up in Possil park, normal working-class Glasgow,” Healy says. “I remember thinking I wished I could afford my bus fare to go over to another side of Glasgow to see my mate, because I never liked to ask my mum for the money. It doesn’t matter what you do, that never leaves you.

“The band being successful has bought me time. When I was wee it was just my mum and she was working, so I was with my granda or my nana. So I’ve been able to sit at home with my son when he was little, and to get to do that is pretty cool.

“I look at my life an think, ‘Holy shit’. I can provide for my family, I’ve met my heroes like Bowie and McCartney and they’ve liked my band. But if that shower hadn’t come along things would have been different. I’d rather blame it on the rain than anything else. I’m happy with that.”

Almost Fashionable: A Film About Travis will be screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on 29 and 30 June. Travis play The Man Who at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro on 21 December.