The view from his eighth-floor hotel room in Hollywood crammed Travis Clark’s eyes with images of bustling boulevards besieged by swarms of visually ant-like, yet starry eyed folks searching for what he has already received—fame. The moment in time provided just a short breather before he and his pop punk band, We The Kings, embarked on a month-and-a-half long journey to places such as Texas, Arizona, Ohio and New York for Vans’ 2010 Warped Tour.
It will be the band’s third appearance at the music and extreme sports festival, which is equivalent to one appearance per year since We The Kings became an official, signed band with S-Curve Records. Yet the group—incorporating Clark (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, piano), Hunter Thomsen (lead guitar, backup vocals), Drew Thomsen (bass), and Danny Duncan (drums)—could be best described as a band of brothers, childhood friends who went from playing All-Star Little League games together to selling out venues the boys once attended together to see their favorite bands.
“The first time Hunter and I met, we were playing baseball together and he got picked to be on my team,” Clark said during a recent interview with The Aquarian Weekly. “I think I was 10 or 11 and he was nine. Our parents would set up play dates. Danny went to the same middle school as us as well [Kings Middle School, from which the band gets its name].”
In high school, they began their ambitions to become musicians, and although friends, each played in different bands covering different musical genres. That is, until Clark single-handedly snatched each of his associates from their prospective groups to form We The Kings. Was Clark’s plan due to his friends’ talent?
“It was definitely friendship, it wasn’t talent,” Clark chuckled. “I knew I wanted to start touring, and I wanted to spend that time with my best friends.”
And tour they did. But the small, confined space of a tour bus carrying a band, crew members and equipment couldn’t even strain their friendship and passion for music, unless it dealt with someone eating one of Clark’s Ice Cream Snickers Bars without permission, which he said “can all be fixed with another purchase of a Snickers.”
“We fight about really stupid things,” Clark confessed. “Like Hunter, for example, is like really cleanly. He always likes to keep the bus really clean. After a show, if one of us takes off our shirt and lays it on the front lounge to dry off, he’ll just be like, ‘Whose shirt is this?’ Kind of freaking out about the shirt.”
But dues must be paid before becoming a rock star, and We The Kings were not an exception. Before the success of their self-titled debut album in 2007, there was a point when the guys thought they wouldn’t make it.
“Our very first tour, we played literally in front of the sound guy, the other band’s friends, and maybe—if we were lucky—two or three people that happened to be at the venue. And, I kid you not, there were probably like five or 10 people at a show. That happened for about two months. Then when we put out the record, we started seeing the change.”
It was a whirlwind trip from there for the band, accompanied by the well-received release of We The Kings’ second record, Smile Kid, in 2009—a pop-driven, bubbly album that delves into the more innocent stages of love.
“You know, you can turn on the TV and see that there’s just turmoil and awful things happening all over the world. I’ve always felt the music I write can be an escape from that. When I write love songs, it’s more than TV, like this person loving that person. It’s about putting a smile on someone’s face. Realizing there is love out there apart from all this other chaos in the world.”
It’s a mission that We The Kings will continue on to their next project.
On your blog, you hinted that the band’s next album might be an acoustic record. Why the change from your normal pop sound?
The band’s stuff will always be what we love writing. You know, love songs, upbeat and loud, explosive stuff. So our third record will be that. It will be a full band and everything. The thing I was talking about on my blog was, well you know, sometimes I write songs that don’t sound We The Kings-ish. So I decided I would release a record with all the songs we really haven’t used, kind of like an acoustic record. It doesn’t have to be We The Kings, it can be a Travis Clark solo project. I thought it would be good for fans to get a different feel of the songs we write, not only our typical sound—that sound we created to make We The Kings a pop band. But the next album will be what everyone expects, and hopefully more. It will definitely be full and loud and as crazy as all the other records. But the acoustic record will be something I do on my free time just to give the fans a little something else.
At this point, is that acoustic album just an idea or something that has already been started?
It actually started out as an idea and me messing around to some of my friends, and them being like, ‘That song is awesome, so you should do something with it.’ Then I’d record a demo version of it and put it on my blog, and people are just like, ‘When is this going to be a record? When is this going to be a whole acoustic album?’ We do a lot of songs acoustically anyway. I always thought it was really cool to hear a band do an acoustic set. It’s completely stripped down because you can’t hide behind drums or a loud guitar. You can really tell if someone is talented by hearing them play acoustically, and I always wanted to offer that to fans and our friends. I thought of the name of calling my solo project The Naked Project, just because it’s stripped down and now it’s just me.
Speaking of the third album, has writing and recording started for it already?
Yes. I mean, we never really write for a record. We just always continue to write. We released Smile Kid and that had two or three new songs. We never really stop writing. We never want a record to sound like we wrote that record to be that exact point. We always just continue writing, continue touring, and whatever comes out, comes out. I think dynamically, you’ll hear songs that are completely different and new. I think that’s because we are writing at different times and different stages of our life. I think what’s fun about making a third record is you can really do whatever you want and people at this point are fans of the band and will really support you.
Do you have a collaboration planned for the new record, like the one you had with Demi Lovato on ‘We’ll Be A Dream?’
We usually talk about that last minute. Right now, we don’t have anything in writing, but we have talked about inviting a lot of our friends to come be on our record to make it fun. We have made a lot of friends in the short success we’ve had so far. I think it would be awesome to invite them to be on our record. I always wanted to do a song with Hayley Williams of Paramore not only because she’s with it, but because she has an incredible voice. I want to work with John Mayer, someone like that—someone that has a completely different style of music and his own scene. I would love to collaborate with someone like that.
Do you know of any set date for the third album?
We are still figuring out what songs we would like to put forth for the third record. I’m hoping we can expect something early in 2011. But I can hint that our next single is going to be ‘Summer Love,’ which is really cool because it will be coming out at the end of the summer, so people will be able to really relate to it.
In a few days, the band will be heading off to the Warped Tour, which will be We The Kings’ third appearance there. Are there any lessons learned that you plan to take with you this time, and are there any other things you plan to do differently as far as new material, cover songs, or stage presence?
Definitely. The lesson learned to me is to bring SPF 100+. More sunscreen than I brought last year.
They make that?
[laughs] Yes, they do actually make 110. I actually wanted to—this is an idea that actually turned serious—I think I’m going to create my own line of sunscreen.
Yeah. One, because it’s funny. I want to call it ‘SPF Infinity’ or something like that, you know? It would be made literally for redheads. That was definitely a lesson learned for me—to bring more sunscreen on this tour. As far as our stage presence goes, this will be the first year playing the Warped Tour with Smile Kid out. Last year, all we had was the single ‘Heaven Can Wait.’ I know we will be playing new songs people never heard before off Smile Kid that they’ve never heard live. I think that’s really cool because I always want to keep our set fresh. I never really want to do the same thing twice because we’ve been a band for three years now and there are people who have been to 30 shows. I’d feel bad if we did the same thing over and over again because it’s not really giving people what they want to see. So we decided on this tour that we would play all our favorites from the first and second records, but do some songs differently that we haven’t done before. You know, just kind of spice it up a bit and keep it fresh.
Back to that sunscreen thing, do you have a patent for that or what? [laughs]
[laughs] No patent yet, but I’ll think of something.
Ok. In 2011, We The Kings will be heading out on a world tour. Is this your first besides playing in the UK?
Actually, it is. To start it off, we’re going to Japan in mid-September, and it will be our first time going that far. We played in Guam before, but obviously that’s U.S. territory and it’s right underneath Japan. This is the first time going over there and playing in non-U.S. territory, which we’re so excited about because there’s a countless number of fans that requested us to go over there. We’re sorry it took so long for us to get there, but now we’re going.
Are there any places you’re personally excited to perform in?
I’m really excited about South America. It’s really crazy how big of a following we have there, and we’ve never been. I can’t wait to go to Brazil and Argentina eventually. There are so many places to see, and I’m going to take so many pictures!
And South America has some of the most beautiful women supposedly.
Well that’s what I hear, and I’m a big fan of Latina women to begin with!
We The Kings play three upcoming Warped Tour performances in the area: July 16 at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, NJ; July 17 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY; and July 18 at the Monmouth Racetrack in Oceanport, NJ.