Following huge success stateside with their single 'Say You Like Me', US punk-pop quartet We The Kings have set their sights on the UK market. And with this 'summer' thing happening right now, it's the perfect time to get some reggae-infused rock on the airwaves.
We The Kings recently toured the UK with Simple Plan (as well as performing their own headline dates), and we caught with lead singer Travis Clark to discuss the band's touring ethic, find out why he thinks rock is finally on its way back and why all it will take is one song to make his band massive...
Hello Travis Clark of We The Kings. Is the sun shining where you are?
It is. I'm in Florida right now. I went to the beach yesterday, and now i'm putting on more suntan lotion so I don't get even more burned and later i'm going to a place called Bush Gardens which is a theme park, and it's pretty amazing.
What are the key facts people need to know about We The Kings?
One of the most important things is that we are always touring. A lot of people find a band they like and they never get to see because they never tour or they never travel. One thing I love about our band is that we're constantly on tour. We play over 350 shows a year and it's not only in the states. We've been to 28 different countries. People can enjoy our band, they can like our band and know that sooner or later they will be able to see us live.
Where is there still left that you want to play?
We haven't been to Africa yet. I really want to go to Johannasberg or somewhere like that. Ever since the world cup was there, i've fallen in love with the place.
You recently toured the UK with Simple Plan. How was that?
It was incredible. That was our first time back in the UK in over a year and a half. It was good to be back and see all our friends and our fans. It was one of those things that, when we do these support tours we only get to play a certain length of time, so with Simple Plan we only got to perform for 35-40 minutes depending where we were and some of the fans were kinded bummed because we couldn't play all the songs they wanted to hear. It was a tough situation for us because it wasn't our tour and there's only so much we can do. We really want to be able to come back and do our own headline tour over there as soon as possible.
Touring as a support band can be tough. Have you had any particularly tricky experiences in a support slot?
We did Soundwave in Australia, and it's a big festival tour, and Iron Maiden were one of the headliners and we had a really great time slot. Problem was, where we were playing was on the way to the stage to see Iron Maiden, so people going to see Iron Maiden were passing our stage - all these metal-heads and they stopped and got unruly. Luckily there were enough We The Kings fans that they outnumbered all of the Iron Maiden fans. That could have turned out really bad, but luckily we prevailed.
Do you have any 'in case of emergency' tracks for situations like that?
Sometimes, even when we play in the states, if we play at a college or university where many people aren't really into the music, we'll pull out a cover. We've been known to cover Jimmy Eat World 'The Middle', no matter what kind of music you like, it's a song that everyone can enjoy. A lot of the time we like to bring out that song.
Your single 'Say You Like Me' has a reggae vibe (good for the summer), but rock has traditionally not played well with other genres of music. Do you think things are starting to change?
I think so. You look at some of the biggest artists outside of the rock world and you have Lil' Wayne, who's one of the biggest hip-hop artists, and even he started a rock group. You have Shaun White, the professional snowboarder, who I always get mistaken as, and he has started a rock band, all these people are coming together to start making music that has guitars in it. I think a lot of it is becuase people are so sick of the songs they are hearing on the radio, the non-stop dance music and all that stuff.
So are you a believer that rock is due to make a comeback?
When you look at the past five years of music, ever since American Idol started you have this new crop of pop music, of artists who don't write their songs. But now you have bands like Train scoring huge hits, or Fun. getting a No.1 single, all this music that has guitars, and has real music behind it, so I think people are starting to get sick of everything sounding the same in everything and being written by the same person and just given to different artists. It's a good thing for a band like us who work our asses off to try to stay relevant so people continue to listen to our music so we can continue to be a band and continue to travel. Hopefully the same goes for the rest of the world. I know the radio fatigue in the states is at an all time high and hopefully it is the same in the UK as well. It's really good business for bands like us who want to tour and want to get into the radio world of things.
Is there a whole new wave of rock bands in the US poised and waiting for the bubble to burst in the US so they can take over?
There are almost an overload of those bands at the moment! When Death Cab For Cutie, Brand New and Taking Back Sunday were really popular, everyone started an indie band, and now there's hundreds and hundreds of them throughout the US and the bands that actually make it are the ones that can stay around long enough to see themselves make it. For example, The Black Keys. A lot of people think 'Camino' was their first record but that's their sixth or seventh record, they've been around forever. Kings of Leon are another great example. These bands have been so persistant and developed a fanbase even if they haven't had the radio success. I think there are a tonne of bands just like that, who are just waiting for that one special song to take them to the next level and ultimately that's what a band like us is doing too.
We're doing really well in the states but in the UK we're just starting to grow and just starting to become a real band but we're waiting for that one song. 'Check Yes Juliet' did really well in the UK, and maybe 'Say You Like Me' will do it and once people check us out they'll find out that we've been around for a while, and we're not just an overnight success or a one-hit wonder. That's what makes a band a real band - it's one that can have more than one single. We're not one that's been around for just a couple of months and they let the fame go to their heads and now they're egotistical and their band broke up. It happens so much that it makes it easy for bands like us, who really aren't that way, to prosper and continue staying in the band.
Watch 'Say You Like Me'
Do you think a lot of bands are unprepared for the amount of work it takes to make a success of themselves?
I can't pretend that I didn't get into music thinking it was a huge party. When we started working I was doing interviews for 4-5 hours a day, then I would do a meet and greet, then I would do a soundcheck, then I would play a show, then i'd do another meet and greet or have to be at a radio station first thing the next morning. There is still a tonne of fun and a tonne of things that happen to you as a band, but a lot of people ignore how much work it takes to get to this point and when you get to this point, there's even more work.
When there was 'a rock star', when that existed, there was so much money in the music industry. Before, people would get signed to a record deal and each member would earn $2million just from the deal, and now, you're getting signed to 360 deals and there's no money being put out. When there was a rock star, i'm sure they worked hard when it came to recording but if they wanted a hot coffee, they could send someone to get it - and that's the difference between now and just five years ago. There was so much more money in the music industry then that there is today and unfortunately it looks like in another five years, there's going to be even less money.
You look at sports stars - they are the new rock stars, they're the ones who are sitting on the bench making millions and millions of dollars. It's crazy. You see footballers, baseballers and basketball stars in the US who will say no to contract that's $10million dollars. I wish that's how it was in the music world because music is just as relevant if not more so. It's just not that way.
So if there's no money in music, what's the ultimate reward?
My dad gave me the best advice ever since I started making music. He told me to figure out whatever my idea was success and strive to get that, because when you get to the real world and you find out that your idea of success doesn't exist, you're going to be disappointed. All I wanted to do was this project, We The Kings. I just want to be able to tour the world and play music. Money will come and go but ultimately the only thing I want is to be able to tour the world and visit our fans who have supported us for so long and that only takes a little bit of money to do. If money comes, that's amazing, that's incredible, but if not then i'm OK. A lot of people's idea of success is fame and money and when they don't get it, they feel like they failed. That's never been how it was for me or for the band. I think that's one of the reaons our band has been able to stick around for so long.
Thank you very much, Travis from We The Kings. 'Say You Like Me' is out now.