Travis Clark from We The Kings Discusses The Success of “Check Yes, Juliet”
By Frank Iacono
We The Kings is a melodic emo-pop band from Bradenton, Florida. Friends since childhood, the original four bandmates consisting of singer and guitarist Travis Clark, guitarist Hunter Thomsen, his bassist brother Drew Thomsen, and drummer Danny Duncan formed We The Kings while attending high school. They adapted their band name from the middle school that all the members attended called Martha B. King Middle School.
In 2007, under the guidance of manager Bret Disend, We The Kings placed a number of tracks on the social networking site PureVolume, a division of SpinMedia, to build online buzz. Meanwhile, they also pursued a deal with EMI’s imprint S-Curve Records, which eventually signed the group.
On October 2, 2007, they released their self-titled debut album which was produced by Sam Hollander and mixed by Lou Giordano, both of whom had done work with some of emo-pop’s most marketable acts. That fall, We The Kings cracked the Pop 100 with “Check Yes Juliet,” and the group spent much of the following two years on the road supporting the CD and building a loyal fan base.
In this article on Music Addict, I had the pleasure of interviewing Travis Clark of We The Kings and asking him a few questions about the band, his personal background in writing some of their smash hits and his memorable performance at CBGBs in New York.
Music Addict’s: For the benefit of those who are not familiar with We The Kings, how would you describe your musical genre?
Travis Clark: Through the years, we’ve been listed as a melodic emo-pop band or something somewhere out there, but I think we’re just an American rock band.
MA: After all these years, what separates We The Kings from similar bands and keeps you motivated to continue as a group?
TC: I think it is clearly our personalities. We definitely pride ourselves in engaging with our fans (some of us every day!) with more than just music.
MA: Describe for us the background to the 2008 hit platinum single and featured iTunes Single of the Week entitled “Check Yes, Juliet (Run, Baby Run)” that sold over 250,000 copies and peaked at number 70 on the Billboard Hot 100 list in the US?
TC: “Check Yes, Juliet” was written in the final hours of the writing process and seemed to come out of nowhere. Dave Katz couldn’t seem to get Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey” chorus “Oh Mickey, You’re So Fine…” sound out of his head and he had to write something for it during the final day
MA: What aspect of being musicians excites We The Kings as a band the most?
TC: As a band, we are always encouraged and excited about what we do. Getting together and going on stage is a part of who we are, and it will never get old.
MA: Why did you choose “Heaven Can Wait” as the lead single for the 2010 album Smile Kid? And, what personal connection do you have with the song?
TC: “Heaven Can Wait” was actually the very first song we wrote and recorded for the album Smile Kid, so I think the decision to let it be the lead single was just based on our excitement to get the new music out, so since it was ready, we released it! The connection I have to that song is more of an imaginary fantasy. What I mean by that is, the song was written with the idea that some loves will outlive death. I’ve always been a hopeless romantic writer, but this was the first time that I wrote anything along the lines of ‘even death can’t kill our love’… “Heaven can wait” encompasses that idea of death can wait because our love will never die.
MA: “Just Keep Breathing” from your 2013 album Somewhere Somehow, which after its first week of release debuted at number 44 on the Billboard 200, discusses lead singer Travis Clark’s coping with bullying. Due to this personal track, how fulfilling was it to find out that the song debuted at number 92 on the Billboard Hot 100 list with 48,000 downloads sold?
TC: I remember the day that we found out that “Just Keep Breathing” was in the top 5 of iTunes singles. We were an unsigned band promoting our music by ourselves and our friends and family. We had no idea how much of an impact that song would make. Each song, once it’s released, gives you a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, but there truly is nothing like hearing that almost 50,000 people just bought your first single within the first couple of days and loved it.
MPM: Why did you decide to sample a lyric from the song “Story of Your Life” from your second album Smile Kid (2009) and make that lyric the title of your album?
TC: The album title came first as it was always just an expression, we used to remind ourselves to always keep it positive no matter what. We just added it to the song as it seemed to fit well with the vibe of that track.
MA Is there a particular venue that We The Kings has always wanted to play?
TC: I’m pretty satisfied with being able to play CBGBs, the undisputed birthplace of punk, before they closed it down. It’s truly a piece of NY music history and we got to play on that stage. It was an honor really.