We The Kings
"It was time for a creative change."
So says We the Kings frontman Travis Clark, explaining his band's new album, Somewhere Somehow -- a commercial and artistic triumph that marks, yes, a real creative change.
It's not like the band had to amend their ways. Since forming in high school in Bradenton, FL, We the Kings have rung up a string of top 10 rock albums (2007's We the Kings, 2009's Smile Kid and 2011's Sunshine State of Mind) and Gold/platinum singles ("Check Yes Juliet", "Say You Like Me"). Along the way, they toured the world several times over (including five stints on the Warped Tour) and earned an extraordinarily dedicated fanbase.
But the band -- Clark, Hunter Thomsen, Danny Duncan and (joining in 2011) Coley O'Toole and Charles Trippy -- decided to approach their fourth album differently. They went completely DIY.
"We wanted to make this record completely fan-based," explains Clark.
Which meant leaving their longtime record label. And raising the recording budget on their own.
To this end, the band turned to the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, hoping to reach a modest budget goal within a month.
Thanks to those diehard fans, they got there. In one day.
"The Indiegogo campaign went way beyond what we imagined," happily admits Clark. And thanks to the fans' generous support, the group was able to fund a vinyl release, a physical CD and even offer up some creative rewards, including fan participation in the recording. (The fan-first approach certainly worked: Somewhere Somehow is already the highest charting record in We the Kings history, debuting in the Top 50 during the competitive Christmas season.)
Outside the numbers, Somewhere is also an artistic breakthrough. "This time out, we didn't have anyone breathing down our necks: we only had to impress ourselves," explains Clark. "It allowed us to do something really something different with the sound. If the first album was more guitar-based, the second about interesting instrumentation and the third really acoustic, this one was all about getting a rhythmic feel. There was no 'genre' we were shooting for."
Working with Metro Station's Blake Healy, multi-instrumentalist/producer Steve Shebby and Clark's own brother Taylor ("Bringing family into your career: such a cool thing" says Travis), Somewhere Somehow showcases the band at both their most ambitious and accessible. Piano and strings color tracks like "Queen of Hearts" and "Sad Song," while big harmonies abound on "See You in My Dreams" and "Find You There." It's a startling diverse record, with club bangers like "I Like It" rubbing up against the more punk-defiant chorus of "Any Other Way."
Lyrically, Clark reveals a more personal side, including the first single "Just Keep Breathing," which documents how the singer was bullied as a kid--and, ultimately, persevered. "It's a song about getting to see a better tomorrow," says Clark. "It's a song I wanted to hear as a kid, and I didn't have. I wanted to write that."
This increasingly personal side to We the Kings now extends off the record. Recently, several members of the band started video blogs, documenting their everyday life on YouTube. "It's so people understand why we write the songs we do," says the singer. Of particular note is bass player Charles Trippy, who chronicles his struggles (and triumphs) while battling brain cancer. "His mindset is 'I'm going to make it, and it's going to help inspire others,'" says Clark.
So We the Kings may have changed their style over the years. But their mission remains the same.
"That's been the goal of our band since day one, even from the first album: make the world a happier place," says Clark. "This album just takes it full circle."
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