"It’s always been ride or die" - Travis Clark
We The Kings are a band who have seen and done an awful lot in their career.
With six full-length albums under their belt, countless miles out on the road and thousands of adoring fans dotted through every continent, there is plenty to celebrate as their lives away from music change. But don't think for a second they are looking to slow down.
As they prepare to release a new EP we caught up with vocalist Travis Clark to talk about how it came together, the importance of tracks such as latest single 'These Nights' as the people they are today and what keeps them feeling inspired after so many years....
Where did ‘These Nights’ originate? Was it something that came to life this year or is it a track you’ve had in the bank?
“Interestingly enough, this track encompasses the journey and saga of We The Kings. The song was written recently, maybe six months ago and then worked on over the course of a couple of months. Because we’ve been around for the past 13 years playing music professionally since our first album, we’ve been really able to connect with the fans that have made us who we are. We also respect what people have to say. 2020 really has been a year of reflection and you’ve been able to see what you’ve been doing and maybe what people want more of. In that moment of reflection we saw that a lot of our hardcore fans who have been with us since 2007 were always saying, ‘We would love you guys to do something like the first record’. I took that to heart. I’ve always been this person who wants to make others happy. So talking to the rest of the guys I said, ‘Let’s do something special’. We’ve always tried to evolve with each album, and that’s not to say we haven’t done things that were like that first record, but we set out to do something that really stems from it.
“I really tried to get back into that headspace and started listening to our first record a lot. I also didn’t want to just do a song that would simply fit on that record, because a lot of stuff has happened in our lives and a lot of stuff is happening now. So how can I use the sound of that album but still make it current and relevant? The only thing that was reoccurring in my mind was that we took for granted all of the nights, or times or days or mornings, where we felt that sense of normality. For me, that was travelling the world with my best friends and playing on stage in front of thousands of people crammed in together. Screaming every word, climbing over each other to reach the front, waiting to meet us after the show. All of that seems so far away and seems so long ago. So why don’t write a song that’s a dedication to those times? Everybody in the world can look back and remember the best night of their life, so why not have a song that has that same sentimentality?
“Those times will happen again and those nights will happen again, but this song gives people something to really look forward to and something to really reminisce on.”
We The Kings has always been about keeping the important things in life at the forefront but always pushing forwards and staying as fresh and modern as possible. To be able to combine that in this way at this particular time is something that becomes timeless. It’s not easy either…
“We have known from the very first day that we started this band that we wouldn’t be able to make without people supporting us, be that friends, family or fans. Without that support you can’t do it. I hear artists say all the time, ‘We’re just doing us. This is who we are and we don’t care about anything else’, but you still need to have people support you. Why not add that support into your lives?”
And it’s that support that keeps you coming back for more as well…
“I think the recipe and the key for that mentality is the fact that we’re excited about our music still to this day. It’s for different reasons though. Before our first record our whole idea was, ‘We’re five dorky kids, this might get us a girlfriend’. The second record was, ‘We’ve not been able to tour overseas so maybe this record can help us do that’. The third record was when you could hear the progression and evolution of our sound, and the fourth and the fifth and sixth. Now we’re releasing singles from what will become our seventh and what makes us excited is that our kids are going to grow up one day and be able to watch us from the side of the stage and say, ‘That’s my dad’. Now we’re writing songs thinking about being able to provide for our families but also shows our kids that you can do whatever you want and follow your dreams. We’re proof that can happen.”
Another amazing thing about ‘These Nights’ is how you’ve included so many pictures of yourselves and fans in the video which is now a permanent reminder of those times visually as well as sonically. That’s there forever now…
“Exactly. What’s funny about the video is that it came more naturally than anything else we have ever done. Obviously with everything that’s happening it was difficult to try and pull together a video team and everything. So we thought, ‘Why don’t we put a slideshow together that just represents what the song is about?’ It was so bittersweet because we were just going through all of our memories. Each person was going on their phones and added everything they had. So you sit there going through all of these memories after not being on tour, or even in groups of people, and it was brutal. I had never missed it more. Each photo hit harder than the last. It was a beautiful thing, but it was also quite emotional. We didn’t that would happen, but just seeing how far we have come over the years and how really blessed we’ve been to be able to call this thing our lives meant so much.
“We will probably look back at that video more than any other video we’ve ever made because it’s literally our memories. It’s the proof that we did it. It’s the proof that we were here.”
So where does this song fit in with the rest of what you’re working on?
“Right now, I’m considering an EP to be an album. It used to be a case of release an album then tour for two years then get back in the studio and release another one. I feel like that formula is out-dated now. A lot of people want more music and digest music much more quickly. So rather than spending two months in the studio to get a 10-12 track record, why don’t we just do five or six songs multiple times a year? That can continue fuelling the band. So I’m considering this upcoming EP our seventh record.
“So saying all of that, this release is loaded with sentimentality. The first track that we released from it was called ‘Turn It Up’ from before our tour with Simple Plan and State Champs. We had the song and we could have decided to wait until the record was ready, but we loved it so much and just wondered why we were doing the whole political thing. We gave it to the fans, and that’s what happened with ‘These Nights’. If it’s ready, let’s put it out. So the same when everything else is ready we will put it all out too. The format is different now. We would be releasing these albums and we would realise that some of the songs have never been played live. It would take us five to six hours to play every single one of our songs now. We realised it would be better to narrow the focus and make each song extremely special.
“So the vision of the rest of the EP is going to be very specific to our lives at this very moment. Regardless of how each song sounds, be it upbeat or a ballad, it’s really going to showcase exactly where this band is at this moment. We could theoretically play a concert where we play every single song off this record and not feel like we’re ignoring the songs that people want to hear from our earlier albums.”
To be able to survive as long as you have is to understand both sides of the coin. You have a lot of fans from a lot of different eras but as long as when you’re making new music it doesn’t feel forced…
“I think what a lot of fans of music forget about is that we are living the same thing as everybody else. We’re no better or worse than anybody else. Everybody is going through the same challenges at the same time. The artist isn’t exempt from those things. That’s why it isn’t difficult to write about what you’re feeling and what you’re going through at the moment at the same time as our fans. It makes it easier within the actual writing process as well because we just sit back and let the material come to us. 13 years ago we wrote a bunch of love songs to get girlfriends and find love. Then we found love and now we’re able to continue that story. We were finding love at the same time our fans were finding love. A lot of our fans have kids and those kids are listening to We The Kings and the story is starting over again.”
Ultimately, you’re still excited about everything that We The Kings represents, and as long as that continues you’re going to keep on pushing…
“The thing is we’re not good at anything else! This is what we love doing. I believe in fate, I believe in God, I believe in all of these things where if you’re open enough about it, it will present itself. If this isn’t my calling, then I probably don’t have one. I love this more than anything and the reason that our band has been together for so long is because we don’t find any reason in wanting to take a hiatus or break or moment. This is all we know. Whether there are people to listen and support us will never stop us from actually making music. We want to do this forever. We all want to be cool dads.”
So if you could speak to that version of yourself that was getting ready to launch We The Kings into the world all those years, what would that version of yourself think of the person you are today? What would you say to him?
“I think about it all the time. I’ve recently written a song that’s going to go on this EP and it’s basically saying that every left and right and up and down we have gone through and every choice we have ever made has led our lives to be where they are at right now. I find that so crazy because absolutely supremely happy and it scares me that there might have been a decision that I didn’t take that would have put me in a different spot to the one I’m in right now. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and done some things that the version of myself that I right now wishes I had done a little differently. But had I done it differently, would I be right here?
“So I would tell my earlier self is that it’s ok to fail. It’s ok to not reach every expectation. When I was younger if I didn’t hit my high expectations, I would be upset. It would really affect my personality and a few weeks for me. I would tell that younger self to always go with your gut because if you’re doing things that you honestly believe is the right thing in that moment, whether that be wrong or right, you’ll be ok. I think if you were to tell the younger version of myself that the band would still be here 13 years later, that wouldn’t surprise me though. It’s always been ride or die.”