We The Kings have something to smile about

Bradenton Herald – This is what a few years of relentless band rehearsals in the family garage can bring: sold out concerts, fruitful album sales, more than 100,000 fans on Facebook and a few celebrities who know your songs by heart.

This is the life of Bradenton’s beloved power pop/alternative band We The Kings, who, consequently, was named one of MTV’s “Artists to Watch” last month.

“That is super surreal,” frontman Travis Clark said about the MTV nod via phone from Toronto last week. “As kids we always used to watch MTV when they used to play music videos. Now to be seen in the same light as Beyonce and Lady Gaga — all these superstar acts, it’s pretty wild because we’ll always think of ourselves as the little band from Bradenton.”

The band — which features Clark, Hunter Thomsen, Drew Thomsen and Danny Duncan — is headlining Hot Topic’s “Take Action Tour,” which kicked off last month. The tour will swing by St. Pete’s State Theatre on Friday, featuring special guests Mayday Parade, A Rocket to the Moon and There for Tomorrow.

Into their seventh stop on the tour last week, every venue We The Kings has played has been sold out.

“So far, it’s been actually really incredible,” said Clark. “It’s been an amazing feeling since this is our first headliner in 2010.”

The tour benefits Driving For Donors, which helps recruit donors for the National Marrow Registry for bone marrow transplants. The bands involved in the tour also donate to the cause. Clark said that so far $80,000 has been raised.

We The Kings are getting the royal treatment from the sophomore album “Smile Kid,” released in December. Featuring catchy tunes such as the top 40 hit “Heaven Can Wait,” “Smile Kid” has sold more than 50,000 copies in less than two months. That’s a big contrast to the eight months it took to build momentum with their self-titled debut album in 2007. That first album has now sold more than 300,000 to date.

Besides helping out a good cause through the tour, the band is looking forward to other great things this year. In the spring, WTK will travel to Europe for the fourth time, touring with the British rock group You Me at Six.

Though the band has been a familiar face during the Warped Tour’s annual St. Petersburg stop in recent years, this year will mark the first time the group will be presented as one of the headliners.

“We used to always go to the Warped Tour in St. Pete every time it came as kids in middle school and high school,” Clark said. “Now to be able to say that we are headlining — it is just absolutely crazy to see the roller coaster of events that has happened in the past five years to get where we are at.”

The band, which takes its name from Bradenton’s King Middle School — where they attended — started in a local garage among friends. In those early beginnings, the band booked gigs whereever they could — churches, small dives, coffee bars, anywhere.

The more their pop-punk trendy sound was exposed, the more area residents couldn’t get enough.

“The support from our hometown was why we were able to get to where we are right now,” Clark said.

Forever touring, the band hopes to tour even more this year with hopes of returning to the Tampa Bay Rays Summer Concert series — a favorite of theirs because they get to perform in front of a large home crowd.

When they played the ballpark last year, they received the key to the city of Bradenton from Mayor Wayne Poston.

“That was a huge honor for us,” Clark said.

Of lessons learned on fame, the biggest one for Clark is that the sky is the limit — that the pie-in-the-sky dreams can be achieved.

“I can shout out a random goal and it can be completely unrealistic, and then literally it will happen in three months,” Clark said. “Everything is just bigger and better with each day that goes by. It’s crazy to see some of the things that have happened to us.”

They are things like having comedian Robin Williams attend a San Francisco concert with daughter Zelda in tow. Or Miley Cyrus attending a show and telling the band how big a fan she is of their music.

We The Kings’ happy-go-lucky tunes and feel-good ballads — which are penned by Clark — are inspired by life in Bradenton. The songs are fueled by experiences with friends, family and Clark’s girlfriend.

“My life is so impacted by those people that have made me who I am, and obviously the city that we come from,” he said.

For “Smile Kid,” Clark’s songs takes a more dynamic lyrical approach, adding all the “bells and whistles” that he’s ever wanted to have in an album, he said.

The band even shares a track with Disney’s singer/actress Demi Lovato called “We’ll Be A Dream.”

We The Kings’ No. 1 fans? None other than their parents.

“They are just excited that all of the loud noises that were coming up from the garage and out of the practice space out of the back bedrooms of our house is actually paying off,” said Clark.

“They get to see us doing something really great.”

published Feb. 11. 2010

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