We The Kings second album, Smile Kid, just hit stores last week, so J-14 sat down with lead singer Travis Clark, drummer Danny Duncan, and guitarist Hunter Thomsen to chat about the new record, their collab with Demi Lovato, and why Travis isn't afraid to admit that he's a Twi-hard!
J-14: How would you describe the sound of the new record, Smile Kid?
Travis Clark: Smile Kid is a very dynamic, full-sounding record that makes you smile. We want people to laugh, smile, and be happy listening to it and hope that a song makes them think of a moment in time that brings them happiness. Half the record is like "Check Yes, Juliet, "Secret Valentine," and "Skyway Avenue" 2.0 -- songs that were written shortly after the first record [We The Kings' self-titled debut album] was released. Then as we started touring and having new life experiences, we wrote songs like "She Takes Me High," "Promise the Stars," and "Heaven Can Wait," and all these other ones that are still same energy but have different lyrical content or are hookier and a little more dynamic.
J-14: Which is the most personal Smile Kid track for you?
Hunter Thomsen: "Promise the Stars," the second song on the record. I'm a huge Beatles fan, and we tried to give it a Beatles-esque sound. I think we did a pretty good job. I like the guitar lines in it. It's way different than the rest of the record, just unique.
Travis: I really like the "We'll Be a Dream" track with Demi Lovato. It's a song all about growing up and wondering what you're going to be. The imagery for it is two kids sitting on this hill looking at the New York skyline wondering what they're going to be, or which building they're going to work in, or if they're going to be a firefighter or airplane pilot. I always wanted to be play music, so my dream came true. "We'll Be a Dream" is saying live life and never give up because you can be what you want to be. It takes time and effort. That's a really emotional song for me because it all came true.
Danny: Travis cried so much recording that song.
Hunter: That's the truth. We put buckets underneath the mic stand.
J-14: How did the collab with Demi come about?
Travis: I heard her sing the "National Anthem" for one of the Dallas Cowboys games and I was like, 'Oh my God, she's not just a Disney star. She's got pipes.' I called her and was like, 'Hey I have this song and I really want female vocals. Would you be down?' She got really excited so I sent her the demo of the song. She texted me back saying, 'It literally gave me goose bumps. I can't stop smiling. I would love to sing this song with you.' We went in and recorded it for real. When we first got the first mix of it, we were all sitting in the bus listening to it, and it was incredible. It gave us all goose bumps. It's a super epic song and it came out exactly how I really wanted it to sound. She was just as stoked.
J-14: How did you become friends with Demi, Miley Cyrus, and Taylor Swift?
Travis: When we were first starting out, Demi came out to one of our shows because she was a fan and wanted to see us. Disney is a world apart from what we do -- it's big in its own way and our thing is big in its own way - but she really cool and totally down-to-Earth. We exchanged numbers and kept in contact. We met the Cyrus family a long time ago because we used to tour all the time with Metro Station, and Miley would come out on tour and to shows. We met Taylor Swift at this MTV thing, and she was a sweetheart. She walked up to us and was like, 'Are you Travis and Danny from We the Kings? I just want to let you know "Check Yes, Juliet" is one of my favorite songs.' I was like, 'That rules.'
J-14: Travis, we hear you're a Twilight fan - are you Team Edward or Jacob?
Travis: I am. It's my guilty pleasure. People at shows were bringing me Twilight stuff, and I actually really like it. I don't think it's corny or anything. I've gotten Rob Pattinson dolls -- they get that I'm actually a real fan of Twilight. Most of the people who are team Jacob are people who saw him in the second movie and are like, 'He's got a ripped body,' and I like girls so I don't really appeal to the Team Jacob side. Edward is this dude who's stuck in this tragic world but loves this girl, and I find the romantic side to things.
J-14: Who's your celeb crush?
Hunter: Keri Hilson, 100 percent.
Travis: Mine used to be Zooey Deschanel but she just got married to Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie, so I'm going to go with her "twin" and say my celeb crush is Katy Perry. She's a friend, so it's kind of weird.