The Freddy Pigeons: An interview with We The King’s Travis Clark

Danae Leake

We The King's album cover for Somewhere Somehow. Photo courtesy of Facebook.
We The King’s album cover for Somewhere Somehow. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

After the release of their crowdfunded self-produced fourth album, Somewhere Somehow, Florida-based pop-rock band We the Kings is ready to launch their tour.

Spinnaker sat down for a phone interview to talk with lead singer Travis Clark to talk about the new album, what they expect for the tour, and the band’s so-called pigeon obsession.

The band will be performing at Jacksonville Freebird’s Live music venue Sunday, March 16 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 on the date of the show, according to freebirdlive.com.

Q: How do you feel about your new album you recently released in 2013?

A: This one was the most different [of the] albums we’ve done. We raised the money through indiegogo. We raised $150,000 and then we ended up releasing the album all by ourselves. It was the highest-charting album we ever had. We sold more records, by about four times than our previous albums when we were on a record label. It’s a really great representation of how strong our fanbase is and where they show their allegiance at a time of need when we’re trying to put this album out.

It was just an amazing way for us to do our album and we would do it again with another crowdfunding source, but right now we’re just focusing and living in the now and getting ready to play these new songs live.

Q: Aside from your loyal fanbase, what do you think made this album the highest-selling one?

A: For our fourth album, Somewhere Somehow, we really focused on the lyrical meaning and dove into a lot of the things that happened in my personal life, like getting bullied and other things that really relate to people to help them live a happier life and escape from the world by listening to music.

That’s what music is to me. I think that’s what really made the biggest difference. These fans of ours listening to our music are finding these lyrics and really attaching themselves to them. In a lot of cases, we’ve heard that some of our songs and lyrics saved people’s lives and helped them live a better life. Or, if unfortunately they’re thinking about committing suicide, they’ll just listen to our music and be at peace. It’s an amazing feeling to be helping the world in just a different way. It’s a little more meaningful. I think that’s why our album overall has done so well.

There’s a part of my heart I haven’t provided from the previous albums. And I think our true fans, and even people finding out about us now, can definitely see how genuine the songs are.

Q: What song on your new album is most heartfelt to you?

A: I love every single one of the songs so much and I think they’re perfect in their own way. To me, it’s really tough to have a favorite. I know the one I wrote that I feel has a strong meaning and helped people the most, is the song “Just Keep Breathing,” written about my bullying experience. I have red hair, and when you’re in middle or high school, kids don’t know how mean they’re being when they pick you out and make you feel different. It’s really tough growing up being a red-head. I wrote “Just Keep Breathing” to let others know that they’re not alone, and that others they look up to also went through the same thing but made it out and are better because of it. It’s a really important thing for me to get out and let people know that this bullying thing is harsh.

Q: With this album, there are more musically technical things going on. How did you put together this sound?

A: This album is very different from the other ones we’ve done. It was fun to experiment. We were in the studio — a closet-sized room practically. And, ironically enough, everything we needed was there. We would have little accidents in the studio that would make this really cool sound to give the album more character. Some of them were actually accidents. Sometimes the technology we were using would mess up or glitch. We actually lit a piano on fire for a song called “I Feel Alive.” It’s something we’ve never done before. We bought this cheap $100 wooden piano and lit it on fire and it made the coolest sound as we were playing the piano. That’s just something we would have never thought of doing before. The flames made a really cool sound and I’m glad it actually worked.

Q: That’s very creative, kinda crazy, but awesome.

A: It’s fun to try that stuff. When somebody asks you about the craziest things you’ve done, we can say we lit a piano on fire. It’s the little things like that are not only memorable but really exciting to do. Other than that, we used a lot of synthesizers. We wanted to add a lot of cool noises to really make the song sound original from everything else. We would mess around with different things. I’ve been playing piano since I was four years old, and I know my way around a piano.

Q: You started playing music in middle school, why did you decide to start a band?

A: We all started music pretty much to get girlfriends. We were just a bunch of dorky little kids, a bunch of hopeless romantics. I think we were very inspired by bands like Blink 182, Green Day, and Jimmy Eat World. We all went together as friends to their shows and saw all these girls freaking out about these bands. We left a show and went back home to guitars laying around the house. We pretty much just said to each other, “Hey, wanna start a band to get girls?” and decided “Yes, absolutely, let’s do it!” We started a band just for that and had no idea what the future held, but it’s been an exciting experience. For the most part, we all have girlfriends.

Q: You’ve performed at UNF several times. How was that experience and how was it different from your other performances?

A: I remember we played at the amphitheater. it was so amazing to perform in your home state. We’re from Bradenton, Fla. Playing in your home state is special because you feel the love so much more. Kids from their campus — whether from Florida or not — they hold some sort of allegiance. So when we play, they are, in a sense, more than a fan. They give tons of support.

When we’re in Florida, it feels more like home. At UNF we enjoyed the college atmosphere and how everyone is willing to have a good time. I feel like in a college atmosphere people are more willing to let go, listen to music, sing, and dance. It feels like students have been cooped up in a study room for most of the school year and this is their one chance to come out.

Q: You’re going to play at Freebird’s Live in Jacksonville this Sunday. How do you feel about that?

A: Freebird is actually one of the first venues we played right before we left for our first tour about seven or eight years ago. We played that venue and then went to Atlanta. Freebird has been a part of us for a really long time. Especially because it’s in a cool area located near the beaches.

Q: I saw this interview where you and the rest of the band mention your obsession with pigeons. Are you still obsessed?

A: That whole thing came from a tour last year. My mom gave me a dozen of these clip-on pigeons from Wal-Mart to clip them on to the tour bus. There were a couple of times where cops tried to shoo off the plastic pigeons and we thought it was so funny. We would take pictures with the pigeons and send them to my mom. Then fans started buying them and giving them to us. People thought that the whole band was obsessed with pigeons for a really long time and no one really got the backstory to it.

Q: Do you still have the pigeons?

A: I don’t. Once they got really popular, they started to get stolen off our bus. But you can find them at certain Wal-Marts. I’ll try to bring them back on tour.

Q: Did you name any of the pigeons?

A: Yeah, they’re all named Freddy. We wouldn’t be able to remember all their names so we decided to name them all Freddy.