Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Two weeks ago, We the Kings singer Travis Clark awoke early in the morning, stumbled into the kitchen half-awake, poured himself a glass of orange juice and stuck his iPhone in the refrigerator. It was the first time he’d done something that strange since childhood, when, for reasons he still doesn’t understand, he used to hide the family telephone in the mailbox outside his home in Bradenton.

We know this story because Clark shared it on his blog,, an oddly humanizing diary that has turned the idea of a rock star’s online journal on its head.

Embarrassing childhood photos? Sure! Stories about getting stuck in a portable toilet at a gig? Absolutely! A tale about how he got food poisoning from a hot dog, requiring a shot in the butt from a walk-in clinic (along with the requisite photo)? It’s all fair game to Clark.

His Bradenton band has become a big deal over the past two years, spending time on two Warped Tours, playing on TV and at gigs around the world (including a 2008 postgame concert at Tropicana Field) and charting with singles like Check Yes Juliet and Skyway Avenue. Their second album, Smile, Kid, is due Dec. 8, and they’re performing with All Time Low and Hey Monday on Monday at the Ritz Ybor in Tampa. (Tickets are $19-$22; go here for details.)

Before the band prepares for their (almost) hometown gig, we caught up with Clark by phone to delve into his online habits, his new album and his new pal Robert Pattinson.

You have to be one of the most oversharing rock stars on the Internet.

It actually came from the fans. They wanted me to start a blog where I could just rant and rave about ridiculous things. I wanted to let people into my life — maybe it would open their eyes to what the songs are about, or why I write the songs that I do. There are a lot of bands that are a little more mysterious, which is fine. I just wanted to be a little more open with our fans and friends.

It seems like, these days, it’s easy to be as open as you want to.

A bunch of my friends (in bands) have started blogs. But it’s mostly, like, news feeds and promotion for the band. There are a thousand different Web sites that can tell you when the next show is. I wanted to start a site that was not about that. It was just about my random thoughts and stuff that I thought people would find humor in, even if it’s something embarrassing in my life. I’m not one to blush.

I loved the post where you answered 194 questions about yourself, from your first pet to your mom’s breast cancer to the frequency of your haircuts. What won’t you reveal about yourself online?

Well, I don’t want to tell people where I live. I do have a personal life, and I do have stuff that I keep to myself. But for the people that want to know more about me, I want to have this site. It’s me posting, so it’s the truth, from my mouth. I guess that’s better than seeing it on or Perez Hilton.

How much time do you spend blogging or Tweeting per day?

Lately it’s been kind of crazy. I’ve started to be a little less specific on my location, because we’ve started to get people showing up within minutes. It’s really flattering, but it’s started getting more and more crazy, and restaurants are getting really upset at all the people coming in. I wait until after, and then say, 'I just had an awesome meal with my family.’

You do post a lot about Chipotle, I’ve noticed.

Oh, I love Chipotle. It’s unanimously the band’s favorite quick, in-and-out restaurant. When we’re constantly touring, you’ve got to find the place that’s consistent. We’ve found that Chipotle has the most consistent guacamole.

Do you have a favorite Twitter feed?

I just got onto @revrunwisdom (Rev. Run from Run-DMC), and it’s really uplifting. I like to fill my life with happiness, uplifting morals and advice. Everything he says is really good, smart, and it’s tasteful. I really dig it.

You’re a big fan of Twilight, which is only slightly embarrassing, I suppose.

That is my guilty pleasure, for sure.

Are you a fan of the books, the movie, or both?

I’m actually a fan of both. A lot of my friends who just liked the books thought the movie skewered everything that the book had led up to. But I liked both. You’ll hardly ever find a movie that I won’t like.

Do you have high hopes for New Moon?

I do, I do. I got to meet Robert Pattinson when I was in New York City. He stopped by the studio, and he seems like a really cool dude. I told him I was a fan, it was my guilty pleasure, and he laughed. And Kristen Stewart, we’ve known for a little bit. If anything, just to support those friends would be very cool. I can use that as my cop-out: "Why are you going to see that?" "Eh, my friends are in it; I want to go check it out." But really, deep down inside, I’m so stoked for it.

You’ve got a new album coming out soon. The first single, Heaven Can Wait, branches out a little bit — it’s got some synths, some pianos. There are some places where it reminds me a little bit of Ben Folds and the BoDeans. How would you describe it?

We did so much piano on this record. I’ve been playing since I was 5 years old, so I figured that it would be nice to use it. For us to incorporate it in each and every one of the songs was a big deal for me. A lot of people are turning to the synths and the weird sounds, and we actually recorded real bells and real piano and real strings and stuff like that, so it was a very cool production process.

That wasn’t really the case on the first album. This Is Our Town was a piano-driven song, but that was pretty much it.

Yeah. This Is Our Town, I had written for Bradenton a really long time ago. I really wanted it to make the record, even though we had released it before, because I thought it was a really big part of our lives. We put nothing but piano and strings on it, with a band for 30 seconds in the middle of it. This record is very This Is Our Town-influenced.

Are you getting recognized more in Bradenton these days?

Yeah, but it’s cool, because Bradenton is such a small town that everybody knows everybody. Everyone’s super-respectful. I’m always at the beach, I eat at the same places every single day, and people say hi, and that’s it. I talk to them just like they were normal friends. Restaurants never let us pay for food, which is pretty awesome. The times that we needed restaurants to comp our food were there years ago; now that we actually can pay for our own meals, they give it to us for free. It’s a weird situation, but super-flattering.

Do you expect a lot of friends to come up for the show in Tampa?

Every time we play in the Tampa Bay area, it’s so much family. All four of us were born and raised in Bradenton, and we all went to the same middle school, elementary school and high school together. All of our families, all of our families’ families, are in Bradenton, or close by. You notice, when we play in the Tampa-St. Pete area, that the fans are so proud, because they made us who we are. It was our hometown following that got us a management deal and a label contract. There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t forget that. When we do play, you see the looks on people’s faces, and it’s almost like they’re onstage with you.

You’re only in town for a day or two. Are you going to have any time at all to go back to Bradenton?
I will be home for the day. I’m closing on my first house. I will officially be a first-time homeowner. I’m hoping I can take the rest of the tour to the house to break it in.
Were you preparing for the tour at the same time you were shopping for a house?

I was recording the record, and this really awesome deal came — it’s this beautiful, huge house that I fell in love with. Now when I come back, I’ll actually have a place to call home. I never knew how much work and effort actually went into buying a house, but I’m so excited about it that I just overlook all the stress. It’s a really incredible feeling. I just never thought it would be possible.

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