e the Kings don't just wear their hometown love on their sleeves. They wear it on their skin.
"Hunter has a tattoo of Florida on his chest," says singer Travis Clark, referring to drummer Hunter Thomsen. "I have, 'Dear Bradentown, you have been good to me,' on the back of my arm."
You rarely see such civic pride in the world of punk music. But Bradenton's We the Kings are the gleeful exceptions to the rule, four longtime friends who are poised to become this year's breakout Warped Tour band.
"We rep Florida I think more than any band represents their state," said Clark, calling from Arizona, where We the Kings were driving to record a spot on Jimmy Kimmel Live. "People have asked us if we ever plan on moving out to Hollywood or New York if we ever make a lot of money, and we're like, 'No, we'd rather just have a house in Bradenton.'"
We the Kings — who met at Bradenton's King Middle School, hence the name — scored a rising hit with the poppy Check Yes Juliet, which is climbing up the iTunes download charts. Their videos for Check Yes Juliet and Skyway Avenue — yep, a song about the Sunshine Skyway Bridge — are huge hits on mtvU.com. And they're beyond stoked to be part of their first-ever Warped Tour.
Clark, 23, called tbt* to chat about his love for the Gulf Coast, and "Bradentown" in particular.
Stepping onstage at the Warped Tour in St. Pete — what's that going to be like?
The only time we really get nervous is playing in front of the people who know us best, so we'll probably be very, very nervous for the St. Pete show. I'm hoping that a lot of hometown kids that have supported us for years will come out and hang out with us. It's going to be incredible to actually be on the stage, rather than in the crowd — we've gone the last three or four years as kids wanting to check out our favorite bands, and now we actually get to be a band on the Warped Tour. So it's like a dream come true.
Give me the We the Kings tour of Bradenton — two or three places that you think people in Tampa Bay ought to go check out.
Oh, definitely the public beach. We have the best beaches all along the west coast of Florida. There's a bar and grill called Duffy's, and it has the best hamburgers ever. It's incredible, and it's right there on the beach. If you like skating, downtown Bradenton has a lot of cool parking garages that we used to hang out in.
You mention the parking garages in your song This is Our Town. I imagine that song must kill in Bradenton. Does it get a good reaction around the country?
They get it when they hear the entire song. The entire CD is written about our lives and our personal experiences that we went through as kids, but it's broad enough to where it relates to everybody. As specific as the lyrics are, there's a Bradenton in every city, no matter how big or how small that city is — it's who you grow up with, your friends and family, and how it makes you a person. That's where the song comes from — loving your hometown for what it made you.
Describe watching Check Yes Juliet climb the charts.
It's identical to that movie That Thing You Do. When they hear their song for the first time on the radio, it's that same feeling, like, "Oh, my god!" Because when you see somebody on TV or hear somebody on the radio, it completely alters your perception of them. It makes them larger than life. When we're being played next to Mariah Carey and Lil Wayne, and then Check Yes Juliet comes on out of nowhere, you're just like, "No way that really happened." It's so surreal. And we haven't stopped smiling about it.
Considering how many young punk bands there are in every scene, can you point to any one thing you guys did to say, "That's why we succeeded"?
Everybody in a band knows that it takes so much support inside your own head to make it without saying, "Aw, we tried our best, let's go to our backup plan." We knew what we wanted, and we wanted to pursue it no matter what our friends said, or what our parents said, or after losing our high school battle of the bands. The only thing I can really say is that we never gave up. We never had the chance to say we had gone too far.