We The Kings are approaching the 10-year anniversary of their debut self-titled record, which houses the track that solidified them as scene favorites: “Check Yes Juliet.” Some may be shocked, however, to learn that “Check Yes Juliet” is no longer their most popular song to date based on Spotify streams and YouTube views. That honor goes to “Sad Song” from their 2013 crowd-funded album, Somewhere Somehow, despite the track never being pushed as a single and not having an official music video. Read on for frontman Travis Clark’s reaction to the song’s surprising success.
You released Somewhere Somehow in 2013, but “Sad Song” was never pushed as a single. When did you notice it started to pick up traction?
I don’t know. It really is a phenomenon. We’re really not sure. We didn’t even play it on tour, so after we had released Somewhere Somehow, which was in 2013, we obviously went on tour and supported the album. We did the 2014 Vans Warped Tour. We did a couple headlining tours and played overseas and not one time in 2014 did we play “Sad Song.” Then in 2015, we were looking into Spotify because we were going to release some new music. We noticed “Sad Song” had like 20 million listens or whatever it was, and I remember thinking it was a mistake—a glitch in the system. [Laughs.] There were songs we had promoted to radio and tried to make our singles or whatever that didn’t even have half those kind of numbers. We went over to YouTube to see the silly little lyric videos that we make and fans make, all of them had millions of views. It was crazy. I remember it all happened in one day. In one day, we found out this was all going on. We asked about the sales of the song, and were [told] it’s outselling “Check Yes Juliet” every week. Granted, “Check Yes Juliet” came out in 2007, and it was a big single for us. For a while, it had been the song that’s selling—even today—if it’s 2,000 tracks a week. “Sad Song” was selling 3,000 tracks a week. It was just so strange. I guess I don’t have an answer of why or how it happened, but I just remember finding out that it happened and just being so blown away that for once in our career, we let our fans choose, kind of accidentally, which song we were going to go with. Then we started obviously talking about it [being] a good idea that we do something with this song that’s doing so well organically.
When was the first time you played it live? What was the reaction like?
We’ve actually had a couple different versions of it that we’ve played since. [The first time] was at our hometown show that we had in 2014. We have this hometown show every year. It’s a free show for everybody in Bradenton, [Florida], and the surrounding areas. That’s where we came from, and we always wanted to have a show that would be something where our friends and family could come watch us. We would start preparing the set list, and I remember asking, “Hey, we should have a down part of the set where we play a couple acoustic songs or a couple ballads to give a break between all the high energy stuff.” I brought up “Sad Song,” and the rest of the band was like, “Yeah, that could be cool. Just have Coley play it on piano, and you sing it.” That’s kind of how we started playing it. The other version is where the band comes in with a big ending. This past Warped Tour we also did a pop-rock version of “Sad Song” in honor of Warped Tour. We’ve played different versions of the song, and they’ve all done really, really well.
You mentioned the fans sort of taking over in regards to what they wanted to hear. I also saw you all embracing their help on Twitter with getting it to trend and snagging the attention of radio stations. How instrumental do you think fans are in spreading the word?
I think the more and more the music industry evolves, the more the fans actually take precedence. It should always be that way. A lot of bands, I feel like sometimes forget this fact, but the fans are really the only reason we can do what we do as far as touring. It’s no secret that touring is very expensive. It takes a lot of money to be able to leave home, get in a van, bus or car—it doesn’t matter what you’re touring in—and go from city to city. Gas, food, everything costs money. Without the fans coming to the shows, buying the tickets and buying merch, you wouldn’t have that money to be able to do that. It’s no secret, at least to us, that the fans are our breathing apparatus. I feel like we’ve always had that connection with them, but now, with how the music industry has changed in the past decade of people trying to figure out how to sell music again or how is the music industry going to stay alive from a label standpoint, I think for radio stations and labels, they’re like, “Let’s see what the fans are listening to.”
Now, I feel like it’s finally gone back to the organic way of seeing what people really like. Let’s do some research, and the research is let’s go on Spotify, YouTube and Shazam and see how much traction a certain song has had. It’s certainly not to discredit the radio programmers and the radio promoters that we use even. They do an incredible job of even getting our name through the door when the people we’re battling are Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, One Direction and 5 Seconds Of Summer—the artists that are absolutely massive. It’s one thing for We The Kings to even be mentioned. I remember first hearing our song on the radio. You would hear Rihanna, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake and then it would be We The Kings and then Beyonce. If you were to put them all together, there would clearly be one that stuck out, and that would be us.
Next year will be our 10th year of We The Kings. I think that’s something very special. AP definitely knows, you’ve seen bands that have come and gone, and unfortunately, there are very few bands that are staying together for more than five years. The fact that we’re celebrating the 10-year anniversary of our first album is just something very special to us and something that we owe completely to the fans.
Why only a lyric video instead of a music video?
The honest answer is that it’s cheaper. [Laughs.] I had a good friend of ours that is just an incredible lyric video maker, and he put together all these videos where it’s not just Times New Roman font on the page. The words pop up as they’re coming, and the ADD generation of people, which includes myself, you see the video, and you’re just like, “Okay, this is really cool. I’m looking at shapes and all these different things.” It’s better than having all the lyrics printed out and put on a YouTube video. We would love to do a music video for it. I think we probably will, but the honest answer is, when it comes to the money that’s coming in to We The Kings, we would rather use it to tour and to be able to go to places that we haven’t been and play music for people that we haven’t been able to play music for versus sitting behind a camera and making a video. Nothing to discredit music videos. They once were very, very important to have, and hopefully that time will come again, but I feel like right now, we’re in a day and age that YouTube videos that we make as the We The Kings channel or as anybody in the band’s individual channels, they get a behind-the-scenes [look] and they know more about us. When they see a music video, it almost looks—they call it out for what it is. It’s a staged performance and staged story line. I know when we do make music videos again—proper music videos—I know that we’ll probably go along the lines of something we relate to like the Foo Fighters and Coldplay. In every video that they make, Foo Fighters are incredibly creative and funny and awesome in its own way. In Coldplay’s videos, they’re unbelievably touching and also creative and inspirational. I would definitely not want to do another video that’s boy meets girl, girl doesn’t like boy, boy tries really, really hard, girl finally comes around and then boy and girl run away together into the sunlight. I don’t want to make another generic video, so the lyric videos are just a way our music can be heard on that platform.
Charles [Trippy, bass], Danny [Duncan, drums] and you all have a pretty big YouTube presence with your vlogging. Have you noticed any crossover between people checking out “Sad Song” that also check out your videos?
I think before we did it, there was a very big disconnect between the band world—the scene—and the YouTube scene. There were artists on YouTube that had millions and millions of subscribers, but when they would tour, no one would go to the shows. They had a really tough time touring. Pretty much when Charles joined the band, he actually had the world record in the Guinness Book of the longest standing daily vlog ever. He has uploaded a new blog every single day for almost nine years. It’s crazy, so he has millions of subscribers. He’s been able to show the band from a behind-the-scenes view.Growing up, I loved Blink-182 like no other, and you couldn’t find access to videos like that. They would do a tour DVD, and that was the closest that you could get to the shenanigans that you could do backstage and some of their live stuff with what they’d say onstage. With Charles, myself and Danny who are in that vlogging YouTube world, you just get to see so much content, and the crossover that I’ve been able to see from that is because We The Kings came from the band world. We came from the scene. We were scene kids that wanted to be a part of it. Music was a big part of our lives and it was our escape when we didn’t feel like we fit in. Music was something that we just wanted to really engulf ourselves in, but with the YouTube thing, which came after, it was kind of like, “Hey, we’re doing this.” We noticed that there were people who were watching our channel that had never been to shows, so they would come out to shows and they weren’t really sure how to act or how to go to a concert. I think what I started to see was the crossover of viewers from the YouTube world coming and interacting with the fans of the scene world and We The Kings and it being almost a very clear difference, but fans who have known about We The Kings have never been like, “Oh, this is my band. I hate that [other people] listen to them to because I found out about them earlier.” There are bands that are very cult-like, and I mean that in a positive way, but there’s fans that will be like, “Oh, you shouldn’t listen to this band because I found them first and you’re not a true fan.” I think We The Kings fans have always been very open to ‘the more the merrier.’ Once the fans of the vlog world and the YouTube world would come out to shows, we would hear them at the meet and greet or they’d stay after and say, “This is our first show. It was so awesome. I can’t believe I have been missing out on going to concerts because it’s so much fun.”