We The Kings - Six

(album out now through Liberator Music/S-Curve Records/BMG)

1. On My Love
2. The Ocean And The Sun
3. Even If It Kills Me
4. Mama Knows Best
5. Ride
6. Alive
7. I Won’t Settle
8. Festival Music
9. Planes, Trains & Cars
10. Immortal
11. What I Wouldn’t Give

When naming their new album, We The Kings set out to check a few boxes. Not only does Six represent the Florida-based band’s sixth full-length album (all of which, from their 2007 Self-Titled through to 2015’s Strange Love, begin with the letter S), but it also pays tribute to the quintet’s honorary sixth member: their fans.

As such, the artwork of Six literally features a piece of their fans, a mosaic of those who helped crowdfund the album through a PledgeMusic campaign. It’s a testament to an audience who have rallied behind We The Kings for their entire career – to the tune of more than 250 million Spotify streams and platinum-selling success.

“There’s a pride that fans have about their favourite bands that I think is so special,” frontman Travis Clark says. “These fans have been supporting us for more than a decade. When we’re writing songs, we don’t want to let anyone down.”

Indeed, We The Kings’ storied career has been marked by a deep reciprocity between the band and their fans. When the group – Clark, Hunter Thomsen (guitar), Danny Duncan (drums), Charles Trippy (bass) and Coley O’Toole (keyboard, guitar) – broke out of Bradenton, Florida in 2007 with ‘Check Yes Juliet’, one of the most iconic songs of the late ’00s pop-punk movement, millions of listeners around the world instantly fell in love with their buoyant spirit and emotionally poignant songwriting.

Follow-up singles like ‘Heaven Can Wait’, ‘We’ll Be A Dream (feat. Demi Lovato)’, ‘Say You Like Me’ and ‘Sad Song (feat. Elena Coats)’ kept We The Kings squarely in the mainstream, but as they readied Six, the band dug deep into the past to find inspiration from their earliest days. Their 10-year anniversary tour for their self-titled album sold out venues around the world in 2017, and it gave We The Kings a renewed sense of energy as they prepped new music.

“Doing the 10-year tour in the middle of writing and producing this one subconsciously laid the groundwork,” Clark explains. “There are songs on this album that aren’t like the second through fifth albums—they’re a lot like the first. Maybe it was our way of doing a tip of the hat to the fans who have stuck around.”

Indeed, there are plenty of throwback moments on Six, but maybe not in the way you’d expect. Rather than re-tread where they came from, the band’s nods to their past are more nuanced, finely filtered through a modern lens that affords them the freedom to expand their sound in all directions and continually redefine just what a We The Kings song should sound like.

“It was all about choosing the best songs, regardless of genre,” Clark says. “This record has so much diversity within We The Kings. I never wanted to be the band that isn’t allowed to play a certain style of music because it’s not ‘us’. I never want to feel held down at any time.”

That freedom is on full display on songs like the bubbling ‘The Ocean And The Sun’, which tells the story of Clark leaving Florida for a Los Angeles songwriting session that would change his life through a serendipitous set of events, culminating in the birth of his two children. The song also features a cameo from his daughter Kinsley. It’s there on the hip-hop-leaning ‘Immortal’, coloured by soaring synths, and the anthemic first single ‘On My Love’.

But at its core, Six’s true triumph is its emotional heft. So much has changed for We The Kings since Strange Love – marriage, childbirth, death – and the album’s 11 songs are a tribute to life’s moments, both big and small, and how you never know which is which until much later down the line.

The stunning ballad ‘What I Wouldn’t Give’, written in tribute to Clark’s late mother-in-law, drives that idea home. Clark never intended it to be a We The Kings song, but after performing it at his mother-in-law’s celebration of life, everyone present at the ceremony understood just how powerful the song was.

“My father-in-law, my wife and her sisters all said, “People need to hear this song. There’s so many people who would relate to it.” It was so much more than writing just another song. This is going to be a song that changes a lot of people’s lives and hopefully inspires them to know our loved ones are just gone for a little bit.”

It’s a beautiful sentiment, the embodiment of finding strength to carry on during life’s most trying times – and ultimately proof that even this deep into their career, We The Kings have a lot left to say. That’s what drives them to keep pushing.

“When somebody hears us from ‘Check Yes Juliet’, they assume we sound like that,” Clark says. “Maybe someone hears us from ‘Sad Song’ and thinks we’re a stripped-down ballad band. It’s always better to be defined by the band you are rather than a specific song. I would love to be a band known for being a band.”

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