Travis Clark is grateful to finally be traveling with some perks.
When We the Kings first hit the road as high schoolers, they played free shows, for anywhere from five minutes to an hour at a time, at the mercy of bar managers or headlining acts.
Now the band is on its first headlining tour. And during this phone interview, the We the Kings frontman is at an Olive Garden, loading up on food.
"Our merch guy used to be a manager at an Olive Garden," Clark says. "He has this pay stub where he shows it and gets 50 percent off everything. So we're loading up on like salad, soup, pasta. It's like three bucks."
Not exactly a bowl of candy backstage with all the brown M&M'S removed. But it does reflect, somewhat, the upward curve the light pop-punk group from Bradenton, Fla., is enjoying. S-Curve Records released We the Kings' self-titled debut in October, and it's since cracked the Top 10 on the Billboard Heatseekers and iTunes Alternative Albums charts.
The release, while not groundbreaking, is filled with catchy, three-minute, post-adolescent pop hooks.
"When we were going into it, a lot of people didn't know who we were," Clark says. "We knew it was the introduction album, and in a way we wanted to let people know what we were all about and where we came from."
The group began a few years back, when Clark, guitarist-vocalist Hunter Thomsen, bassist Drew Thomsen and drummer Danny Duncan met in high school. Before they had even settled on a band name, they embarked on their first tour.
"We left home for two months, we had a couple demos on MySpace, and we just wanted to see what touring was like and what we can make of it," Clark says. "We had a Dodge Caravan with a trailer hitch on it, which wasn't suggested by anybody. And we just called venues two or three months in advance and said, "If you have a show, we'll play. We don't care if you pay us or not, we just want to try to sell some CDs.'"
Now We the Kings enjoys a much different experience: Discounted food, money to pay bills. As Clark says, they can even afford $3-a-gallon gas.
And the shows the foursome is playing? Well, they're a blast.
"The biggest perk is with a CD out, there's a greater difference in the kids who come out," Clark says. "You'll see someone singing all the lyrics with passion that you spent so much time writing, completing.
"It's cool to see how much it affects their lives, and they'll remember that song as a point of their lives. It's really flattering."