May 5, 2014 Interview – Hunter Thomsen and Coley O’Toole of We The Kings
After almost a decade together We The Kings have become one of the most popular alternative rock acts with three straight chart topping albums and worldwide touring. Mixing flavors of rock, pop, and punk, the band continue to satisfy their fan-base while building new fans every turn they make. Dedicated to the craft of creating honest music which reflects their lives and feelings, We The Kings manage to keep things fresh all these years later and are enjoying the roller-coaster ride; taking nothing for granted. Recently we sat down with guitarist Hunter Thomsen and keyboardist Coley O”Toole for a personal look into the world of We The Kings, their approach to writing music, their upcoming appearance on the Vans Warped Tour 2014, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – We The Kings has been together now almost a decade. Since your 2007 self-titled debut album the band’s popularity has grown over the years. You have toured with Simple Plan and been featured on the Vans Warped Tour. When you first began all those years ago, could you have imagined the success you have achieved since then?
Hunter Thomsen – No, we never thought it would turn into something as big as it is right now. It is really cool and we are very fortunate to have a career and longevity in this.
CrypticRock.com – It is great to see it blossom the way it has. Now the band’s style has always had a pop flavor, but each album see’s a progression in the style and sound of the music. You interject many elements into your music. What is the inspiration for the band’s progression in sound?
Coley O’Toole – I think, what has inspired the band is the human element; feelings, trials and tribulations of everything we go through. The things we experience as a family on the road translate into words and melodies. You also age; music and how you feel changes. It is really nice because it has brought a bigger spectrum to the audience and we have gained new fans while entertaining old ones. It has been a blessing to be able to change like that.
CrypticRock.com – The progression does seem to be very organic. It is part of human nature as you said. As a artist you want to progress and not make the same music over and over.
Coley O’Toole – No, not at all. It would just get stale. First and foremost in the music business you have to entertain yourself. If you are not entertained by that people will see right through that, it is very transparent.
CrypticRock.com – That is very true. There seems to be a lot of diverse alternative pop acts on the scene over the past few years. It is definitely healthy for music to have a different side for listeners to choose from. What do you think has caused the influx of alternative pop bands over the years?
Hunter Thomsen – I think it is one of those things that rock-n-roll music will never go away. It is maybe not so prevalent at the moment, but it will always come back into something. Whether it is pop-rock, rock-rap, or whatever it may be; it will always stick its head back up and come back into the music industry.
CrypticRock.com – Yes rock-n-roll is always around even if it has down periods. It does seem to be coming back more which is a great thing.
Coley O’Toole – I think it also happens in the baby steps of becoming a musician. When you first get an electric guitar, one of the first riffs you might learn is a Green Day riff. That instills in all these new bands forming, so it keeps the old fashions alive and they do recycle themselves. I think that is pretty cool.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, it is great to see things like that. Now the band’s latest album Somewhere Somehow was released in December 2013. The record is full of a variety of sounds. What was the writing and recording process like for this new record?
Hunter Thomsen – It was interesting because this was the most time we actually had off as a band in the last seven years. Travis was out in LA and we send emails, and I would go out there and record some guitar parts. It was kind of fun hearing what was coming back from Travis and the uniqueness of what we were trying to write for this record. We had the freedom of not being on a label and not having someone looking over our shoulder on every song. That was really cool. We felt let us try whatever we want to right now, we might as well.
CrypticRock.com – That experimentation definitely shows in the music. The album has some really dance-vibe-like tracks mixed in. Was that something the band wanted to experiment with on this album?
Coley O’Toole – Yes, that is just a part of the atmosphere we are in. Travis enjoys that style of music as well. It is a good blend of emotion, it helps keep the crowd alive during a performance. It is a good pick me up, especially when you are eight songs deep into a set and you rip a good dance number out. It is all about that good feel good emotion. It does stem from a genuine place.
CrypticRock.com – It does work well with the record. You have tracks which are more mellow and ones which are more upbeat. It creates a good balance.
Coley O’Toole – I think that is what makes for a complete record. People overlook the fact that when you are making a record it is important to have a nice contrast. If you make a record that every song sounds the same, it is lackluster.
CrypticRock.com – This was in fact the first album you worked with Charles on bass as Drew was still part of the band during the last recording process for Sunshine State of Mind. Being Charles has been part of the band now three years, how was it for the band going into the recording process with him for the first time?
Hunter Thomsen – It was fun, it is a new atmosphere in the band. He has a different style and it has been interesting to hear him, watch him perform, as well as play a huge role in the band.
CrypticRock.com – Obviously the chemistry is working well. He has been part of the band for three years so it must be going well.
Coley O’Toole – He offers so many talents that we learned from. He is just an incredible person too. We become smarter and better people surrounding ourselves with each other.
CrypticRock.com – That sounds like a very good atmosphere to be in. Now that you spend a lot of time on the road touring, you spend a lot of time in confined quarters together. It is evident you all get along well, but sometimes you probably need your space. How do you deal with this living situation on the road?
Hunter Thomsen – If you ever grew up with a brother, that is pretty much what touring is like. There are head-butting moments and sometimes you have to say things that you need to just get out, but that is part of what we do. We get through that, we all love each other more than anything.
CrypticRock.com – That makes sense. It is difficult being on the road regardless if you get along or not. You are away from home, how do you keep yourselves mentally and physically healthy on the road?
Coley O’Toole – Regular exercise, eating right, and staying positive. Keeping yourself positive, keeping yourself mentally happy is a big thing.
Hunter Thomsen – We also have Socker Boppers. Sometimes we just beat the shit out of each other with those (laughs).
Coley O’Toole – You have to have a lot of humor to make this work, so we are always laughing. There is not a minute we are not truly laughing.
CrypticRock.com – Sounds like a fun time and a good attitude to have. You will be returning to the Vans Warped Tour in 2014. Having taken part in the festival before, what do you take from that experience with you into 2014?
Hunter Thomsen – Being on the Vans Warped Tour in the past years we learned a couple of things; one is suntan lotion, two is water, three is having a good time, and four is bring baby butt wipes for the port-a-potties (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – It will be great to see the band back on the Warped Tour. What are some of your musical influences?
Coley O’Toole – I am a huge fan of Neil Young. Obviously The Beatles. In modern day, I love The Killers, Butch Walker. I kind of listen to a bunch of different things, it is just about the songs to me. If it is good, I will follow the trail.
Hunter Thomsen – It started with The Beatles with me. Listening to good music is a good thing. It started from there, and I was a huge fan of Gin Blossoms, Third Eye Blind, and a lot of good 90’s rock-n-roll.
CrypticRock.com – There was a lot of great alternative rock in the 1990’s. It seemed the alternative rock scene is making a strong comeback like it was in the 1990’s. My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you fans of horror films, and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
Hunter Thomsen – I love what Rob Zombie does, he really likes the gore factor. That is pretty cool, I like watching his films. Coley and I were just watching The Conjuring (2013) the other day. You hear it was based on a true story, and it is interesting to watch something that may have happened.
Coley O’Toole – I used to love Poltergeist (1982). I would sit in front of the TV for hours and watch that film so that is probably my favorite horror flick.
CrypticRock.com – Being a fan of older films, what do you think of all the newer films with all the CGI effects opposed to realistic effects.
Coley O’Toole – The movie Hook (1991) was a set, they built that set and the dimension of that is really awesome. Even though the computer animation is brilliant, and the people which do it are very talented, it lacks that human element. Set design to me is something tangible.
Check out We The Kings all summer long at the Vans Warped Tour on the following dates:
June 13 | Houston, TX | Reliant Park – Main Street Lot
June 14 | San Antonio, TX | AT&T Center
June 15 | Dallas, TX | Gexa Energy Pavilion
June 17 | Albuquereque, NM | Isleta Amphitheater
June 18 | Mesa, AZ | Quail Run Park
June 19 | Las Vegas, NV | Luxor Lot
June 20 | Pomona, CA | Pomona Fairplex
June 21 | Mountain View, CA | Shoreline Amphitheater
June 22 | Ventura, CA | Ventura County Fairgrounds
June 25 | Chula Vista, CA | Sleep Train Amphitheater
June 26 | Wheatland, CA | Sleep Train Amphitheater
June 28 | Seattle, WA | White River
June 29 | Portland, OR | Portland Expo Center
July 2 | St. Louis, MO | Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
July 3 | Indianapolis, IN | Klipsch Music Center
July 4 | Toronto, ON | Molson Canadian Amphitheater
July 5 | Montreal, QC | Parterre Notre Dame
July 6 | Holmdel, NJ | PNC Bank Arts Center
July 8 | Darien Center, NY (Buffalo) | Darien Lake PAC
July 9 | Scranton, PA | Toyota Pavilion
July 10 | Boston, MA | Xfinity Center
July 11 | Camden, NJ | Susquehanna Bank Center
July 12 | Long Island, NY | Nikon at Jones Beach Amphitheater
July 13 | Hartford, CT | Xfinity Theater
July 15 | Pittsburgh, PA | First Niagara Pavilion
July 16 | Cincinatti, OH | Riverbend Music Center
July 17 | Cuyahoga Falls, OH (Cleveland) | Blossom Music Center
July 18 | Detroit, MI | The Palace of Auburn Hills
July 19 | Chicago, IL | First Midwest Bank Amphitheater
July 20 | Minneapolis, MN | Canterbury Park
July 22 | Columbia, MD (Washington, D.C.) | Merriweather Post Pavilion
July 23 | Virginia Beach, VA | Farm Bureau Live
July 24 | Atlanta, GA | Aaron’s Amphitheater at Lakewood
July 25 | St. Petersburg, FL | Vinoy Park
July 26 | West Palm Beach, FL | Cruzan Amphitheater
July 27 | Orlando, FL | Central Florida Fairgrounds
July 28 | Charlotte, NC | PNC Music Pavilion Charlotte
July 29 | Nashville, TN | Tennessee State Fairgrounds
July 30 | Milwaukee, WI | Marcus Amphitheater
July 31 | Kansas City, KS | Sandstone Amphitheater
Aug. 2 | Salt Lake City, UT | Utah State Fairpark
Aug. 3 | Denver, CO | Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium