"We’re gonna give it a jumpstart / 4, 3, 2, 1, go! / What’s up? / When we get it going no way we’re gonna stop / And all you need is a spark, spark / If it’s all that you got! Got, got, got, got / We’re gonna give it a jumpstart / 4, 3, 2, 1 go!” sings These Kids Wear Crowns front man Alex Johnson on the huge, pop song that kicked off the release of the full length album Jumpstart on March 1st.
On Jumpstart, Chilliwack, BC party core band These Kids Wear Crowns keep the energy going with big, boisterous sing-along electro dance-pop songs, as catchy and engaging as last year’s breakthrough single, “Break It Up.”
It’s the kind of album so big and infectious, it needs to be shared — blasted in the clubs, from car stereos, at beach parties, anywhere masses of people congregate and can dance, jump up and down, and shout out the lyrics. Their music is an aural energy drink, a strong-arm of happy friends yanking you to join in the fun.
These Kids Wear Crowns intended it to be that way.
It’s understandable why. The albums lyrics have a sense of zoom, an I’m-on-my-way determination that epitomizes These Kids Wear Crowns’ original mind-set and resulting career trajectory.
The 11-song album — produced by Matt Squire (3OH!3, Panic At The Disco, Katy Perry), Gggarth Richardson (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hedley) and Jeff Rockwell (Forever The Sickest Kids) — contains the energetic first single, “Jumpstart;” the electro-heavy “Don’t Sweat It;” anthemic “Lifetime”; and whirling electro cover of Whitney Houston’s ‘80s hit, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Standouts from the band’s EPs, “Skeletons,” “Break It Up,” “Oceans” and “We All Fall Down,” are also included.
“This whole album is about getting people up off their feet,” says front man/co-writer Alex Johnson. “It’s much more dedicated to dance than our EPs, but still has the same These Kids flavour. It has our familiar melodies and sing-a-long lyrics for everyone. We’re big on alliteration and repetition and those things make our songs stand out.”
“We always said that we wanted our music to have great energy – nothing negative. We want everyone in the clubs to get on their feet and dance when they hear our songs played,” says bassist/co-writer Alan Poettcker.
The six-piece band, comprised of Alex, Alan, guitarists Joshua “Gypsy” McDaniel and Joe Porter, synthesist/programmer Matt Vink and drummer Josh Mitchinson, live in a musical era where pop and dance dominate the charts and can’t help but be influenced by it. “Almost everyone enjoys dance music of some kind and everyone can get up and dance,” believes Alex.
As a dance band, a unique configuration since “dance” usually implies solo or DJ or backing tracks, These Kids Wear Crowns almost didn’t happen. Founding members Alan, Alex and Matt initially wanted to form an electro project, a three-piece dance band, just keyboards and vocals, but Josh messed that up. He heard their previous band, Goodnight Medic, which placed top 10 in 2008’s Seeds competition for Vancouver’s CFOX, and tracked them down – the connection was instant - they had to start a band together.
Along with Joe, the five went into the studio over the summer of 2009 to cut an EP. “We recorded our first CD without having a full-on band practice,” says Alan. “The priority of this band has always been writing songs. Everyone had played in decent bands before we all got together, so everyone knew what had to be done to make it sound good live.”
That fall — taking a leave from their day jobs — These Kids Wear Crowns hit the road behind the EP. That’s when MuchMusic asked them to appear on the make-or-break show, disBAND. The 5-piece quickly recruited Gypsy from A Trophy Life to join the lineup as a second guitarist, and got the thumbs-up from the judges at the conclusion of the episode. “disBAND really made it clear to us that this was an option for us if we really wanted to go for it,” says Alex. “It was our chance for major exposure.”
At the invitation of disBAND host Greig Nori, prominent members of the music industry came down to MuchMusic to check out all of the second season bands live for one of the episodes. Fraser Hill, Senior Director of A&R, at EMI Music Canada attended and remembers, “They were strong performers with a lot of potential,” while Jason Furman from booking agency S.L. Feldman & Associates first saw the band at MuchMusic’s showcase at Tattoo in Toronto and says, “From the first chorus, it was like, ‘That’s the band we want.’ It was that simple.”
Furman added them to his roster and put them on the road – he told Hill to check out one of the dates, which he did (in Calgary). “A song and a half in, I said, ‘We gotta sign them,’” says Hill.
“I saw six guys playing – enjoying what they do and it translated to the audience. Alex was an absolute star that night. He grabbed the audience by the scruff of the neck and took them from song to song.
“They like to call it party core,” Hill says of the music. “It’s not pop-punk; it’s beyond that. Furman says, “they have electro; dance; they have vocal harmonies; everybody shares instrumentation live so there’s a lot of depth to it. And Alan and Alex, have a dynamic between them that really comes together in a live setting.
As the ones that carry a lot of the vocals, they’re opposites of each other, but they combine it and deliver a really tight show.”
EMI signed the band and released a reworked version of the EP in late-August 2010 with 8 songs, including “Fifa 99,” (the first song they ever played with Josh); the break-out single “Break It Up,” “Skeletons,” an acoustic version of “Break It Up” and a remix of “Holding On.” In the fall, the band returned to the studio to complete work on its first full-length.
Alex and Alan compliment each other as songwriters, Alan coming up with the more standard pop/rock songs, such as “Good Friends (With Bad Benefits),” and Alex with “crazier” ideas, such as “Let’s Ride,” says Alan. “Alex doesn’t play any instruments so he thinks about music a different way than I do,” he explains. “If I write a song, I come up with an instrument part and then put a vocal on it, whereas for ‘Let’s Ride,’ Alex sang the whole first half to me and it was up to me to fill in the blanks.”
Some of the album includes tracks the band recorded itself, but once EMI came on board, they asked the guys which producers they’d like to work with and Los Angeles-based Matt Squire was at the top of their list. “He’s done a lot of records that we like — Panic At The Disco, 30H!3, Taking Back Sunday, The Used,” says Alan. They worked on new material together, and, in the case of “This Party Never Stops,” Matt added to the existing track.
“It’s an old demo I recorded,” says Alan. “It was the first time I was getting into programming and I did the entire song with no guitars and no real drums. It was originally called ‘Mixed Feelings’ and we had this cool verse, but we couldn’t get the perfect chorus. We probably wrote 20 different choruses and finally ended up with the one that’s on there. Matt did additional programming on it, but it was basically me and Alex who recorded it in my basement.”
“Jumpstart” is the only song on the album (besides “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”) they didn’t write. It was a collaboration between Matt, Damon Sharpe and Pebe Sebert (Ke$ha’s mother). “When we heard the song the first time, we knew the vocal melody and the chorus was unbelievably catchy and knew exactly what we would add to it,” says Alan. “Matt handed us a microphone and we just sang all these extra parts and things that our band would do for that song and made a rough recording of it.”
“Lifetime” – the only co-write on the album with the band — began with a chorus and vocal hook from Alex and Alan, and was completed with Matt. “The album was basically done and getting mastered and then we finished ‘Lifetime,’” says Alan. “We felt that we needed a song on the record that was gonna be a little slower and less party. Everything else on the record is so upbeat and fast and heavy and loud and we just wanted something that was a bit more laidback.”
Still, there is nothing laidback about These Kids Wear Crowns. The music is nothing short of pumping. It is big and buoyant, can lift people’s spirits and bodies out of their seats. It’s the type of music that can make you pretend that summer is here and when that warm weather hits - prompt you to get out there and have some fun. Jumpstart is not only the launch of a new dance band, but the harnessing of youthful spirit.
These Kids Wear Crowns are: Alex Johnson, Joshua McDaniel, Alan Poettcker, Joe Porter, Joshua Mitchinson and Matt Vink