Interview: BC Kingdom

BC Kingdom

Photos courtesy of Solange

Anxieties were at an all time high leading into the BC Kingdom interview. With a shortage in my laptop cord and a Skype call with the Los Angeles based singing/producing duo in less than two hours, panic was at capacity, and a potential meltdown was to quickly follow. Instead, I turned on their music, “People started grooving, the rhythm got them moving, the music was playing, the dancehall was swaying, falling for the melody…”. Anxieties made way for a charged energy that evoked negating feelings of power and freedom. Something I haven’t felt since listening to Crystal Waters, “Gypsy Woman” for the first time. There is a transportive quality to their music. Logan Eze and Zou Deon, BC Kingdom, embody the notion that sound should be iconic, create an atmosphere, and leaving the listener feeling as if they had an experience – spiritual if you will.

Fusing unlikely layers of rhythm, bass, and vocals derived from a global aesthetic to ultimately produced music that has an unparalleled  charm and energy. Senses are heightened and attune to the divine quality of their music. There is no filler. Only a perfect balance of high energy sounds as seen in, Melody and melodic, atmospheric tracks like, Diamonds and Gold  that manage to push cultural barriers and societal notions while still maintaining a deep emotional quality with connecting themes of love and loss. This connection is organic. Chatting with the duo, there’s an undeniable passion, creativity, and above all humility that is rare in an industry diluted in fallacy. Candid, we spoke for hours about the state of music, innovative influences, “making it” sans artificial hype, and how their connection to Saint Heron is changing the landscape of R&B music.

What is your first music memory that solidified the entertainment industry is where you needed to be? 

Logan: I grew up singing in the church. My mother was the choir director, my grandfather was one of the premiere singers in the church. I’m come from a very musically influenced family. One side of my family are extremely christians (mom) my dad’s side was catholic and secular. My uncle was actually a bodyguard for Tupac, Snoop, Jodeci, Mary J. Blige, so as I grew up I had this intense music industry experiecne through my uncle who would tell me crazy stories.

Zou: I remember being obsessed with MTV and the whole TRL era along with BET. I would sit in front of the TV all day becoming immersed into music. It got to the point where I would act sick just to stay at home so I could record music videos to study them and practice dance moves. Since I was a child, music has shaped my goal to be an entertainer.

You all are from LA,  what does that mean in terms of your music?

Z: When you think of the West Coast, you think of Dr. Dre or music that have a heavy bass. When you hear our music you will always hear a party, funk, upbeat sound, because that’s what we grew up on. People in LA really love bass. We would grow up hearing trucks rolling down the street with the bass rattling. That’s what we know, that’s what we love,we can’t help it. We also enjoy having this global perspective of our music.

L: In Cali, a lot of people are making ratchet music, and we love that! But, people expect two black guys from the West Coast are going to do that. Because of that, we have found ourselves molding our own sound. Being from the West Coast has influenced us to become more progressive sonically, because of what is expected of us. It was a counter-reaction to the norm.

In your OC Mix, there is a clear range. There were not only musical elements pulled from a multitude of sources, but also heavy cultural influences from Bengali vibes to Beyonce to 5th Element samples of Chris Tucker.  Let’s talk about your process pulling the cultural and musical elements of your mixes.

L: We love a global feel – incorporating steal drums, Caribbean references and merging them with West Coast references. We haven’t traveled around the world, but we like the idea of incorporating instruments from our favorite places. It’s a twist on a classic R&B. If we sample Maxwell, for example, we will replace the piano in the melody with a steel drum, bass, guitars, it’s an Afro Futuristic West Coast idea. People would question why we are dabbling in West African or Caribbean sound, because where we are from is a melting pot. Our music is a gumbo of sounds that reflect that.

Duos and groups have been lacking in the industry since the early 2000s. It’s refreshing to see male duo again. What groups have influenced you?

Z: Spice Girls! We love the Spice Girls. They were selling image and beautiful classic harmonies. And it goes to show that every group serves a purpose. For me, TLC was special, because they had Babyface writing their records. T-Boz and Chili had a special monotone dark sound to their voice before the Rihannas and Britney Spears. It was that low voice that we all loved. They were the first girl group to every be outspoken about sex, HIV/AIDS awareness. Then you have a girl groups like, En Vogue who, under the direction of Frank Gatson were more vocally broadway influenced with theatrics and drama.

L: We research music a lot. We’ve looked across the industry and seen that there wasn’t a new type of male group that was embodying what the Spice Girls did. Where having this global movement with music that you can relate to. Having somebody rap, sing, chant, Like a singing Maxwell-Outkast hybrid thing nobody was doing.

BC Kingdom

Photo Ryan Mikail & Amy Wiggins

Speaking of “the industry”, let’s chat industry politics. 

Z: People don’t believe the urban legends about the industry. That they’ll try to change you. We aren’t that type. We are two very cardinal people. You aren’t going to sit us down and say sign this and this.

We aren’t two black guys from the hood desperate for a deal.

Believe it or not, a lot of people have not heard our music. Aside from people we have made connections with like Solange. We haven’t done any press. Any Soundcloud listens, posts you see, articles, that is literally local help. People who support us.

L: For the last three years that we have been pushing hard and taking this seriously, I’ve never said, “Fuck it”, because I really love music. I love seeing the look on people’s face when they hear the music and their impressed. I don’t think they were expecting it of me.

Why do you think that is?

Z: People don’t take you seriously immediately. Even with all the sincerity in the world, when people ask you what do you do and you say music, it becomes a selling pitch. In any social setting I don’t want to feel the need to have to sell myself as an artist. If I said I was a lawyer, people wouldn’t ask me how many cases I’ve won. But once you have gained that respect, and you know that you are not apart of all the bootleg shit that is going on it really means something.

L: I also feel that people can tell when you are sincere and you are connected to your music.  When people listened to “Lock Up” I wanted them to have a sonic experience. To listen to every word and to listen to the sounds deeply. It’s not a whole bunch of distractions. Everyone is using the trap vocal now to be distracting.

Saint Heron is a rejuvenation of R&B music. Tell me how your sound falls in line with classic R&B sounds.

L: We research music a lot. We’ve looked across the industry and seen that there wasn’t a new type of male group that was embodying what the Spice Girls did. Where having this global movement with music that you can relate to. Having somebody rap, sing, chant, Like a singing maxwell outkast hybrid thing nobdoy was doing. When she (Solange) heard our music, and saw us perform on stage it was something refreshing and reminicscent of the past. I think that’s how we fit into this EP.

There are 12 artists involved in this compilation. That in itself is impressive.

Z: People are going to be asking Who? What? Where? When? And why? I think her doing this is really brave. It’s a tastemaker move

L: People highly respect Solange, her opinion, and her taste. So they [the public] are all going to be looking to see, “Why is she really fucking with them? Are they gold?”

Who are some of your other ideal collaborations?

BCK:  We’d love to collaborate with Erykah Badu, The Dream, Kendrick, Ty Dolla $ign, Patra , Beyonce, Drake, Amel Larrieux, Andre 3000, Shyne , Beenie Man, Aphex Twin ,Tnght , Radiohead, and the list could go on!

Describe the notion of your sound being iconic on this record.

BCK: On this record we focused on taking classic pop and R&B references and adding electronic, futuristic and global elements to them. For example, instead of pianos we used a lot of steel drums. We layered drums and snares with interesting sound effects. In order to make an iconic sound it’s best to mix the relatable and classic with the new and future; creating your own sound from other iconic music.

Speaking of iconic, without  press or heavy promotion, you guys were able to connect with MIA.  How did it come about?

L: That was a crazy experience, because we wanted to do the fast pace, high octane, coo coo bass sound. We did that record on our own, and that became everybody’s favorite, because it was something they hadn’t heard in a few years. We recorded those songs within a month, and did all of them in the same studio she did most of her Maya album in. We heard she was playing them at some of her shows. Then, fast forward a year, and we got a call to dj/perform with her for an event in LA. It was a big deal for us since shes one of our inspirations and we were honored to perform with her.

When do you feel most vulnerable as an artist?

Z: Laying my music for my family specifically my mother and father makes me very nervous especially if they’re listening to explicit personal lyrics I’ve written. The fact that my father is a pastor listening to my worldly sinful music is the most vulnerable feeling!

L: My vulnerable moment came when “Return To Me” was released.

It was the first time people outside of my family and friends were able to hear a song written and sung by me. Putting that out into the universe was vulnerable, because I wrote that after the passing of some close people in my life. Complete strangers to me would be judging my work; and those words that came from my heart. Once it was released, I felt a sense of relief, because peoples’ feedback was very positive and listeners connected to it.

Overall, what do you hope to achieve in your sound?

L: And we’ve seen through these last years that there hasn’t been any real male R&B singers outside of Chris Brown & Usher who do the pop R&B road verses mixing like how it was in the 90s. We love that Maxwell, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu sound. At that time, I never view it as neo-soul I viewed it as R&B. When neo-soul came around in the early 2000s with Jill Scott and Maxwell it was more, in my opinion, gospel influenced, where the R&B of the 90s was more Jazz influenced. That’s what we are trying to capture wtih all of the new sounds that we are doing.

Z: All in all, everybody served a purpose. In our musical references we take a little from each.