Nearly six years ago, there was a story released in the music sphere that allowed a romantic journey to begin. The three artists behind this were an incredible young trio of women, twins Paris and Amber Strother and musical sister Anita Bias, who created the moniker KING. Emphasizing on the creative process, utilization of freedom of choice, and coping with the independence of their artistry, the trio has recently released a debut album that expands on their love journey.
The sonically stunning ability of the trio reminds us that there is beauty in the mind and hearts of those who believe in their own process and ability. In an industry where it is difficult to claim a status and remain true to the essence of self, these women have decided to challenge that identity crisis by ironically going against the grain of what is expected of them, name included. As a result, it is clear that the focus of KING translates into a creative function that allows the freedom of expression to flow directly from the artists. Before you begin to digest the branding and image, you are struck by the quality of music that is produced by the creative KING.
Mixing soul with traditional R&B gives accolades to the selection of music that has been influential across all genres. Reminiscent in tone and pleasurable in vibrations, be reminded of the great things that can be accomplished when mixing passion with creative ability. Realize the grand importance of creative expression, as KING shows and proves that their art speaks for itself and while not against the artist but develops with them as artists.
Saint Heron: In comparison to the late ‘90s and early 2000s, we rarely see the unification of female groups within music, especially music outside of the genre of pop. We wonder, how has it been forming a trio within a time lapse in the industry when groups fail to exist?
KING: This is the most natural thing for us. Forming a group was born out of the three of us being close friends and all of us loving to make music. At the time it certainly didn’t feel like we were setting out to fill a particular void – it was just making music, and this is who we are. We just happened to be three women. Since our EP came out, we’ve grown into really loving the configuration of the band and seeing how special it is to be a group.
The word “KING” is usually conjoined with a superior male specimen and a single entity. Being that you are a trio of Black women, your name is ironically brilliant and sets an opposing tone of what is expected. What was the inspiration behind naming the group KING?
KING was the first and only name that came to us. At the time, it strongly represented how we were making our own music and all of our own decisions. We tuned out a lot of outside sources and opinions, and we just wanted to be kings of our own musical kingdom. We always said we wanted to challenge the notion of what people thought of when they heard the word ‘king’. So far it’s been a really big name to grow in to, but we’re really proud of it. We’re glad that it has continued a conversation about women and being in charge of their own business and musical destiny.
From our understanding, you ladies studied at Berklee College of Music. How was it discovering yourselves within the R&B realm within such environment?
The school is actually quite diverse. When I (Paris) was there it was 30% international students, and there were a lot of different people in the racial makeup. You never really felt alone because the community was mostly about music. The connections made reached across all kinds of genre lines, and it was a really fostering environment where all music was celebrated. Berklee today acknowledges that most American music came from the Black experience, and they celebrate it. They have a wonderful Africana Studies program. It was really cool to study in a place that paid such homage to great Black art leading up to today.
The three of you have obviously shared countless experiences together in and out of the studio. Do your personal relationships with each other help to build your musical dynamic together?
Amber and I (Paris) are twin sisters, and Anita is our best friend, so if we’re not hanging out together, we’re on Facetime or texting. We’re all extremely close, but that’s led to us being able to finish each other’s sentences, both musically and otherwise. It’s a great feeling to be working so closely with people who you love dearly.
From early on, including the The Story release, you’ve all stayed very independent as far as releases go. You recently released your debut album through your own label, King Creative. As an R&B trio having the rich sound and identity that you have, what motivated you to keep your music strictly independent? Not only being independent, but powerfully doing so through your own imprint?
For us, this album was a really important first introduction into our full sound. When creating the album, we knew that wherever it was going to be housed would have to be somewhere that supported the thought fully and entirely. We’re not against any situation, and it’s not that we’ll never sign to a label. For us, at the time, we knew that we could best express the album in our own words. It was such a liberating and exhilarating journey to releasing on our own label where we can continue to be the people in charge of the project.
Building off of that, labels in a sense have become a bit saturated with the idea of a “mindie” deal for emerging artists. These artists sometimes lose their essential sound due to wrapping a deal with a major label early on. Do you feel that going towards mainstream markets and labels could dampen your musical style and creative process?
Anything is possible. I suppose that would depend specifically on the person. When you do relinquish any kind of creative control you open the door to something as small as a suggestion or as large as someone saying “this is how it needs to go.” For us, by the time the album was going to be put out, we knew that it was 100% done. We wanted to make zero changes. I don’t know if the answer is as cut and dry as if you go mainstream someone will definitely try to change your work, but for us that wasn’t an option at all. That’s how we decided to proceed with being creative.
The Story, released in 2011, was an ideal introduction leading into your debut album We Are KING. With the five year gap in between releases, your sound has developed tremendously and sonically with a large variety of instrumentation. What happened creatively throughout the course of years that helped mold your sound that we hear today?
It was a lot of growing together and getting to know each other; listening to the music and letting the music speak to us. Over the course of those years we were learning a lot about who we were and the kind of sound textures and landscape we wanted to put out on this album. We wanted to support all of the ideas that we had, sonically, harmonically and rhythmically. We wanted to really dig in and make sure the project was everything that we heard in our minds.
One of my favorites is “Supernatural,” relatable and very omni-directional. This matches what I find the essence of your entire lyrical collection, crafted with an airy and hearty sound. I have to ask, what are you communicating with your story? Is it a story about your personal journey, spiritual journey, romantic journey? Lyrically, who are you speaking to or speaking for?
The general feeling behind “Supernatural” is that special feeling you get when you feel like something is other worldly – something that keeps drawing you back to a person that makes you feel like it is supernatural. There is some kind of magic happening; no matter what you know that you will keep loving this person. I think it speaks to the other side to how special that love will feel coming from that person. The themes of the albums go back and forth between self discovery and exploration, but I think overall the overarching theme is love.
Considering that music genres are consistently merging and evolving, the fullness of your musical tones seem to be rich with Soul, R&B, and hints of Jazz. How would you define your sound parameter, and do you prefer to be distinctive with your genre?
We’ve heard it described a number of ways, and we think that with people hearing many different influences in the music, it gets harder and harder to pin down as just one genre. We know that it is rooted in soul, and it’s music for the soul, so by that definition it is soul music. But, we like to use the term dream pop. It’s eclectic, it’s hard to describe, but I think that so many different people who are in to so many different things could still hear themselves in the music.
There’s this nostalgic embed that makes me feel as if you have a sense of serenity and comfortability in your position as not just musicians, but women. You capture the essence of being both multifaceted and dimensional. How important is it you to connect with listeners through a cultural stance?
It’s been an incredible experience to connect with our listeners in every sense of the word. We’ve had so many different people reach out and say that the music has spoken to them and gotten them through tough times and in good times. It’s a really beautiful thing when you can celebrate the people who are on the same wavelength.
Who are some of your getaway artists to digest yourselves into to get inspired? Some artist you think many of us may not be privy to or that you enjoy going to for a musical lesson?
We have our favorites all across genres. Patrice Rushen, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Pat Metheny, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis are our favorites. For a lot of young people, we caught the tail-end of so much great music, so it’s really cool to keep bringing up those names in conversation to emphasize the importance of what was happening around that time.
Photography: Sharon Esquivel & We Are KING