Psych-Soul Trio KING Chat Before Amoeba Performance Jan. 28

Posted by Billy Gil, January 27, 2016 10:39am | Post a Comment

L.A.-based KING bring their uniquely stirring brand of swirling psychedelic soul to the Amoeba Hollywood stage for a free show Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. They'll also have their debut LP, We Are KING, on sale that day at Amoeba prior to the album's official release on Feb. 5.

KING consist of Anita Bias and sisters Paris Strother and Amber Strother. Paris is the primary producer and instrumentalist of the band, while Amber and Anita's breahty vocals hopscotch over Paris' jazzy concoctions. Together they produce a sound that doesn't skimp on complexity but also exudes warmth, using horns and unabashedly synthy keys for a sound that weaves together classic soul, synth-funk, dream pop and certain something undefinable that gives KING its own essence.

The group has drummed up a vocal fanbase on Twitter even before dropping its first album, one that includes none other than Prince, who asked the group to open for him one night during his 21-night residency at the Forum in Inglewood in 2011. Unfortunately it's also part of their story that as a trio of women writing and producing their own soul music, A&R folks have suggested the group alter their image and essentially dumb down the sound, as they told LA Weekly. I asked them about all of that and more when I caught up with them before their Amoeba show.

Amoeba: When I hear your music, I know immediately that I love it, but I also am not sure of where to place it (which I think is a good thing). I hear bits of ’80s groups like Yarbrough & Peoples, psychedelic soul artists like LaBelle,  standbys like Marvin Gaye and neo-soul artists like Lauryn Hill and D’Angelo. But I could be way off! What are some artists and styles that have inspired you?

Anita: I’ve always loved old soul- we’re all huge Stevie Wonder fans as well as anything produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis — growing up I was listening to a lot of Brenda Russell, Patrice Rushen, Chaka Khan, Babyface — lots of '80s and '90s R&B.

Amber: I’d say Quincy Jones, Cocteau Twins, Pat Metheny, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Blonde Redhead, Teddy Riley, Mike Stern.

Paris: Jazz standards and showtunes, Bill Evans, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, classic Disney films, lots of Nintendo and Sega soundtracks. I love Brazilian music. XTC, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt. Experimental stuff like Frank Zappa. Our inspirations come from all over the place. We all love a good storyteller.

Amoeba: The music also sounds incredibly contemporary to me, like the kind of thing I wish I was hearing even more of. Do you aim for either a throwback or futuristic vibe with your music, both of which I feel coming through too?

Paris: I think there’s both that retro feeling and futuristic vibe — one of the coolest things we’re heard people say about the music is they can’t tell when it’s from. Some of it could stand up next to songs from the '70s or '80s, but it’s all very now — rather than aiming for either old or new, we’re going for creating something classic that will stand through time, no matter when it’s playing or what it’s played with.

Amoeba: What was your initial reaction when you saw Prince liked what you guys did? Excitement? Shock? And what was the experience like opening for him?

Amber: It was a little of both. To get the acknowledgment not only from him but from so many people in the industry was such a surprise but also an affirmation.

Paris: The forum show with Prince was our first official show as KING — it was thrilling and kind of insane to have our first show in front of 17,000 people. Looking back, it set such a high standard for the live show. It was a great experience.

Amoeba: Do people hear your music and wrongly assume that you have producers behind you rather than having written and produced everything yourselves?

Paris: I think that some people may have assumed that we had outside producers when we first came out, but the fact that all the music is self-written and -produced has become such a part of our story that I think people are aware of where the music comes from now.

Amoeba: I’m sure there was pressure to sign with a major label, work with outside producers and change your sound. Why did you decide to continue to self-produce and self-release your music?

Paris: This is what came most naturally to us, the process of coming up with an idea and spending time fully depending it until it’s exactly where we want it to be. It feels special to present something that’s so authentically ourselves.

Amber: It was such a great experience to discover more about ourselves and each other through music, we never felt that we needed an outside source.

Anita: The music came out of our friendship — there was no pressure to prove anything to anybody, we just wanted to make the music we’ve always wanted to hear. The initial response from the EP was inspiring — putting it out to our audience as is became an important part of that.

Amoeba: I have to say, when I first heard KING, I immediately wanted to share it with friends — which is exactly what a lot of people seem to have done. Why do you think your music has resonated in such a word-of-mouth kind of way on Twitter and elsewhere? Did that kind of response surprise you?

Paris: I think people pick up on the authenticity of the sound and know it’s really us they’re hearing, and they’re drawn to that. The response was such a surprise because it was something we originally created for family and friends.

Amoeba: Do you have any words for other young women who want to make music or who are out there doing it already and struggling?

Amber: Just make the music you want to hear, and stay true to yourself.

Anita: Make sure it’s something you are completely in love with, music lasts forever.

Amoeba: Can you give us a list of five of your favorite albums?

Paris: Stevie Wonder - Music of My Mind
Bill Evans - Bill Evans Trio with Symphony Orchestra
Mos Def - Black on Both Sides
Vince Guaraldi Trio - Charlie Brown’s Holiday Hits
N*E*R*D - In Search Of...




Amber: Miles Davis - Sketches of Spain
Ryuichi Sakamoto - Smoochy
Stevie Wonder - Songs in the Key of Life
Al Green - I’m Still In Love With You
Cocteau Twins - Heaven or Las Vegas



Anita: Bobby Brown - Don’t Be Cruel
Janet Jackson - Rhythm Nation
OutKast - Stankonia
Whitney Houston - I’m Your Baby Tonight
Sisqo - Unleash The Dragon


Relevant Tags

Amoeba Hollywood (876), Soul (43), R&b (20), King (3), In-store (15), Prince (67), We Are King (1)