*Soul music trio KING have quickly become one of the hottest acts in the country.
Comprised of twins Amber and Paris Strother and their “sister” Anita Bias, the Los Angeles natives watched their full-length debut album We Are KING (released February 5, 2016) rocket to #1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Album Chart.
Their concerts tickets are also hot commodities, as each of their tour dates have sold out. This response was not unexpected.
KING’s 2011 EP, The Story, was universally met with rave critical and consumer reviews, and they’d spend the next few years releasing stellar single after single while collaborating with hit makers Robert Glasper, Eric Roberson, and The Foreign Exchange.
Paris produces their music, Amber and Anita handle the vocals, and they share the songwriting. Following a recent show, however, Paris let her group mates rest while she handled this EUR/Electronic Urban Report interview. She discusses KING’s harmonious dynamic with EURweb associate Mr. Joe Walker.
EUR: The first taste we got of you three was your EP, The Story. What was the biggest creative challenge going from extended play to full length LP?
KING: The EP was the first project we’d ever finished and released, so it was a learning curve. It was getting the music from point A to point B, from what we were hearing in our minds to what came out in the actual songs. We dug in and took our time, and made it everything we wanted it to be.
EUR: It shows, so there’s an obvious talent chemistry. But can your listeners tell through your music how much you care for one another?
KING: We hope so. Amber and I are twins, Anita is like a triplet; I think our love for each other makes the music what it is. We do hope people can hear that. I think we’ve created a place to make the music, being able to sustain ourselves creatively. We have to continue doing what we want to do, musically, keep pushing our own boundaries, and not be swayed by what’s happening outside of the three of us.
EUR: What do you enjoy most about a multipart harmony?
KING: Just the range of textures you can achieve by having three voices instead of two or one. Amber and Anita do a beautiful job with two. Most of the time I’m playing keyboards but occasionally I’ll pop in there and do the third part; we love playing with textures, creating moods with the different choices that we make, melodically.
EUR: Hearing you say that brought “Go Slow” to mind, your song from tribute compilation Red Hot + Fela. It’s so well-layered it sounds like 10 voices.
KING: First of all, we’re big fans of Fela Kuti. It was an honor to work on that project, and giving him honor. It’s kind of a big ticket to remake one of his songs. And “Go Slow” always kind of spoke to us. We wanted to keep that chord moving through but also recreated it in the “KING style”. On all our songs it’s important that we put everything together like a puzzle.
EUR: Be technical for a moment. Breakdown the “KING style.”
KING: What happens is there might be music that starts first or there might be melody that starts first, either way we’ll sing something over it. The next piece of music that gets added plays off the vocal, the next vocal plays off the music, and so on and so forth. So everything is very-much-so intertwined. That contributes to what people have described as “lush” when they mention our style and harmony.
EUR: Our society could stand to have a lot more harmony. With people referring to your music as “feel good music”, how do you feel about being able to, even momentarily, put listeners’ troubles at ease?
KING: It’s amazing to contribute to the other side of what’s necessary about sign-of-the-times kind of music. It’s important to talk about life in the music, to really express what’s happening to us, and being revolutionary and making statements with it. The other side of the coin is providing a place of solace, a hopeful-type-thing people can turn to when things get messed up.
EUR: What has music helped you three get through?
KING: For the 3 of us music’s mainly a tool of expression where we can completely and authentically be ourselves. Growing up, getting into adulthood, you realize that might actually be a lot rarer than you’d realized. What we’ve created is a place where we can totally be ourselves, and hopefully inspire the coming generation and future creators to be as absolutely creative as they can be.
EUR: Music targeted to the coming generation isn’t always positive, and depending on what they’re hearing it can have an adverse effect on them later on in life. How important is it for you three to have a large, impressionable young adult following?
KING: It would be amazing! Everything takes balance. It’s necessary for people to have art they can look to and see themselves. Everyone likes to party, but it really means something to us to have people identify, to have music they can listen to with their parents and grandparents, with their kids and grandkids. It’s multigenerational. No matter what we’re talking about, I think the fact that it does transcend generations is amazing. It’s amazing to have an audience of fully diverse people.
EUR: Being a trio of women, some of those grandparents and parents are going to compare you to The Supremes and SWV. But given your subject matter and demeanor on record, has anyone yet compared you to the O’Jays?
KING: Wow! We have not heard that before! And that’s actually awesome! Our dad was always playing the O’Jays! And The Spinners; just that vibe. It was an amazing experience growing up. Amber likes to say “It’s music not made at anybody’s expense”. Everybody can enjoy it, you know? We’re blessed to be able to make this kind of music.
Known as “The Word Heavyweight Champion,” Mr. Joe Walker is a biographer, journalist, and columnist, currently a senior writer for SoulTrain.com, staff writer for Muskegon Tribune Newspaper, and writer for Concrete Magazine’s Concrete615.com. Also managing editor of Liquid Arts & Entertainment Magazine, Walker’s acclaimed, award-winning work has been published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. Like him on Facebook, follow on Twitter @mrjoewalker, and visit his official blog.