We are setting off a new recurring series here on OKP which we call First Look; a space to focus in on new artists who we predict are going to be doing big things in the near future. Even if we had a direct hotline, we couldn’t really have asked the universe to send us a better subject for the first First Look than the dreamy sounds of KING, the inspiring new vocal trio comprising Anita Bias and sisters Amber and Paris Strother. In their very short life as a group (they burst onto the scene in March with a three-song EP called The Story) they have already made fans of (starting at the top) Prince–who enlisted the trio to open for himself at his L.A. concert last month–Erykah Badu, who roped them into joining her on the bill for Black Girls Rock (L.A.), Phonte of Foreign Exchange–who included Paris & Amber in the intimate line up of their Dear Friends happening, and last but not least our own chief executive drummer Questlove —who alerted the rest of us to their existence.
Even if their fanbase remained limited to those four individuals alone, great expectations would be in the air. But like any new group must, KING have earned their buzz with their live shows, literally wowing listeners from coast to coast with their LA debut at the Forum and NYC debut at Central Park Summerstage. It’s not hard to tell what all the fuss is about; sophisticated pop harmonies that would seem more appropriate to past-masters than newcomers–yet never feel anything less than breezily accessible, mostly because of a certain emotional purity to the songwriting. Though the vocals are clearly the centerpiece of the KING sound, they are framed by a surprisingly deft instrumental palette that ranges from the slack-keyed strumming of “Hey” to the warm synth groove of “Supernatural.”
Anyway, enough of us running off at the mouth about the power of this music–better to get it from the source. In conversation, the ladies of KING are just as refreshingly pleasant as their recordings–the only disconcerting thing about them being that they are so much on the same “wavelength” that it was often difficult to tell who was speaking over a three-way LA to NY conference call. But this just seems to confirm the eerie suspicion that though only two are blood-sisters, all three are spiritual triplets who can complete each other’s sentences. Listen here while you read the full Q&A (below).
OKP: So start me at the beginning: how did the formation of KING come about?
Paris: Basically, KING was born from the three of us hanging out together and writing and making music for fun- the group came from our friendship, and it wasn’t until a few months into working together that we decided to give it a name and really organize the project.
OKP: A lot of the buzz that caught our ear came right after you opened for Prince at the Forum in L.A. last month…
Anita: We had a great time working with Prince. The show was wonderful; it was our first show as a group, and it was great to debut alongside an artist of Prince’s caliber. He heard the EP and reached out inviting us to open for him. It all happened just like that!
OKP: So is Prince somebody you would consider a big musical influence?
Paris: Definitely! He’s a huge influence on all of us, especially considering our (Amber and Paris) Minneapolis background, so growing up he was just such a presence for us. It’s inspiring to have such a great musical role model, meeting and working with him has been an incredible experience.
OKP: So did you connect with him through some sort of Minneapolis word of mouth network? Or did he just find you through the internet?
Paris: No, just through the internet!
OKP: So tell me about your other influences…you guys have a very timeless sound, its not necessarily in step with the general trends of 2011.
Amber: I think that’s just a reflection of what we listen to; Stevie Wonder, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Steely Dan…artists like that are really the soundtrack of our lives. We’re also really influenced by the amazing music of our peers too, though…especially somebody like Esperanza Spalding.
OKP: One of your contemporaries who’s obviously paying attention to your music is Erykah Badu—she kind of put us on to you…
Anita: We’ve had the chance to connect and meet with her a few times- she’s just so amazing, both as a person and a musical influence, and she’s been a really good friend to us since the EP came out. We’re really excited to be added to the bill with her and DJ Beverly Bond for the Black Girls Rock! & Soul Tour here in LA.
OKP: So is this three-song EP The Story really the first thing you’ve done or just the first thing we’ve heard?
Anita: Yes, this is the first thing we’ve done.
OKP: What’s y’all’s writing process like, is one person in the group the writer? Does somebody do lyrics and somebody else melody?
Paris: We’re all involved equally in the writing. Each composition really takes on its own life in terms of how it all comes together, but every song is definitely a collaborative effort between the three of us.
OKP: I guess the reason I ask is the songs feel very personal, the melodies are very accessible but they’re not pop in the sense of being light (in terms of subject matter) so I wonder…do you share or talk about experiences basis of songs—what is the flow of ideas?
Paris: It’s very collaborative, the songs are mostly based on love and different experiences in and out of love—and as people, we’ve shared a lot of those experiences. One of the unique things about the KING project is that we all seem to be on the same page- to the point where we can complete each others sentences both in conversation and musically. The songs are very personal, I suppose that within one song you could subtly be hearing three slightly different points of views, merged as one. We’re definitely vibing off of each other a lot during our writing process.
OKP: So the three of you are that close that you’re familiar enough with each other’s histories to just know what the other is thinking about in a love song?
Amber: Yeah. (laughs) Our ability to collaborate and write together definitely comes from being on the same wavelength just as people; we’re sisters, and we were definitely best friends and family first, before we became any kind of group. So hanging out together, talking all the time–that is the basis for everything.
OKP: So what’s next for KING?
Paris: Right now we’re busy working on our full-length album- we’re developing some existing ideas and also writing new material everyday. We’re also looking forward to getting out on the road and doing some shows this summer.
OKP: So since you’re fairly brand-new to most OKP readers…what do you want people to know about you?
Paris: It’s all love!