It's been five years since Los Angeles trio KING burst onto the scene with their EP, The Story, which earned them a cosign from Prince—he's served as an avid supporter of the group—and now they're finally back with their debut album, We Are KING. A record built on sisterhood, vibrant melodies, and innovative production, it showcases the talent of twins Amber [vocals] and Paris Strother [keys/production] and their best friend Anita Bias [vocals]. Sonically, the three woman reflect their wide range of influences with elements of jazz, classical instrumentation, and warm vocals to tell multidimensional stories. Their union is reminder of just how far the mind can reach to bring color, love, and supernatural daydreams to life through sound.
The FADER spoke with KING about why it’s important for them as both musicians and women to be in control of their creative and business direction.
How does it work when you all are creating songs? What's the writing process like?
Paris Strother: All the songs have been born in different ways but the common thread is the songs start with the three of us sitting in a room and sharing and putting our best ideas forward. Sometimes a song will start with a melody, the beat, the drums or a chorus but it’s always us sitting together or calling each other late at night and sharing with each other.
What types of environments do you all work best in?
Paris: This album we put together in me and Amber’s home studio and we found that to be a really comfortable place just hanging out at home doing it. We only went to other studios when it was time to record the horns. We’re really comfortable doing it at home and not to say that we couldn’t do it anywhere else but that worked best for us.
Paris, what’s your musical background? What led you to production?
Paris: I’ve always been playing and I started playing when I was really young, probably as early as two years old on the piano. I studied and then got really into jazz in middle school and high school. Then I went to Berklee and decided to study and arranging and writing for orchestras and big bands in film and TV and scoring for visuals. I think that what led me to producing for KING was having written these songs for Amber and Anita and sitting down and finding the vehicle to deliver the songs the best way we could. That’s the way the production really started. We were seeing the music visually in our minds and had to find a way to express the full entire thought.
“We’ll never compromise the music for any reason. Having that priority straight is really important to us both as musicians and as woman.”—Paris Strother, KING
A lot of your songs are about love. How do you merge your experiences?
Anita Bias: We’re aware that sometimes the songs may not be for us individually but they’re just for everybody. When we are writing we are trying to finish each other’s musical sentences and just trying to take ourselves out of the situation and make sure that it’s something that everybody can relate to.
Do you find that you share any commonalities when it comes the experiences that you have because you three are so close?
Paris: I would say so, yeah. Being best friends and knowing everything about each other has been helpful because one of us can talk about something and relate. It is universal in terms of the song writing and the content and like Anita said, it could start off from being about specific things and branch off to broader topics.
The song “Red Eye” totally transports me to all the places that you’re singing about. How does singing about love and all of these other topics in such a whimsical way allow you to open up your mind and imagination while you all are creating?
Amber Strother: I think it’s fun to tell stories and use your imagination. I think once you open up your heart and your mind to telling a complete story or a vision—kind of a world within a song—it’s nice when people can grab onto that and take from it. Basically leaving something for people to interpret and escape for themselves.
What inspires you to do that?
Amber: When the three of us get together it’s a lot of sisterhood and being friends and things of that nature. Just being very considerate of the three of us coming together and writing from that perspective where it’s like three different imaginations and three tones and being able to communicate through song.
What do you want that element to do for your listeners?
Paris: We want our listeners to be transported and go to a creative place. We’ve always wanted to inspire creativity in all the listeners and anyone who comes across the music. We really try and create music without boundaries so we’re always trying to experiment sonically and wanting people to also experience it the way that we do.
Your sound is both classic and new. Certain genres are identifiable but you can’t be placed into a specific box. Is that fluidity something that you all strive for when you’re making music?
Paris: I think it’s part of what comes out. We all listen to a lot of different kinds of music so we’re drawn from a lot of different places—art in general just not music. There’s nature and a lot of other elements that go into it so I think that’s what people are hearing; it’s hard to pin down but [it's] also a very global feeling.
What other music do you all listen to? And who?
Paris: [We're] lovers of music in general. Lot’s of jazz, new age; we like a lot of classical music. We like a lot of Brazilian music, rock—we’re all over the place. World music, different music from different countries. On a personal side, it’s really cool to find friends that you can share all the interesting sounds with that are also on the same wavelength as you.
“I think that we just want people to say, ‘They’re writing their own story.’”—Amber Strother, KING
Since The Story EP in 2011, I imagine you’ve all grown a lot in that time. Would you say that this album is more about letting people see who you are?
Paris: ...in terms of the themes that we touched on in the EP. We spent a lot of time working on it, both trying to get to know ourselves, each other, and the music really well. That’s what people can hear when they listen to it. It sounds to me like someone is gone all the way to the end of what you one could do with a song. We wanted to take it all the way and leave no stone unturned.
It comes across that you all are very self-aware in your music as artists but also as women. Over time, what do you think you’ve learned into that you’ve put into the music?
Paris: Just getting to know ourselves more. Being part of the music industry it’s cool to see what our peers and the people that we look up to have been putting into the music. It was liberating for us to really see all of that and still do it how we want to do it. It’s cool to be able to acknowledge all of the things we’ve learned and people’s suggestions and gain our own insight. That was a wonderful thing to be able to choose with each other what we wanted to do with the pieces that meant a lot to us and what we wanted to pursue.
You’ve worked with musicians like Robert Glasper, and received a major co-sign from Prince. What are some of your dream collaborations?
Paris: We’re really excited and we feel like this is the tip of the iceberg with this album. We’re excited to keep working with each other and that’s a collaboration in itself. We’d like to add different arrangements with the band or different things with orchestras like adding more strings or different formats of the music. We’re really open at this point and really excited to see a lot of great people coming up; I think we’re just excited to cover every corner.
You're doing everything yourself in terms of writing as well as your business side with your record label KiNG Creative. Why's it important for you to have the autonomy as artists and as women?
Paris: This is really needed for us to stick to our guns and for us to give it all the strength we could give it and all of the confidence we could give it; we know that at the end of the day we’ll never compromise the music for any reason. Having that priority straight is really important to us both as musicians and as woman. It’s an empowering thing to know that the three of us are on the same page as far as we’ll never do anything to compromise the music.
It's Women's History Month. Who are some women in music who've influenced you all
All: Anita Baker, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Mary Lou Williams, Aretha Franklin.
And finally, what conversations do you want your name to start?
Amber: I think that we just want people to say, “They’re writing their own story.”