Arts Desk

How the Trio of KING Wrote Its Warm, Soulful Debut Album

KING- hi-res press shot 1 (Sharon Esquivel)My first slow dance as a married man was to "Hey," a magnificent love song by KING, the Los Angeles-based trio of Anita Bias and twin sisters Paris and Amber Strother. After the reception, people wanted to know just who that was, and where they could find the track.

Here you go: KING's 2011 EP, The Story, was released modestly. Soon after, the group received enthusiastic cosigns from Foreign Exchange frontman Phonte Coleman, Roots bandleader Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson and others for its celestial brand of soul. After three years of recording, KING is set to release its debut full-length album, which celebrates love and affection—a theme not too removed from the group's own life philosophy. Prior to KING's first-ever performance in D.C., this Saturday at U Street Music Hall, I spoke with Bias and Paris Strother about their highly anticipated project.

WCP: What can you tell me about the forthcoming album?

Strother: We are really excited about it. It's expanding upon the EP and the sound we're known for. But we really just had a great time doing everything we wanted to do creatively, really exploring with each other and finding our sound. We're really excited to introduce it to the world.

If you could describe the sound, what would it be?

Strother: I think one of the most common threads throughout the music is that we have a lot of fun making it. We've always wanted to be as creative as possible, and people can expect to hear a singular element, and us really just making music for the love of it all.

Why did you start creating music?

Strother: It was a natural evolution. We're all music lovers and very much drawn to the arts. But when we got together, it was undeniable. We instantly formed a kinship and a sisterhood, and songs started happening, music started happening. It felt like a train that was already moving. It would've been harder not to do it than it was to do it.

It seems like the EP took off suddenly. Is that how it happened?

Bias: Yeah. We put the EP up for family and friends, and I'm guessing the word got out through our musician friends. We didn't have any PR or any push behind it or anything. We just put it up on our own.

The first person I heard talking about it was Phonte...

Strother: Yeah, he's been a wonderful supporter and a great friend.

So how did he discover it? Did he simply find the EP after you released it?

Strother: Yeah, that seemed to be how everyone found it. I think we posted it, and it'd only been up for a few days—or maybe even the same day we posted it—and Phonte was the first to start tweeting at everybody like, "Check it out!" Like Anita said, we had other musical friends passing it along, but Phonte heard it immediately and started pushing it out as well.

Why has it taken three years to record and release the album?

Strother: A good part of the time, we were making the music and our process might be a little different. We do everything, and we wanted to make sure it was right. So when the album was finished, it was a matter of putting it out the best way it could come out. We just wanted to take care of it. The EP songs were lovely, and it was great the way they carried throughout the years. Now that we've had a chance to hear the album in full, we know that it's everything we want it to be, and we're really glad we took the time.

What is the album's overall theme?

Strother: I'd say it's an introduction. It's called We Are KING, and we want to invite listeners into our sound. We released a song about a month ago called "Mister Chameleon." The next single is gonna be a track called "Love Song." With all of the tracks on the album, I think we wrote them all equally the same and we really had a blast putting them together.

What were some of the personal things you all went through since 2011, and how are they present on the new album? 

Bias: During that time, we've been learning and growing every day, so I think it applies to our songwriting. As the song develops, we develop and that gives us more ideas and really pushes our creative boundaries. I think we really put that all into the music over the past couple of years.

How do you all create your music?

Strother: Each song is different in the way it's composed, but it's so collaborative to the point where it would be hard to unravel who did what, as far as the songwriting goes. Sometimes, Amber and Anita will come to me with a melody, or I'll come to them with a melody or the music. We hang out all the time as a family or as a band. Just coming out of those situations, songs are always born. It's the best way I've ever worked.

In listening to the music, there seems to be a national synergy between you. How does KING's music stand out from other contemporary soul music?

Strother: I can't say this really makes us different, but our music is created in a vacuum to the point where everything is very honest and organic. It's all made with the intention of everyone enjoying the music. That's just one distinction for us. We're always trying to be as authentically ourselves as possible, to try to inspire that creativity, especially for younger generations. It's important for them to be themselves as much as possible.

Does L.A.'s vibe influence your music?

Strother: Yeah, I would say so. A lot of warm vibes are here, it's a pretty happy place. We also pull from our Minnesota background—Amber and I are originally from Minneapolis. Visually, we see a lot of other imagery when we're making the music. It's almost like we're scoring a movie only we've seen. I think the beauty of Los Angeles definitely contributes to that. We want to bring that aesthetic with us, everything we love in sonic form.

What do you want listeners to take away from the new album?

Strother: We just hope people love the new album, and are inspired by it in some way or another. I think there's a common wavelength going through it, and it's love basically. It's all about love and we want to inspire that community-wise. We're all together.

KING performs Saturday at U Street Music Hall, 1115 U St NW. 7 p.m. $15-$20. ustreetmusichall.com. Tickets here.

Photo courtesy Sharon Esquivel

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