Three Brilliant LA Women Are Bringing '80s R&B Back to Life
It's practically impossible to Google KING, but when their new album drops, the challenge will be to escape them.
West Coast neo-soul female trio KING conjure glossy waves of warm, horn-tinged aural joy. And they couldn't rightfully be named anything else.
"We wanted a strong name that represented the fact that we're in charge of our own musical kingdom," singer Amber Strother said in an email interview with Mic. "We create, write and produce everything independently. We chose a name that reflects that aspect of our music."
Twin sisters Amber and Paris Strother and creative conspirator Anita Bias make up KING. Amber and Anita's harmonies enchant as they swirl around Paris' woozy synthesizers. Their sound, always, is as if they — and you — are falling madly in love.
The Strother sisters' Minneapolis childhood fed them a diet of old-school soul, gospel and jazz. "There was always music playing at home, and I think our tastes are also heavily influenced by the Minneapolis sound," Paris said. It was only a matter of time until the two started churning out their own work: "We both started at an early age, and I pursued piano and orchestration through college, but it wasn't until after I finished school and moved to L.A. that Amber came to visit and we began to sing and play together."
The collaboration also surprised Amber. "Yeah, I'd always loved music, but never knew I wanted to sing full-time until I came out to California and started working with Paris," she said.
Then Anita joined to round out KING's powerful roster, and the group never looked back.
"I met Anita briefly while in Boston at Berklee College of Music — we had a random reconnection in Los Angeles and began hanging out again," Paris said. "Every time we'd get together, we'd work on music for fun, and when Amber visited L.A. for the first time and we all sang together, it was something special."
"The best part of it is that our music is borne out of our friendship. The music is just a natural product of us spending time together," Anita said.
Their fluid, velvety soul-pop bears witness to that. KING sound like they are having a genuinely good time. Songs like "Mister Chameleon," about a color-changing lover, swim in a sea of falsetto and synth flourishes. "This is getting so old," they sing, but any good listener would disagree. Although clearly inspired by past Golden Soul heavyweights, KING injects sounds from across an array of genres and eras to make something entirely new.
"I was very much inspired by Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell," Paris said. "Janet Jackson's collaborations with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were huge. Steely Dan and XTC were also favorites."
The wild mash-up of the band's influences create, accidentally or not, a unique, groovy wash of sound that could cue a light dimmer. It's a sound that's always setting the mood.
Although still relatively unknown, the group's jazz-funk psychedelia has already enchanted masters like Erykah Badu and Prince. The former specifically sought to meet the crew (Paris told L.A. Weekly that Badu "gave off a big sister vibe") and share her enthusiasm for their work; the latter invited them to open for his final night in the 2011 tour 21-Night Stand.
We Are KING, the trio's debut full-length album, is poised to drop this fall after a three-year period of recording. The women approached the process with fittingly sincere TLC. "We do everything and we wanted to make sure it was right," Paris told Washington City Paper. "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."
KING are eager to finally unleash the album. "We've had an amazing time making it and are ready for everyone to hear," Paris said. "We're also looking forward to getting back out on the road and performing the new music live." If their early recordings are any indication, the new tracks will carry them far and away.