Prince has a thang for plucking singers out of obscurity and molding them into mainstream hits. The ‘80s heartthrob learned of the Los Angeles trio KING after they posted their debut single, “The Story,” on YouTube in 2011. A few months later, the shimmery, dream-pop-infused R&B group opened for Prince during his 20-night residency at The Forum and he’s still their mentor, adviser, and financial backer to this day.
KING, which consists of twin sisters Amber and Paris Strother and Anita Bias, formed in 2011 when the Strother sisters both moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles and then linked up with their friend Bias. Both Bias and Amber sing and Paris handles the production. In addition to working with Prince, the group has achieved a number of career successes in the five short years that they've been making music. They've released an EP (The Story) and a full album (We Are King), and have done songs with Avicci and Robert Glasper, as well as received Tweet shoutouts from Erykah Badu and Questlove.
[jump] SF Weekly recently spoke with the trio via email about their inspirations, insights, and their continuing road to fame.
KING plays at 9 p.m., Tues., Feb. 16, at The New Parish in Oakland. More info here.
Your music has been described as neo-soul, '80s pop, and R&B. How would you describe it?
At the heart of it it's soul, though we have a lot of pop, new-age, and jazz influences that find their way in there. Our favorite terms we've heard from others are “dream-pop” and “LSD R&B.”
What are your influences?
We're influenced by nature, visual arts, soundtracks, animated films, video games, and of course, other music though it's not necessarily borrowed from any particular artist's style. We try to stay as open as possible and let the music be a lens for our experiences.
Why did you guys choose to go with a name like KING? Does the fact that it's a masculine title appeal to you because you are women reclaiming the word?
KING was like a revelation. It was the first and only name that came to us. We were completely responsible for the sound, business aspects and creative direction, and wanted to reflect that in our name. It also holds an element of surprise that comes with people not knowing what to expect, and the challenge of it. We wanted people to think, 'Who is that? Who dare calls themselves KING?'
Amber and Paris: You two didn't start singing together until you were adults?
We would always play around with each other musically as kids, but it was more for fun and less a serious thing. Us performing together professionally only started with KING.
You've said that you create “music born out of friendship?” What does that mean? And how do you think it affects your sound?
Becoming KING wasn't necessarily the initial plan. The genesis of the band was that we were just friends hanging out, sharing music and ideas, and over time, that led to a very true, authentic sound. The close friendship we have gives us a deeper understanding of each other, and it creates a really fluid creative process.
What's your favorite song that you've produced/written/sang?
Paris: I'd have to say “Red Eye.” That was so much fun to make. It sounds like an adventure.
Amber: “Carry On.” It affects me a different way every time I hear it.
Anita: They're all my favorite.
What advice do you have for artists looking to get into the industry and make a name for themselves?
Stay true to yourself, stay true to your music, and make what you love. Create with the intention of it lasting forever.
What lessons have you learned in the 5 years that you've been making music?
Don't rush the process and trust yourself.