This article was originally published on Smashd.co on February 8, 2016.
With breathy, ethereal vocals that float seamlessly over a palette of smooth harmonies and dream-soul sounds, twins Paris and Amber Strother, and their friend Anita Bias, have crafted an intricate blend of melodies that is nothing short of art.
Formally known to the world as KING, the group quickly rose to fame after they released the independent EP “The Story” – which was hailed by acclaimed artists such as Erykah Badu, Questlove and Phonte – and came under the mentorship of music royalty, Prince. By utilizing a full in-house musical team – with Amber and Anita handling the singing, and Paris producing all the songs – KING has grown into a powerful trinity of talent which not only writes, but arranges and composes all of their own songs.
In this interview, Smashd’s Brittany Graham spoke with KING about branding, maintaining their authenticity, their relationship with Prince and retaining ownership of their music.
Smashd: After seeing you perform in person, the one thing that really comes across about your music is that it’s very authentic. It seems as if King never really went through an artist development phase – you just came as you were. Was there ever a real focus on “branding?”
Paris: Thank you. That means a lot, it really does. I think that we’ve just always focused on authenticity and originality. I think it’s important for us to be ourselves on stage, with our music and even with meeting people because that’s what we’re trying to put forward. When we get together, it’s very much “us” and that’s what we want to share with our fans – something that’s natural instead of something that was like manufactured.
Anita: KING really just emerged out of a friendship. Our thing is just to share the music.
Smashd: There wasn’t a large-scale PR campaign for your first release. Did you all ever have a conversation where you laid out what you wanted to stand for or the message that you wanted to portray to the world?
Amber: I think that because, like Anita said, it started out as a friendship – with us getting to know each other as friends and sisters first – we didn’t have to really sit down as a group and talk about who we are or what we wanted to stand for. I think the three of us know each other really well personally, and that helps us create a vision. I think our overriding theme is love, and friendships and relationships – and we just kind of developed our narrative organically.
Smashd: Where do you draw inspiration for your songs?
Paris: We draw inspiration from everywhere. A lot of the themes are about nature and with most of our songs, we start off with a feeling and then we add in the lyrics, the melody, the chorus, the textures and the sound design. It all serves to kind of emulate a feeling – sonically. Some of the songs have different feelings from others, but we always really try to dive in and make people feel immersed in whatever feeling we are trying to convey.
Smashd: Besides being a mentor, in what other ways has Prince been supportive of the group?
Paris: I think the most outstanding part of our interaction with Prince came early on with him telling us to never change. It was really cool to hear that – especially so early on – from someone who is obviously so great. We had just put out our three-song EP, something we created in our home and by ourselves; and to hear that someone who’s regarded as a master of music say, “This is perfect, don’t change a thing,” I think that inspired us to keep traveling down the path of authenticity we were on.
Smashd: You all own all of your masters. How important do you think it is for artists to have ownership of their music?
Anita: It was very important for us because of the way that our music is created – we arranged, we wrote and we produced everything. However, I would never make a blanket statement about whether it’s a good or a bad thing because it’s really situational. It’s really just about what works best for you as an artist. It’s always important to get good council, to keep supportive people around you and to know what your end goal is. For us, our end goal was to be able to create things as we did and as we have been, but everybody is different.
Smashd: What’s been the most exciting part of the journey for you?
Amber: Just being best friends and growing together as women on this journey – becoming a sisterhood. We’ve become stronger people and better humans, and to experience this together is amazing. We’re just really thankful.
KING’s new album, “We Are KING” debuts on February 4, 2016.