The current Twin Cities music scene pumps out enough garage rock and punk to flood our iTunes libraries for years. But less frequently — if ever — do we see nationally buzzing R&B bands coming from our clubs.
Twins Amber and Paris Strother, two thirds of rising R&B trio KING, now live in Los Angeles, but their roots are firmly planted in south Minneapolis soil.
KING started off 2016 strong with the release of their debut record, We Are KING, on February 5. The group has scored love from taste-making press outlets like Pitchfork, Spin, and NPR, as well as big-name praise from Questlove, Erykah Badu, and Prince.
KING will play their first headlining hometown show this Friday at Icehouse.
“[Minneapolis] was such a great place to grow up, and there’s such a legacy there,” says Paris, who graduated along with her sister from DeLaSalle High School in 2004. “Having that foundation in our formative years, we became sponges and picked up on really some great culture.”
The twins say they’re trying to turn the third member of KING, L.A. native Anita Bias, into an honorary Minnesotan, too.
The trio's brilliant fusion of R&B, soul, jazz, and electronica comes from the Strother twins’ long history of exposure to Stevie Wonder and jazz pianists like Bob James, Patrice Rushen, Bill Evans, and Herbie Hancock.
Paris and Amber's parents put them in piano lessons at Walker West Music Academy in St. Paul before they were of kindergarten age. Amber remembers frequent trips to the Electric Fetus with her older cousins and father.
“I think it’s one of the best stores I’ve ever been into,” she says. “I just love the energy, the vibe.”
Paris studied contemporary writing and production at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she met Bias. At first, Paris honed in on piano with plans of one day writing for film and TV. Although KING wasn’t exactly the career she had in mind, she says it’s the “best outcome [she] could have ever imagined.”
After graduating from Berklee, Paris moved out to L.A. where she reconnected with Bias. Amber met Bias while visiting her sister and they hit it off instantly.
“Every time [Bias and I] would hang out, we would just make music,” says Paris, the principal songwriter, keyboardist, and beatmaker in KING. “Hearing [Bias and Amber] sing together was otherworldly. I knew it was something special.”
KING put out their first release, The Story EP, in 2011 and spent the next half-decade perfecting We Are KING. The resulting album is a strong statement about who KING is and what you can expect from them, Paris says.
All of KING’s production, songwriting, instrumentation, and vocals are tackled solely between the Strother twins and Bias. That complete, front-to-back control is central to KING’s music and aesthetic, Paris says.
Having power over their artistic vision carries over into their management and distribution, as well. The three members built KING Creative, a self-owned and operated record label with just two additional employees — a manager and a publicist. Eventually, they'd like to expand their creative brand into different kinds of art.
“It’s important that [our music] is something authentic and specific to us,” Paris says.
For KING, that commitment to authenticity is paying off in a big way.
When: 10:30 p.m. Fri., Feb. 12.
Where: Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis
Tickets: $20; more info here.
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