April 25, 2013 | 8:00PM
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April 25, 2013 | 8:00PM
When they named their debut song, “The Story,” twin sisters Paris and Amber Strother and their friend and musical compadre Anita Bias--collectively known as KING--had no idea they were...
When they named their debut song, “The Story,” twin sisters Paris and Amber Strother and their friend and musical compadre Anita Bias--collectively known as KING--had no idea they were creating a true life musical fairytale. Nor could they have anticipated the key role that pop icon Prince would be playing as they gear up to release their full length debut album, also titled “The Story,” this year.
In March, 2011, dreaming big, but taking practical steps, the Los Angeles based R&B trio posted a clever, scrapbook illustration-style video for their dreamy and sensual tune on YouTube. Along with the independent release of their three song debut EP that month, their goal was simply to let their family and friends in on the easy grooving, soul-influenced vibe that they had been developing since they joined forces in 2009. Then Phonte Coleman, rapper/singer of The Foreign Exchange heard it, flipped, and shared it with his Twitter followers. Soon thereafter, Grammy winning singer Erykah Badu, ?uestlove of The Roots, and many other contemporary tastemakers heard it, and loved it. Once “The Story” went viral, it was unstoppable.
Within a month, the video had more than 40,000 views, garnering countless new fans—including the one and only Prince, who while surfing the net, discovered the group himself. He then tapped Paris, Amber and Anita to open a show for him just a few months later during his exclusive 2011 run at The Forum in Los Angeles. Prince has since become a mentor, advisor and financial backer to the girls and he enlisted Kiran Sharma to be their manager.
While Prince is every bit the master producer, revolutionary songwriter and artist, his role in KING’s development is more behind the scenes, helping guide business decisions and providing an overall vision for the trio. The vibe and intricate harmonies KING creates—and Paris’ hip and edgy yet smooth and old school production—evolved beautifully in their home studio, even without the master’s touch. In fact, when he first heard the album, he said “don’t change a thing. It’s perfect.”
Paris produces KING’s songs, while Amber and Anita are the primary singers. The three work together on songwriting and vocal arrangements. Says Paris, "everything happened very quickly with the EP release, from opening for Prince to beginning to write and record our full-length album. We are so excited to come out to the world with the new music we've been carefully developing. We're thrilled that Prince has provided us with a platform to do this, and are overjoyed that we were able to produce the new album the way we envisioned it."
KING, who write, produce and perform all of their own original material, spent most of 2012 in their home studio working on the upcoming album, which will include “The Story,” and the two other tracks from their initial EP, “Hey” and “Supernatural.” The album will also include the sultry and ambient romance “In The Meantime,” which the trio is releasing the Spring of 2013 as a lead single.
Last year, they also wrote, produced and performed the song “Move Love” from The Robert Glasper Experiment’s groundbreaking “Black Radio” album which won a Grammy earlier this year for Best R&B Album. The hybrid jazz/R&B recording features numerous vocalists (and some of KING’s favorite artists), including Badu, Lalah Hathaway, Ledisi, Chrisette Michele, and Musiq Soulchild.
The cool, seamless blend of jazz and soul sensibilities in KING’s music is due in part to 26-year-old Paris and Amber’s parents exposing them to an eclectic mix of music while they were growing up in Minneapolis – including Duke Ellington, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and artists produced by the creators of “The Minneapolis Sound.” Amber nurtured her vocal gifts by absorbing everything musical around her, and quickly developed an intricate, magical tone and a unique skill for composition and songwriting. Through exploring a melting pot of artists, genres, musical ideas and movements, Paris found her own personal voice on the piano.
After writing songs together as teenagers, the sisters parted ways when Paris headed to Berklee College of Music in Boston to study contemporary writing and production. Amber, following in their father’s footsteps, went to cosmetology school in Chicago. While at Berklee, Paris met Anita briefly during a rehearsal and remembers being blown away by her voice in the first five seconds. Anita studied voice at Berklee for a year before returning to her hometown of Los Angeles.
“I told Anita I loved her voice, but I thought I would never see her again,” Paris says. “I moved out to the Bay Area after graduating to do an internship with the Monterey Jazz Festival, then headed to L.A. to pursue film scoring.” Anita adds: “Then we randomly ran into each other at a jam session. We started hanging out and began showing each other music we had been working on.” Paris adds: “This led to ideas which really proved to be the foundation of the group a short time later. We named the group ‘KING’ because in a business where so many artists compromise their vision based on what others tell them, we wanted to be in charge of our own musical kingdom from the start.”
Amber re-entered the picture when she came out to Los Angeles for a short visit for her 23rd birthday and quickly fell in love with the city. She enjoyed hanging out with Paris and Anita so much, that she decided to stay. Paris says, “I had been invited to play some acoustic shows in Hollywood, performing cover songs, and I asked Amber if she would like to join me someday to try out original material. That’s how the song ‘The Story’ began.”
Amber adds, “’The Story’ is about taking a journey. It was inspired by Paris and myself moving to the West Coast at different times. There’s such a strong vibe here, and we’ve made so many great friends. It’s like the land of eternal sun. We had not lived together for a few years, and it was wonderful to be reunited and to create music with her. Anita became like a sister, and not long after we began working together as a trio, we realized that KING was developing into something much more amazing than the three of us ever could have imagined. The defining factor of the group is that we have three different perspectives as writers, arrangers and vocalists, but we combine those to create a singular vibe and vision.”
Anita, who Paris and Amber affectionately refer to as their “triplet,” adds, “The main thing about our songs is that they spread the kind of love that only comes from being true to who we are. KING is all about us being natural and authentic. We make music that we, music fans, would like to hear. I think what makes us unique is that the three of us have the same tastes, and we all genuinely appreciate and are invest in each other’s ideas and opinions. I have learned so much from working with Paris and Amber, and I couldn’t fathom the idea of making music with anybody else.”
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