Los Angeles trio KING open RISE concert series at Gardner Museum
It’s a homecoming of sorts for musical group KING, who perform on Thursday at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s new music series RISE. KING consists of twin sisters Paris and Amber Strother and vocalist Anita Bias. Paris, who is a pianist, keyboardist and composer, initially met Bias at the Berklee College of Music when they were both students at the internationally-renowned music college. “Having gone to school there, I always loved the city,” says Paris of her time in Boston.
RISE is curated by singer and rapper Shea Rose and music producer Simone Scazzocchio, and pairs established and emerging musicians from the worlds of pop, rock, hip hop and other genres.
When Paris, Amber and Bias initially got together “it was more of hanging out with each other and just having a good time making music,” says Paris. “We initially wanted to make the music for family and friends because we were having such fun hanging out together doing small shows here in LA.” That was in 2011 and since then it’s been a meteoric rise to musical success for KING.
A year later, they opened for Prince on his final show of the Welcome 2 American tour in Charlotte, N.C. That same year, Paris teamed up with musician Robert Glasper in co-writing the song Move Love for his record Black Radio. The album went on to win a Grammy in the Best R&B Album category in 2013.
Speaking by phone from Los Angeles recently, Paris talked about her time at Berklee, working with Prince and the artist she’d like to work with someday.
You mentioned that you just wanted to make music for yourself and for your family. Were you working other jobs and did you think this would be a potential career at the time?
Paris Strother: I always had it in my mind. I had gone to Berklee and always knew I wanted to do music but wasn’t exactly sure how. It came completely out of left field for my twin sister Amber who always loved music and we always connected over music, but I don’t think she’d ever see herself doing it professionally. She had also gone to Berklee for a short period. I think years later she remembered that she had specifically wanted to be in a band when she was younger. That was a lot of fun. I think it was definitely a big dream come true.
You’ve performed with Prince. Can you still describe what the feeling was like when you received that email asking if you were interested in meeting him, and then you were asked to perform with him?
PS: It was kind of disbelief. It was astonishing. At the time we didn’t have any press or anything; no agents. It was really a wild moment. Our first formal show, I think it was 16,000 people. It was just incredible and it kind of set the bar for where we wanted to be as artists.
As artists, what did you learn from working with him?
PS: He really kind of instilled the self-confidence and was always pretty adamant about not changing for anyone and staying true to ourselves. It was really a welcome piece of advice and stayed with us. He was really inspiring in the way of staying true to ourselves.
Is he still working with you guys?
PS: He’s still a friend and ally.
If it hadn’t been for Berklee would you have continued making the music or did it jumpstart it for you?
PS: I’m sure I’d be doing music in some way or another but Berklee really honed the skill and talent and set my learning along a really directional path. I studied contemporary writing and production, which is kind of like scoring for orchestra or a large ensemble or a big band. That kind of practical education, learning the software programs that everyone still uses today, and directed study was really instrumental in becoming KING.
You’ve performed with some really amazing and talented musicians like Marsha Ambrosius, Lianne La Havas and Alice Smith. Who in your mind immediately stands out as someone you’d like to perform with?
PS: Janet Jackson is the first person that comes to mind.
And why Janet?
PS: She’s just such an icon. Her music and her sound, specifically the sound of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, was so instrumental in growing up in Minneapolis. I think that Janet, with who she is, her voice, and their production, is really iconic to us and really, I think for each of us individually, it had us fall in love with music.