We sat down for a lengthy chat with L.A based songstress King avriel
King avriel is proving to be a beacon amidst the recent surge of female R&B singers that are saturating the airwaves.
The bold, poignant social commentary within her tracks laced against it’s sparse, slick production is a far cry from the child prodigy that once provided acting vocals to a character in Hey Arnold!
A published poet in her own right, King avriel’s visceral songwriting is a fearless statement of intent. She’s already blowing up the blogosphere, sitting in-line and drawing comparisons to newcomers Kelela and FKA Twigs. Wonderland sat down for a chat with the lady herself to find out more
Can you remember how you fell in love with the idea of making music?
It started with my dad. He was a guitarist in this reggae band called Boom Shaka. At home, he had this little office detached from our main house where he kept all his instruments — his guitars, bass, african drums, a plastic recorder I played with when I was little. But, we didn’t have a piano. My grandma did, however. It was handed down to her from my great grandmother. So, every time I went to visit her, I’d go straight to this old, out of tune, upright piano, and start banging on it. Eventually, my parents got my grandma to send the piano to our house, and they got me and my siblings lessons. I have really early memories of me sitting my whole family down and forcing them to listen to me sing songs off of The Bodyguard soundtrack.
Who would you cite as being your biggest musical inspiration of all time?
Definitely my dad. No other musician has taught me more about the artistic process, music theory, and the technical aspects of song writing. I think the most important lesson he has ever taught me is the importance of being vulnerable when writing and performing. He always says music is the soul’s expression, everyone can make it, and it’s universal. Even when someone doesn’t speak the same language as you, they can still understand your soul through listening to your music, and that’s why it’s so powerful. That stuck with me.
What was the last song you listened too?
I was just watching Lauryn Hill’s cover of “Something” on Letterman.
Do you have any guilty pleasures? Songs that you love but know you shouldn’t?
I watched all of Kacey Musgraves’ Youtube videos last week… There are like 28 of them on her Vevo channel. I listen to a lot of country music, because I think the story telling aspect in the songwriting is really powerful.
Why did you decide to write a song like ‘Freedom’?
I actually wrote ‘Prelude’, ‘Failed Messiah’, and ‘Freedom’ all in the same week. My project was done, and I was sitting around with nothing to do, so I just kept writing to some beats that had been sent to me. Since, the songs weren’t going on the project, I figured I would just send them out and test the blog waters. I was not expecting those songs to get the amount of attention they did. But, Freedom’s hook “I’m still figuring out this thing called freedom” was a line in a poem called “The Commute” that I wrote over a year ago. It’s still on my tumblr. At the same time, one of my ex’s was on my brain. While reading that old poem, I got this flashback of him calling me as he was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and saying he didn’t have anything left to live for. That image haunts me, and I figured the best way to confront it was to put it in the song.
Do you ever feel quite vulnerable singing such personal lyrics to vast amounts of people?
Yes. But, that’s the only way I know how to be an artist. Ironically, I feel like I’m most invincible when I’m being vulnerable.
If you could collaborate on a track with anyone, who would you choose?
One day I want to do a duet with Frank Ocean. A really cheesy one, with like a black and white video where we’re on opposite sides of a wall, pining for each other’s embrace or something.
What was it like growing up in LA? Did you ever feel like you had to conform to the general stereotype the city can have?
LA made me, broke me, and then allowed me to find myself again. It’s really a horrendously magical place. I definitely felt pressure to be perfect. I would go into more detail, but a lot of those stories are told on my upcoming project. It would probably be easier for you to just listen.
Where are the best places to hang out? Are there any hidden gems that we’re yet to unearth?
My favourite place to get vegetarian food is True Food Kitchen in Santa Monica. I LOVE Mercado in Little Ethiopia. Umami Burger isn’t really a hidden gem, but it never disappoints. And, whenever I have a sweet tooth, I go to Pie Hole Downtown.
Solange Knowles is a fan. Have you met her yet?
I knew my video was posted on the Saint Heron blog, but figured it was just one of her editors who liked the video. Haha. No I haven’t met her yet… That’s pretty cool if she actually watched the video and liked it.
You seem quite style savvy. Who are you favourite designers?
I used to be a huge fashion slave. I’m that girl who saved money to buy an Alexander Wang jacket that I wore maybe twice in 2008. Then, I went to UCLA, and fell into the trap of wearing track shorts and sweats every day. I’m slowly transitioning out of that, so I’m really into street wear right now — sneakers, floral print sweats, five panels, cut off jeans. Comfortable stuff.
What can we expect from the full-length album and when will it be released?
Well I can tell you one thing. Everything you’ve heard from me thus far is not a good representation of what my project will be. Freedom, Prelude, Failed Messiah… they’re all songs that have a specific sound. And, although I love that sound, what I’ve done with my project and my music in general goes way beyond that sound. People keep classifying me as alt-RnB and electronic-influenced, but the project departs from that and goes much deeper. So, I don’t think you can expect that sound at all, but you can expect a story.
Check out more from King avriel here
Words: Shane Hawkins