Bringin’ it Backwards: Interview with Hey, King!

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We had the pleasure of interviewing Natalie and Taylor of Hey, King! When you first hear indie rock act Hey, King! it immediately becomes clear that each musical moment is rendered with precision, care, and a whole lot of heart. These are powerful and humanity affirming songs from songwriter, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist Natalie London and her partner, vocalist, and percussionist Taylor Plecity. A formidable and boisterous live force that often results in an eight-piece orchestral band, they’ve previously toured extensively with Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals. Ben Harper produced Hey, Kings! debut EP, Be Still, which was just released, as well as their full length set for a 2021 release. Both records are being released via ANTI-.

If Hey, King! makes resilient songs, it’s because London has overcome a life’s worth of near-death illness. Though she had started her career while at Columbia University, she contracted Lyme disease and co-infections Babesia and Bartonella on an early tour, forcing her to be bedridden for over four years. “During that time, I couldn’t walk, talk, read or write, I lost a great deal of my memory. I felt like I had a complete chance at a brand new life and everything from my writing to what I listen to reflects that,” says London. She adds, “Starting my life over, I felt like a kid again. There was so much unharnessed passion, longing and a need for both adventure and home.”

As London navigated her recovery, these free and genuine new songs became part of a new band called Hey, King! which gets its name from the ferocious story Where The Wild Things Are. As London began to explore her new musical identity and lease on life, she met Plecity. Their relationship evolved to the couple making music together. “While it makes for a really complex dynamic, you get to share every incredible experience you’ve been waiting your whole life for with the person that you love the most,” says London. Their obvious chemistry is bursting through songs like the smoldering “Half Alive.” Boasting dual vocal melodies and some spine-tingling harmonies, it’s a cathartic taste of what Hey, King! can accomplish, especially during the raw declaration “I was only half alive before I loved you.”

“Half Alive” was produced by Ben Harper and mixed by Sheldon Gomberg (Fiona Apple, Lucinda Williams). “We got really lucky because Ben gave us a ton of freedom to record the songs how we imagined them,” says London. She adds, “Ben’s audience feels like they are attending church every time they see him live, they are so deeply moved. Touring with Ben and watching that connection with the audience helped us evolve greatly in the way we play.” On the confessional “Don’t Let Me Get Away,” London belts over impassioned acoustic guitar strums, “I’ll tell myself to fuck it up first just in case / Tell myself anything in hopes to keep me safe.” Few artists can turn their vulnerability into such vibrant power.

While Hey, King! have been able to find their resonance through bare-bones and simple singles, their song “Lucky” proves how compelling and explosive their sound can get. Plecity explains the track: “We want to make music that we feel our younger selves needed to hear. With ‘Lucky’, we wrote what we’d want to say to ourselves during the times where our lives were the hardest, and tell that child it is going to be okay.” The two sing, “Let me go, let me go back and tell me / ‘I’ll survive and say someday you will find me.” It’s a spellbinding and powerful moment, complete with a vivid horn section and a hair-raising chorus. It’s the kind of song that feels like an anchor, one where you’re supported and loved by the people walking alongside you.

In 2021, Hey, King! will release their Ben Harper-produced debut album on ANTI-.

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