KiNG MALA Goes Track-by-Track On Her Debut EP, ‘GEMiNi’

Billie Eilish meets Banks. How about that for a first sentence to introduce you to KiNG MALA?

KiNG MALA is the moniker of El Paso born, Los Angeles based alternative soul artist Areli Castro. Her debut EP GEMiNi features six songs that each give us an insight into who KiNG MALA really is. We spoke with her in August about the first track, “sugarblind.”

The album was produced by Rob Auerbach and mastered by John Greenham, themmusic evokes a youthful energy while maintaining a musical sophistication.  KiNG MALA hopes her music may allow others to feel confident and cool, confiding, “I hope it helps people feel okay with what they feel, I’m a person with very intense feelings and it took me a long time to realize that that’s a gift not a weakness.”

Raised in a hispanic home, the artist is passionate about supporting the LGBTQ+, POC and Indigenous communities and being open about mental health.

As for the moniker, Castro has a simple and powerful explanation. “King cuz fuck being someone’s queen, and mala literally means “bad bitch” in Spanish.” 

This song was one of the first songs I wrote with my producer Rob Auerbach early this year.  It started with that bass riff you hear in the beginning and it was so reminiscent of the alternative rock music I grew up listening to, bands like The Black Keys and Cage The Elephant. I loved the way it felt fun and a little reckless. It reminded me of that feeling of wanting something/someone so bad that it’s addicting, so I wrote the song based on the metaphor of finding someone so cute, you could literally eat them.

If I Try To Find You
This song is a super personal one for me. I was thinking about a relationship I had when I was 16/17 with someone much older than me and wondering how that person is and where they might be now. This song is a stream of consciousness. Writing it was what made me realize I was in something so unhealthy and yet, I still care about them. The production shifts between the broken verses to the huge and emotional chorus. I wanted to capture the feeling of realizing someone hurt you.

When I started writing it, I was thinking about this person fondly. I have absolutely no idea where they might be and no way of finding out, so I was writing about wondering if they are okay, if they are happy. I wrote the line “you had a decade over me” and my producer said that seemed like the story. I realized right then that somehow this person still had a hold over me.

I’ve struggled for a long time feeling like I belonged and trying to be comfortable with myself. I always felt awkward and misplaced at every event, and the more I talked to people about it, the more I’ve realized most people feel the exact same way as I do. “Homebody” is probably the most honest song I have ever written. I usually try to disguise the meaning of songs in metaphor and sort of dance around whatever idea I am exploring, but with this song it was different. I wanted to be honest, as much as I want to be fun and the life of the party, I am really just a homebody at heart and I’m starting to be okay with that.

B4U is one of my favorite tracks on the EP. It starts with a simple and sweet melody, but has darker inflections hidden underneath. I wrote this song about falling in love, and reminiscing on what it was like before you had someone. Throughout the making of this song, my producer and I wanted to create a sound that was both romantic, but bittersweet. The 808 swells in the chorus, the harmony beds throughout were all made to add that feeling. We even added a few of my saved voicemails from throughout the years from my family and friends at the beginning of the outro. Those voices buried underneath the instrumentation are probably my favorite things on the whole EP. 

Give Me
My producer showed me this sample of a full choir singing the words “Give Me” and I was instantly hooked. Something about it felt powerful and unapologetic and I knew I wanted to write a song using it. This song is a caricature of the most confident version of myself. The whole song centers around blatantly demanding the things you want, whether that’s something or someone. In reality, I’m a very shy and often anxious person, but with this song I wanted to capture what I feel like at my bravest, when I’m not afraid to ask for the things I want. This song takes an unexpected turn at the end, switching from a more powerful production to a softer, more melancholic vibe. At the time, my producer and I were obsessed with experimental song structures and playing around with combining two unique sounds in one song. We decided to make the ending of this song feel like waking up from a dream where you get everything you want, and realizing that none of it was true.

The last song on the EP might be my favorite. This song is an ode to the darkest parts of my struggle with identity. During the making of this song, I had been wondering what it would be like to start over and leave my current body/persona and just be someone else. I wanted to reinvent myself, change everything about me but in reality I will always be the same. This song has some of my favorite lyrics I’ve ever written, touching on themes of self preservation and self destruction. I wanted to save myself by abandoning everything about me. The simplistic production and raw vocals offer an honest, uninhibited look into what it’s like to be 22 and in a constant identity crisis.

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