I interviewed King Princess over the phone during her first trip to Australia. I was in Melbourne, and she was in Sydney, about to headline Front Left Live, a live Spotify playlist gig. We chatted Rupaul’s Drag Race, that fight between Lana and Azealia (which had occupied both our attention that morning) and the importance of knowing your shit.
It was a good conversation—a great one, even—but there’s meeting over the phone and then there’s meeting in real life, and the two are usually very different. Somehow, we got both. Three weeks after our first conversation, King Princess was back in Australia, this time for her 1950 East Coast Tour.
Born and raised in New York (though she relocated to LA in 2016) King Princess spent her formative years in her Dad’s Brooklyn studio, Mission Sound, where Cat Power and The National often recorded. That city kid ferocity that seeps into her music, perceptive pop ballads about queer love.
It’s in the green room of the Forum, flanked by a photographer, where we make our in-person acquaintance. She’s lounging on a leather couch in a black pinstripe suit by local brand, P.A.M. Her new single, ‘Pussy Is God’ has just reached number six on the iTunes charts. “Six is better than 12 right? But it’s not one,” she says wryly. It’s not the first time she’ll make the photographer and I laugh. Later, while telling us the downside of touring is being away from girlfriend Amandla Stenberg, she quips “I just wish my boyfriend, by boyfriend I mean my lesbian girlfriend, was here on my pussy too.” Her rider is short, but it does include a framed photo of Cate Blanchett. Why? “I don’t know, man. She’s just fucking cool.” The same could be said of King Princess.
I know that you grew up in the studio, recording with your dad. How did recording your own EP differ?
Well, you know I think that what I learnt from growing up in the studio was how to be confident and know what I want. I realised really early on from my Dad, that a knowledge of gear, equipment and technical information about studios is incredibly important as a woman. Because you enter into spaces where often times, you’re the only woman and sometimes there can be a bunch of fucking assholes there. What I learnt from my Dad was the ability to understand a studio and transfer that knowledge to my own recording.
The ability to throw your weight around and say ‘No, I do know my shit.’
It’s totally important to be able to walk into a situation and be like ‘No. I want it this way.’
I read that you ‘give a lot of fucks’ about the way you show yourself. What are three things that you give the most fucks about?
I give the most fucks about the quality of my music, the integrity of my image and personality, and I give a fuck that I have a really good team.
Do you think it’s better to put all your cards on the table or keep them close to your chest?
I talk a lot about this with my friends who work in the industry. I think that there’s different belief systems behind this, especially as a woman. It can kind of be super detrimental to have your full self available to the world, or it can be a great strength. With me at least, and with my team, the way the we approach press is to figure it out. I know this is me. I’m not alter or change anything. I’m pretty much an open book when it comes to that. I don’t see a difference in the way I present myself, public versus private. I mean… I try to speak better. But for me, it came down to what is going to connect to people. And also what’s going to make me feel good. At the end of the day, it’s about me being myself.
Is there a certain space that makes you feel the most creative?
For me, I’m definitely the kind of person who, if I have an idea it doesn’t really matter where I am. But if I had to choose a space where I feel most creative, it’s in my studio in North Hollywood with my engineer and my co-writer, Nick [Long]. Nick and Mike [Malchicoff] and I, we put on our matching tracksuits and we make magic.
I’m here for that.
Yeah it’s tight!
I know your girlfriend, Amandla Stenberg, edited and did the colour for your clip ‘Talia’. How was that experience? Have you worked together before?
She came in and we had already gone through the first draft of editing the video. She was like, ‘Yo I want to take a stab at it’ and I was like, ‘Fuck yeah! Let’s do it!’ And she made it perfect. She did an incredible job. She just saw me, and saw the footage, and pulled from it a really beautiful story. I’m so proud that she worked on that. Of course I would work with her again! She’s fucking amazing.
The clip seems very metaphorical. Can you detail some of the symbolism there?
I think the idea behind the ‘Talia’ video was to take an item of the patriarchy and repurpose it. It’s a story about a break-up and losing love. And I think when Clare [Gillen], the clip’s director, and I sat down and thought of the idea of the sex doll; it was supposed to be like, using this item that’s been discarded and then fucked and abused. We wanted to give it new life and a storyline. So it is symbolic. It’s symbolic of an item that has been neglected as well as queer love—which in itself is safe and passionate.
That’s really touching.
Yeah! It’s nice huh!
You play with drag a lot on your Instagram. Do you have a cast prediction for Drag Race All-Stars season four?
Oh you know bitch! I’m on all those sites—you know the seedy Reddit pages where they predict them. I read a bunch of those things and I’ve really forgotten all the information. But there were a few that I remember reading it and thinking ‘Oh my god. This is shocking. This is a shocking cast of characters.’ I read that Manila was going to be on it, but I don’t know because she was on a different All Stars? Quite honestly, we have such a [great] roster of queens coming off that show—it’s really fantastic.
I completely agree.
I have no energy when its not on. There is a hole in my heart. When Rupaul isn’t on, I sit at home crying.
I see you. And I acknowledge you.
It’s the same way I feel about Game of Thrones. But because it’s still on every fucking 10 minutes, it’s like… I’m ok with it. Rupaul is supposed to be an everyday thing.
We. Need. Seasons. All. Year. Round. Please.
We really need it. It’s good for your mental health!
I actually really want to ask you about Mark Ronson…
Oh my god.
[Laughs] I’m just kidding. I know who he is. Go on.
You really got my heart started there! Has working with him improved your art?
I think what’s interesting is that Mark didn’t produce the EP—I did. What I think we realised, together, is that the way he can help me the most is to provide a second opinion. His job is to essentially be someone there, to just listen and critique my art. His knowledge of recording and production and American music history is unmatched. When I work on something and play it for him, and he’s like ‘This is great, but this sound could be more like this reference’ and then he’ll play something for me. And I’m always like ‘Fuck yeah! That’s dope!’
That’s amazing to hear. I’ve got some quick fire questions for you now, true or false type situations. Are you ready?
All is fair in love and war.
False. You can’t be a bitch!
Michael Jackson will forever be the King of Pop.
Amandla Stenberg is the actress of our generation.
Miranda was the best Sex & The City character.
Oh girl please! False. Samantha.
The Kardashians are overrated.
I don’t know. Whatever people like on TV is fine.
Lana Del Rey would win in a fight against Azealia Banks.
Oh my god. I’m not going to answer that because that is just not the case. [Laughs] I feel like it would be a fight to the death. I don’t wanna think about it. It’s really iconic beef though.
I really do believe that Lana would bring some knuckle-dusters and a gun.
Okay… I mean, I don’t know. Would I love to find out? Definitely. I would watch that WWE fight, if I’m going honest.
Listen to King Princess’ ‘Pussy is God’ here.