King Isis: "Being accessible is not the intention of how I write.”

Neu King Isis: “Being accessible is not the intention of how I write.”

Digging deep and emerging with a debut EP that refuses to conform to any boxes, the Californian’s ambitions are as wide as the scope of their ideas.

Most musicians write about their feelings in some way. Whether exploring their struggles as a way to heal or sketching out scenes from their everyday world, life creeps in somehow. Very few musicians, however, are as frank about the way they write as California’s King Isis. Their debut EP ‘scales’ touches on relationships, humanity, disassociation, self, and much beyond; their lyricism, meanwhile, consists of self-described ‘shadow work’, a practice of delving into the hidden parts of oneself and attempting to process them.

Isis’ sound - currently occupying the sweet spot between grunge, pop, and rock - certainly lends itself to these darker emotional corners, and that’s something they’re hoping to push even further going forward. “I feel like it’s more palatable for songs to have a bright-sounding instrumental, and then dark lyrics. But that’s not the intention of how I write, to be accessible,” they explain. “In my head it all goes together, but an outside perspective might be like, ‘What the fuck is going on?’”

Born from their internal explorations, ‘scales’ offers an immersive window into King Isis’ first steps. “Introspection ties it all together,” they explain, “but I wanted to showcase everything - a couple more acoustic tracks, some alternative, poppy, then R&B. It’s a good introduction to all the different sounds, and I feel like people are hearing ME.” But really, Isis’ debut is just the overture for what’s to come, and already they’re raring to move forwards. “The next project is already called ‘shed’,” they say. “I’ve gotten better at guitar, I’ve gotten better at writing, my chord choices… I’ve grown as a musician. So the next project is definitely more representative of where I am now.”

The way Isis speaks about their music is saturated with ambition. The drive to keep moving, and perhaps the discipline to keep growing, comes from their classical training and the resulting desire to break free from any structures that might confine them. “I started playing piano when I was really young, but the programme I was in was very strict and very rigid. So I stopped, I started playing guitar, and now I feel like I’m doing the opposite in my music – not being stuck in anything,” the explain. Though their ambitions are wide-ranging, Isis comes at everything with intention, be it to transform, hone in, or to discover themselves. As they summarise: “I write music to go through things.”

As featured in the May 2023 issue of DIY, out now.

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