7.15pm, Saturday 31 October
*Presented in conjunction with the Governor Hindmarsh Hotel
Introducing the Australian Neo-Soul Band King and Associates
A lot can happen in the short span of a moment. A glance turns into love-at-first. A choice changes your trajectory. A fit of inspiration leans into a song. By letting go and giving in to life’s natural ebb and flow, we allow destiny to take its course and maybe even end up where we belong. Through embracing the moment, Kings & Associates arrive at their third full-length album, Neighbour [Color-Red Records]. Led by husband- and-wife duo of singer and lyricist Anjii and songwriter and bassist Steve Portolesi, the award-winning Adelaide, Australia group thread blues, soul, funk, R&B, and gospel together in an eight-track vinyl patchwork stitched tight by live virtuosity and thought-provoking vulnerability.
“We’ve made massive adjustments to deliberately live in the moment more,” Anjii exclaims. “In my experience, you’re able to notice things around you and pick up on other people’s frequencies. With songwriting, you tap into so much more. It developed holistically. We’re writing about what’s happening and the truth we feel.”
“It was a natural discussion,” agrees Steve. “Once you lead yourself in this direction, the floodgates open to where you’re constantly considering how you’re living. It’s a combination of environmental change as parents who feel more responsible to others and our own personal evolution. All of these things had a big effect on the writing.”
Since coming together in 2014, Kings & Associates moved towards actualizing this vision. They introduced themselves on 2016’s Red Dress and reached critical mass on Tales of a Rich Girl a year later. Produced by seven-time GRAMMY® Award winner Jim Scott and mixed by four-time GRAMMY® Award winner Vance Powell, the latter picked up three honors at the 2018 Australian Blues Music Awards, including “Best Group of the Year,” “Best New Talent,” and “Best Producer” out of six nods. They received acclaim from Huffington Post, Blues Blast Mag, and more as their total stream count approached 1 million. Additionally, they made fiery appearances at Summerfest and Bluespalooza, sharing stages with everyone from Buddy Guy to Trombone Shorty.
In 2019, they shifted gears to record what would become Neighbour in Los Angeles. Reteaming with Scott, the band took a different approach, recording the bulk of material live and simultaneously playing alongside US organist Louie Higuera and Australian organist Paul White for the first time.
“All seven of us were tracking the songs in the room,” says Steve. “It was different to have two guitars, bass, two vocalists, and two keyboards playing at once. Since you’re present, you’re responding to sounds differently. Everyone is feeding off every second of every tune. Everyone is completely aware of what other instruments are being played and allowing themselves to work within that. It was a real throwback to older ways of recording. It changed everything.”
At almost nearly six minutes, the first single and title track “Neighbour” urges kindness and hope over resounding strains of organ, wah-wah guitar cries, handclaps, and a simmering groove. It stands at the crossroads of a few personal experiences for the frontwoman.
“Two Christmases ago at a store, I overheard these girls gossiping and laughing because a friend put a party on Facebook and received only three RSVPs,” sighs Anjii. “I couldn’t wrap my head around how social exclusion was funny to anyone. I thought about my own daughter. It stung my heart, so I started writing about what this girl might feel. At the same time, I was thinking about this old guy who lives down the street. He lost his partner years ago and hopes for someone to say, ‘Hello’. The elderly become so disregarded in our world. We’re trying our best to recognize everyone and show love. We want to open up your eyes maybe to be a little kinder to those in your community who might be hurting.”
The second single “Red Dress” raises awareness of human trafficking and child sex trafficking. Originally cut for the band’s debut as the title track, they re-recorded a more driving, punchy, and upbeat version for Neighbour. Initially, Kings & Associates donated proceeds from the tune to World Vision and once again join forces with the organization.
“This body of work is really about the human struggle and having love for each other,” Anjii goes on. “Unfortunately, this issue isn’t going away. We want to keep speaking up, if we can.”
“The new recording was a natural expression of where we are,” adds Steve. “We changed it up and added more energy and fire.”
Elsewhere, “Hannah” struts through a dreamy haze of organ and smoky guitar as Angie recalls a rough-and- tumble childhood in the poverty-stricken Elizabeth West neighborhood. Meanwhile, the heavy riffing of “Rhythms” culminates on a confident and charismatic chant, “You can’t see what I see.” Then, there’s the sultry, yet intoxicating R&B drip of “My My My.”
“I wrote it almost like a dialogue between a person and addiction,” she says. “It might be laughable, but my addiction is sugar! You can relate it to anything though. You know you shouldn’t have it, but you can’t resist.”
In the end, Kings & Associates spread a little bit of hope through every moment on Neighbour. “People go through rough patches, but there’s still a nice side of humanity,” Anjii leaves off. “We want to illustrate that. If we can make one person feel valued or like he or she is here for a reason, we’re happy.”
“…. the album promises to be a humdinger.” ~ Randy Radic, HuffPost
“You are left emotionally drained after this soulful experience…… expert musicianship and top notch production propel this effort into greatness.!“~ Peter Szalony, BluesBlast Magazine