$ lick King has been making music since they can remember. At the age of six, the artist received an electric organ, and at the age of eight, his first guitar. A native of Newcastle, England, the 23-year-old non-binary artist calls South Florida home, a place where they focus on distorting and celebrating their eclectic sound.
Back in Newcastle they were in several different bands as teenagers. King’s favorite was Static Blue.
“We called it post-indie, but that was because we hated people who were our age because they were in the Oasis,” they say. “It just didn’t make too much sense. Blue was kind of like a deal with Talking Heads.”
King eventually landed at Newcastle College, where they studied music. It was a short-lived experience – King was expelled from music school for too many reverbs.
This led them to their future mentor, Paul Harvey, a former member of the punk band Penetration and an artist and member of the stucco movement. Harvey helped the young king develop their art.
Coming from the deep working class, King grew up with a sense of anti-intellectualism. But Harvey, a credible musician from the glorious days of the UK punk scene and a respected artist and professor, showed King how to embrace knowledge.
“He taught me that you can be academic and smart, while still being likeable and rebellious,” King says. “The doctorate is also a punk rocker from the ’70s and’ 80s.”
In 2016, King moved to Los Angeles, where they surfed on the couch and struggled to make ends meet as a freelance graphic designer.
“I thought I’d go there, and they’re going to be like‘ Shit, British, ’but it’s obvious that there are already too many Brits in LA now,” King notes.
About a year ago – King wasn’t too sure where; they blame their copious marijuana consumption – King moved to Miami. Although, they admit, they haven’t actually been able to explore what the Magic City has to offer.
“To be honest, I’m still in the hermitage phase from Los Angeles because I’m into freelance design, so I don’t go to the office,” King explains. “I’ve been very productive as a musician, but as far as going out, I’m still trying to work out my live set with all the vocal effects and things I use.
“If only I had stayed at Newcastle College for music production,” King says sarcastically.
Although King started out as a typical punk kid, their sound began to develop as a teenager when they came across vaporwave, a micro genre of electronic music. In the wavy wave, King found a scene that felt fresh and new – something that did not belong to previous generations. But as their range of sounds expanded, King avoided the slow-moving vaporwave style, opting for something faster.
Encountering King’s work for the first time, one notices the vast amount of music they have produced. From hip-hop to manic pop, it’s almost as if King is recording what inspiration hits them at that particular moment.
“It’s like a manic act. All songs on $ licks King’s Bandcamp they were filmed in one day, “King says.” These are all shots of mania and how I feel that day. I have a very bad long-term memory, so it’s really handy for me to capture these manic moments and eavesdrop on them. I guess they’re more like shots of my mind just doing their thing. ”
Like other hyperpop performances, King sees rigid genre boundaries as things that need to be torn down and turned into a crazy line of electronic percussion. King attributes their use of electric drums to Africa Bambaataa, who along with those like Grandmaster Flash and other early hip-hop producers had a big impact on them as an artist.
“Punk wants to create a little chaotic balloon for themselves to live in. That’s what King licks – this little place on Bandcamp for almost five years,” King says.
Despite the breakneck pace of their production, King admits that they prefer to work lightly. Unlike other producers and artists who have entire external hard drives filled with half-finished songs and beat loops, King doesn’t like to archive their work.
“People call it the curse of the creative – when you do something and don’t think it’s good enough, go back and end up stuck in this loop to make things perfect. I am the total opposite. If something doesn’t work or I have to go for coffee or something, I’ll just delete it, ”says King, laughing.
King’s EP, Keep me sane, is a beautiful mess of subcultures in four tracks that strikes a deep pop feeling that makes the record essentially danceable. On songs like “You’re Not Colder Than Me,” Bambaata’s influence is evident in the drums and interruptions.
But what is most evident through the vocal distortions, manic rhythms, and frantic clusters is that it is precisely this King. What you hear through the artist’s works is an interpretation of the influences they’ve been collecting for years – even those King admit they don’t fully understand.
“The things that are often the best pieces are the things I don’t understand,” King says.
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