Interview: Antoinette + The Kings Men

Photo: Shufflehaus

After putting together a little introducing article on Antoinette + The Kings Men a few months ago,  she has shot through the release of her debut record, ‘The Trials’ and is already finalising it’s follow up EP – ‘Hospital For Souls’. I spoke to her about both releases, taking the project live and Justin Bieber’s sexuality. Boys and girls, it’s Antoinette from Antoinette + The Kings Men…

So this is your first interview…!
It is. I was meant to have one ages ago but it died. C’est la vie.

When I first wrote about you, your debut  ‘The Trials’ was nearing completion. What was the reaction to the record like?
Amazing! Completely unbelievable. I didn’t expect many people to listen to it, so when I had the idea to send physical copies around the world, I figured I’d be sending it to like – five people. It ended up being sixty-two. And so many people wrote back saying how it influenced them. I feel really blessed more than anything.

What were your expectations from it’s release?
That a few people I knew would be curious enough to give it a listen. I barely knew what I was doing and music is so competitive, even for someone who isn’t really even in the business. You have to have a lot of ego to go, “YO. Listen to what I created” and with ‘The Trials’, I didn’t have that confidence. I have it more so now, but I am definitely judged on it. I feel judged as; (A) an individual trying to make her way into a very competitive industry with no backing and sometimes, no back-bone and (B) as someone with growing confidence.

It feels like a constant struggle for most new artists to allow confidence to coexist with being the humble, relatable musician. Is retaining that confidence worth the struggle?

A lot of people see confidence as something to be threatened by because it shows that you have a goal and that you’re actually attempting to do something with it. Sometimes I feel very adrift and I ask myself “Why am I doing this?” but those are on the low days. I wouldn’t give up my confidence for anything. I have lived countless years without it, I’m happy to have its companionship.

So evidently, ‘The Trials’ has taught you a lot about yourself and making your way in music; is the project and it’s promotion now over or just on hiatus?
On hiatus. I’m releasing Elephant + The Spoon as a single in June with a music video (crosses fingers). I want to build up the music a lot more, as well as the Kings Men first before I really throw ‘The Trials’ back up in the air. The most important aspect for me is that I’m inspiring them as well as myself. That was the goal from the get-go when I first thought up A+TKM this time last year. I wanted to build up a safe haven for like-minded people.

Aside from Elephant + The Spoon, what other tracks from the album stood out as personal favourites?
‘Miaow or Never’ – my first revenge love song. The boy chose ‘never’. ‘One Doll, Two Doll’ – because it’s the routine I’m currently stuck in and ‘Red + White (Dolls Of Delight)’. I’ve been accused of glamorising drugs but I have to state in honesty that I’m merely stating that getting help is actually something to not feel ashamed about, as there are a lot of people who fear they will get crucified if they own up and say, “I need help”. That’s why I wrote those two songs.

Photo: Shufflehaus

‘Hospital For Souls’ is the current project – it still deals with mental distress and promotes unity amongst sufferers, but how does it differ from ‘The Trials’?
‘Hospital For Souls’ takes on mental illness more philosophically than ‘The Trials’ did. The Trials was very literal about my life and what was going on in it, whether using metaphor or not. With ‘Hospital For Souls’, I’m looking at the different personalities that really paint us up and make us whole. I’m also doing a short story to be applied to the EP. It takes apart who we are as humans and dissects it. I either want people to feel really uncomfortable like they’re under a telescope or for them to look into the mirror and say, “That’s me”.

When can we expect to see ‘Hospital for Souls’ released in it’s entirety?
I’m hoping to release it in June, first with a video to introduce everything and then the actual EP. The story for it will be coming out next month – so people will have a feel for it.

Tell us about the songs. Which are your favourites?
The first one I wrote was the title track, ‘Hospital For Souls’. A friend of the family was in hospital after almost dying from a heart-attack and so my parents spent a lot of time in the ICU. It then made me consider how many souls must be lost in a hospital after passing away – and then that furthered into this notion that maybe this idea of ‘heaven’ can be transferred into a hospital for souls who are severely damaged by their experience on earth. It takes on things pretty philosophically but my favourites would have to be ‘Bipolar’ and ‘Miss Teen Suicide’ – mainly because I relate to them the most. I’m really crunching down aspects of everyone’s personality and stating that it’s okay that you feel this way or that you think this way. We are all born with several personalities and I’m spreading them out like a deck of cards.

Sounds like quite a project; how long will it be?
It’s currently thirteen songs long but I’m continuously coming up with ideas, so who knows!

Rather long then; does size matter, matron?
It’s not the size but how you use it! The same applies to music, I just simply have far too many ideas in my mind and I write far too much. I get an idea, I write, I record, I fall in love with it and thus it ends up on the record. The good thing about being so free-lance is that I have control and a lot of say. I ask a select few of people to review a song before I put it up but apart from that, I just follow my instinct.

Photo: Shufflehaus

Now, more than ever, artists are raking in most support from the live circuit. Is Antoinette + The Kings Men a studio project or are you taking it live?

Definitely! I mean, the idea scares me to hell but I know it’s how to really gain ears and have people truly listen. At the moment, I’m trying my luck on the urban front. Strumming at the corner of busy streets or on the local buses. The people really don’t mind and a few even stop to listen. I do it because my dad says that he loves to hear musicians when he goes to work and everyone here is really big on playing their instruments on the streets. It’s just so I can get a feel and as a result, when I do my first gig, I won’t feel too exposed. I’m actually heading down to a cafe called Java Java this Thursday as they have live mic nights. I want to see how the whole thing works. And I plan on being very theatrical, no matter how small the venue. I refuse to just “get up and sing”

Who were your influences growing up and who do you draw inspiration from today?

Whilst growing up and today? It has never really changed. I grew up listening to The Beatles, Deep Purple and a lot of jams from the 50’s/60’s. My most major influences have to be Jefferson Airplane (Grace Slick is such a babe), The Runaways, Kate Bush, Marina And The Diamonds (of course, I’m a Diamond through and through), Siouxsie and the Banshee’s and of course, some score writers like Trevor Morris and James Horner. I would cut my arm off to work with the last two. Dominique McCusker (a new musician on the scene) is also a major influence. She’s my eyes and ears and produces FANTASTIC music. Her current project involves the theme of ‘creepy carnival’.

I’m curious as to how you view the music scene at present and what your opinions are of the current crop of talent sitting pretty at the top of the music scene, starting with Rihanna?

Definitely not interested. She is an amazing woman and so very strong. I can see why people admire her but she produces music that I simply don’t listen to. It has no vibrancy or meaning behind it – and I understand that people like to wind down with tracks they don’t have to think about but with music, I need something that challenges me.

Photo: Shufflehaus

…and what about the considerably more divisive, Justin Bieber?

Oh dear lord, I have no words for him. I’m sure he has some lovely pipes and has thousands of little “Beliebers” that would die for him but…he has to be the most manufactured piece of pop on the planet. Every bit of his worth goes to the team behind him – seriously, I applaud the advertisers.

So whilst you make your name with the music, I’m going to try and make it big as Justin’s first gay lover.
You’d be King of the gay scene if you outed him, lovey.

… and we’ll end with the current queen of pop; Lady GaGa (Obviously!)…

Obviously! Lady GaGa is one of my utmost inspirations. She has been there for me at my lowest points and she gives so many people the power to be themselves. I believe she resembles hope for this generation. Also – her unique sense of style is FABULOUS.

To finish the interview, we’ll put you in a hypothetical situation; you’ve just been given the death sentence for being too talented, what would your final words to the fans and supporters (Kings Men!) be?
The death sentence for being too talented! Oh dear. I would say what Anne Boleyn said, “Thus I take my leave of the world and of you and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. Wherefore I submit to death with a good will, only asking pardon of all the world”. And then I’ll have my head removed by the Queen of Hearts and I hope my Kings Men will live on in paradise. They certainly deserve it.

Photos: Shufflehaus
Interviewer: Simon McMurdo // Interviewee: Antoinette Kings (21-22/05/2012)


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