King Isis taps into their dark side with new EP ‘shed’

If you don’t know King Isis (they/she) now, then you have plenty of time to get acquainted with this Bay Area native. With influences spanning from Lauryn Hill to Nirvana, King Isis pulls catharsis from chaos to create music that evolves with their mercurial persona. After graduating from New York City’s Barnard College with an American Studies degree, they returned to the west coast to develop their King Isis persona (taking inspiration from their great-great-grandmother, opera singer Omega King), connected with their childhood friend, producer Jaden Wiggins, and soon after, their debut ep, scales, was born.

While scales showed off a lighter fare of songs, their upcoming EP shed trades in their alt-pop sound for something grungier and darker. Introspection is at the heart of King Isis’ songs, most readily seen in the lead single “Make It Up,” setting the tone for the grittier EP. In all, King Isis self-reflects and builds a new life from the answers received within shed.

Photo credit: provided by Grandstand Media

We chatted with King Isis for our Get INTO It interview series, where they dished on their dream queer collab, how Lady Gaga’s VMA performance changed their life, and what to expect from their upcoming ep shed.

What words would you use to describe your music and why?

Release, alternative, fairycore, dissonant. I think music for me has been a huge part of my healing and self-discovery, which, innately, is counter to and divergent from boxes that I’ve both been socialized in and ascribed to. I think dissonance is an idea I love in music and I feel like I embody with my music [and] existence – music constantly allows me to find myself in authenticity which can be dissonant to expected forms of existence. I say fairycore because music is magic in its way of unifying and creating communities and is the most honest and raw way I can express myself. 

Queer artists are leaving their mark in every musical genre. As someone highlighting this within your music, who have been some of your queer music inspirations?

Some of my favorite artists are people who are just authentically themselves however and whoever that may be in ways that shows up in their music. I feel like a lot of queer artists – myself included – express their process, journey, and self through sound. Some of my favorite artists are SOPHIE, Yves Tumor, Arca, Blood Orange, who all transcend a palatable understanding of sound and presentation through music. 

Which queer artists would be a dream to collaborate with?

It would be a dreaaaaam to have a song with Yves Tumor. Yves Tumor, hello!

Why make a shift into a darker and grungier sound on your upcoming EP shed?

I think shed represents me as an artist just as much as the more upbeat, indie, stripped back sounds of scales. I wanted to tell a story of duality and showcase all parts of myself and I think shed embodies this alternate aspect of me. Where scales was the introduction and the beginning of introspection, shed fully steps into the discomfort of finding myself in my identity and embracing my power. 

shed was also inspired by Gloria E. Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera. What were some of themes from Borderlands/La Frontera that made it into shed?

I think The Coatlicue State and Entering the Serpent are some really transformative excerpts that not only shaped these projects, but also my perspective as I move through the world. The idea of entering the serpent, deviant femininity, and stepping into the discomfort of the unknown that Anzaldua explores within these chapters is pretty much what this entire EP embodies. I think I explore that most on “Poison,” “333,” and “Monki” – starting by truly stepping into the darkness almost to the point of feeling engulfed and drowned in it – the fear and hurt/pain of being shrouded in shame – to the actual positioning in the Coatlicue State – pushing beyond these feelings of rejection, shame, loathing – to acceptance, love, and becoming. 

Speaking of inspirations, what queer pop culture moment defined your childhood?

I don’t know if I have any specific moments but that 2009 Lady Gaga VMA’s performance changed my life. The piano. The blood. The drama. Truly iconic. 

What’s a TV show, film, song/album, book, or podcast that you’re obsessed with right now?

Right now, I’m in the middle of reading “Another Country” by James Baldwin, season 16 of RuPaul’s Drag Race (Nymphia or Sapphira for the win pls!), and trash TV. Also Sibling Rivalry is also pretty much always on in my house.

Lastly, what do you hope your fans ultimately take away from shed?

shed, for me, was a process of self-discovery and self-love, learning to love all parts of me. I tried to embody this release, angst, and process in shed and hope that it allows others to feel whole in parts of themselves that they feel shame or repressed towards. It’s a journey of self-acceptance and love and I hope I can share that with others.

King Isis’ shed launches on March 21.

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