Popping Up: All Kings And Queens
Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey — Beyoncé and Miley were once unknown, too.
When I first listened to All Kings And Queens‘ debut track “Voodoo,” I didn’t think I was going to cover it for Idolator. Not because it wasn’t a rad song, but because I thought it was too rock-oriented for this site. It almost felt like hair metal. But then I ran it back and realized it was pop music in the purest sense: There was unbridled energy and melody piling on top of each other, but there was also an undeniable sense of precision and studio craftsmanship underlying everything. It was a flamethrower, not a firebomb.
It’s music to sing to at red lights, music to punch the air to during a workout — increasingly rare effects in this age of hyper-pop, when it sometimes feels like everything is engineered in a lab in Sweden using the same foundational elements. But songs like “Voodoo” prove the world of pop isn’t hermetically sealed yet, that even though pop has been accepted as “serious art” it can still get blackout drunk, start a fight and wake up under the coffee table.
Joseph and Gabriella are the two evil geniuses who combined the glam and shameless grandeur of ’80s cock rock with the monumental sugar rush of today’s electro-pop for “Voodoo.” The London siblings decided to join forces as AKAQ last winter, and last week we Skyped to chat about the exciting new project.
Read on to get to know All Kings And Queens.
INFLUENCES: Anything ’80s. Pat Benatar and Hall & Oates factor big into their musical DNA, while Toto, Fleetwood Mac and Kate Bush came up in our conversation as well.
BROTHER-SISTER ACT: Joseph says the advantage of working with a sibling is never having to put on appearances. “You never have to pretend to be nice. When you’re working with someone else, their idea might not be what you want, but you just go with it anyway. But if it’s your sister, you’re just like ‘no, that’s shit.'”
“And then slam the door,” Gabriella jokes. “He goes upstairs to play Playstation, and then I slam the door. There’s a lot of door slamming.”
WHEN IN DOUBT, PRINCE: “We were trying to write and couldn’t come up with anything, so we went and watched Purple Rain,” Joseph recalls. “And it was like ‘yes, we know what we have to do now.'”
“So then we came upstairs and wrote ‘Voodoo,'” Gabriella adds.
MUSIC TO STEAL CARS TO: “A lot of people have been saying we’re ‘dark pop,'” Gabriella says.
“We don’t really like the word ‘dark,'” Joseph quickly offers, “because ‘Voodoo’ is kind of happy, right?”
“It’s kind of like cinematic pop. When we’re writing, we have films in our mind. Or Joseph has video games in his mind. We’re imagining kids at home playing Grand Theft Auto, and ‘Voodoo’ is definitely playing in the background.”
“Especially if it’s Vice City.”
SHREDDED CHEESE: ’80s-influenced music has now been on-trend for longer than the ’80s actually existed. AKAQ tried to determine what makes that decade so everlasting.
“It was a lifestyle, the way people dressed reflected the music they listened to,” Gabriella says. “If you listened to The Cure, you dressed a certain way. If you listened to Pat Benatar, Cyndi Lauper. There were so many great girl anthems, and they had style and dances. And it was sort of the beginning of electronic music coming into the mainstream.”
“No one really knew what they were doing so it was experimental, with strange new effects,” Joseph posits. “Production got crazier. Even the cheesiness [of the ’80s], it’s glorious.”
“Yeah, a lot of people take influence from ’80s music, but where are the guitar solos? Where is the slap bass? We are not doing it subtly, we want to take what we think are the best bits. When do you ever hear a glorious guitar solo anymore? You just don’t, but we wanna hear that. [Joseph] wants to get down on his knees and shred.”
HIP TO BE SQUARE: But maybe the allure of the ’80s is simpler than that, and comes down to earnestness. “It’s not about being cool. It’s about being uncool, actually,” Gabriella chimes in. “Going in for the kill, don’t keep your tricks hidden. Just throw them all out there.”
WHAT’S NEXT: “To be honest, we’re not too sure,” Joseph admits.
“We’re hoping by early next year we’ll have some kind of EP,” Gabriella reveals.
“I’ve never been to the US. Gab has, it would be awesome to play a few shows there.”
“I love New York. We’re Italian background, so there are places with the food that we grew up with, I really like that.”
“Yeah they don’t have that in London. So we would love to come to America, but no plans yet.”
“Someone has to invite us first.”