I was 13 the first time I saw King Krule perform live at The Van Buren in Downtown Phoenix. Archy Marshall, under his stage name King Krule, had just released his second studio album, The Ooz, and was coming through the valley on his tour. The venue was intimate, consisting of a small pit of dedicated fans and spiraling purple-lit smoke. When he finally took the stage, Archy Marshall was a study in contrasts, as the mellow demeanor of his hollow-cheeked profile spewed angrily raw lyrics in a deeply slurred South London accent. His music, equal parts vitriol and vulnerability, spoke to the perils of being young in a way that was entirely new and uniquely his own.
Most listeners know King Krule best for his snarling and searing 2011 hit “Out Getting Ribs'' or his guttural coming-of-age classic “Easy, Easy.” These singles aroused an outpouring of support for his new sound: a fusion of jazz, punk rock, and hip-hop that eventually cemented his 2013 debut album 6 Feet Beneath the Moon as a new must-listen album. His music immediately resonated with people in large part due to its undeniable authenticity. King Krule sticks to his guns and never shies away from discord or ugliness in art for the sake of promotion or self-aggrandizement. Going on a decade later, his fifth studio album Space Heavy was released only a couple months ago and, despite its recency, already stands out among his previous work. The album retains the signature King Krule lush guitar and trademark washed-out vocals, while introducing a new layer of wisdom and mediation on “the notion of the space in between.” Marshall is a father now and, like his changing life, his music is morphing and taking on a zen-like contentment and introspection.
Photo Credit: edgar_the_breathtaker
Last month, I was lucky enough to see King Krule in concert on his Space Heavy tour, and I couldn’t help but note the contrast to The Ooz show in Phoenix I’d attended years before. King’s Theatre in Brooklyn was sprawling and filled to capacity. Marshall and his long-time bandmates, Ignacio Salvadores (saxophone), George Bass (drums), James Wilson (bass) and Jack Towell (guitar) were playing exceptionally tight together. From set transitions to note progressions, each detail was executed perfectly—a sign of their maturation as musicians, performers, and a cohesive band. Everything from the minimal stage decoration to the simple and clean graphics felt like witnessing the physical manifestation of King Krule’s attitude towards the commercialized music industry. Marshall has always been transparent regarding his refusal to “sell out” in the business: “I never took that step that I guess was expected. I have kept things very similar to when I started. I’ve always been conscious of my integrity in a sense of when to accept big cheques. I was lucky I had a core group of people around me that I loved.”
All his shows are more about the sonic landscape and the music than any unnecessary dramatics—and Space Heavy was no different. Despite the larger venue and more mature sound, it managed to retain every ounce of intimacy from his smaller Ooz tour. Moments like Ignacio frantically running around the stage dancing during “Alone, Omen 3” before falling to the ground in ecstasy clearly demonstrated the passion this band still has for their music and the joy they find in it. Marshall retained the irreverent energy of his younger albums through moments like barking “I’m now your girlfriend!” during “Pink Shell” before practically cackling or chanting “my plastic straw!” as the grungy guitar swells in title-track “Space Heavy.” There was a palpable love and appreciation for the act of performing in moments like King Krule singing the beautifully harmonized “Seagirl” before finishing the concert with a nostalgic “Out Getting Ribs” encore. The Space Heavy concert embodies Marshall’s love for the theater of music. Seeing King Krule live on stage is essential to understanding why other musicians love his experimental sound so much and why his enduring fanbase can’t wait to hear where he’ll take his music next.
Photo Credit: edgar_the_breathtaker
Sabrina Bailey is a sophomore in the College studying Psychology and Journalism.