Analogue Music | Hey, King!

Hey, King!

It was hard for Natalie London to picture the other side with so many tubes leading to her heart.

It wasn't so long ago that the pursuit of music was shelved for London for several years, a life-altering Lyme disease diagnosis had left her bed-ridden and incapacitated from even basic skills. At that point, the sole focus was survival. There wasn't even a view of anything else.

These days, London and her partner Taylor Plecity are ready to release their full-length debut as Hey, King! (ANTI-) after several long tour stints with Ben Harper, who also produced the album. Even with the pandemic in place, the pair have earned a solid following and seem primed for a meteoric rise once live connections are a thing again.

It's the journey in between that makes the music so resonant, a life-affirming, emotionally vulnerable set of songs that connect in meaningful ways. We recently asked the duo to tell us about coming together, their pursuit of connection, and working with Harper in the studio.

Analogue: How are you all holding up creatively with the pandemic?

Natalie London: I’m sure everyone you talk to would say one of their favorite things is to play shows and connect with people, so it’s been really challenging. That’s the end game for this. You want to create something beautiful that brings people solace and inspiration. The aspect of being together is such a huge part of this—it’s half you, half the audience—so missing that has been rough.

I think we’ve been more of a production company than a band because we’ve produced seven different music videos for this record so far.

Taylor Plecity: Yeah, we wrote, directed, edited and even acted in all of our own video content for this entire album.

Analogue: Given the visual treatments of so many songs, did that change your relationship with some of them?

Taylor: I think it did in the sense of “Beautiful”.

Natalie: I was going to say “Beautiful”.

Taylor: It was so specific about a time where we had to leave our home. We had a crazy situation where the cops were called from a roommate that we had, who was threatening to kill us and we all had to move out.

We had nowhere to go and we ended up couch-hopping with our two dogs while recording this record with Ben. So we’d show up to the studio and then try to find a place to live. All of our stuff was in storage or in our car. So we started writing a lot about that idea of not knowing where you’re going to be six months from now and asking if these things will all work out.

Natalie: Then the pandemic happened and the song just felt so perfect for it.

Taylor: Yeah that changed things for me. Not knowing the future at all was suddenly happening for every single person. [Laughs] That’s the world right now. But it’s still being able to find the person or animal or adventure—something that’s going to make you feel happy and helpful at the end of the day even when everything else is uncertain.

Analogue: So why come together musically in the first place? I’d love to know more of the backstory.

Taylor: Music is her first language. It’s very apparent when you meet this woman. She has such a songwriting ability that I just haven’t heard anywhere else.

Natalie: Aw, well I’ve been writing songs since I was literally four years old. I started playing guitar. I still have my song written in blue marker on my giant diary.

Analogue: Wait, what was the song?

Natalie: [Laughs] “If I were a king I would open the skies / Clear the waters and open your eyes / ‘Cause we are kings, kings of ourselves / Kings of ourselves and kings of the world.” I still have it and I actually started thinking, ‘I want to go back to that thinking of being a king and recapture that sense of self-worth and identity.’ That’s always how I translated my thoughts and feelings was through music. I always feel more comfortable singing and playing than talking.

So I’ve been doing this forever. I was playing music full time and touring the country and meeting with record labels. I met with Randy Jackson and Virgin. I was all over the place. Then I got really sick and was bed-ridden for four-and-a-half years. I couldn’t read or write or walk or talk. I lost my memory. I was bit by a tick when I was on the road and contracted Lyme disease and bartonella. I was having seizures. I wouldn’t know where I was. It was a near-death situation, so I ended up completely bed-ridden with four tubes to my heart over a period of three-and-a-half years. I was on IVs every single day and medications. I was in this little 10 by 10 room for years, so I never thought I’d do anything again.

Hey, King! became something that came about as I was getting out of that. It went from writing and singing and thinking about relationships and friendships and drama and all that I was involved in to me really thinking about rage and adventure. You’re kind of reborn, so you have this mix of fury from losing half your life to freedom and being able to start over again.

Hey, King! had just started and we had an EP. Then we met and fell in love. Taylor is an extraordinary filmmaker and actor and I was shocked that she was so musically inclined. She started singing with us and I’d never thought about having double vocalists, but as soon as she started, even my bandmates were like, ‘We need her to be part of this. How could we not?’ That changed the direction.

"I’m excited and scared to get back out there. It’s been so long, so I’ll have that fear of being in crowds of people with COVID and all. But there’s also a need to come together more than ever." -Taylor Plecity

Taylor: It was super nerve-racking. I’ve always been in bands, but even when my band had gotten offered a tour back in Tucson, I’d gotten cast in a film those same three months and the band knew my priorities. They were still able to hit the road, but I decided to go do this. Music was something I needed in my life, but it was never a calling for me like filmmaking.

But then when someone who is your favorite songwriter and musician calls and says, ‘Do you want to play on these tracks?’ You don’t say no. You say yes and try to level up. So I spent a good three months straight-up YouTube University-ing a ton fo things just so I could get better. I was pretty good, but if this is who I was going to be playing with, I wanted to get better. She’s just such a musician and I’m just not that.

Natalie: C’mon… She’s amazing. She brings something completely different to the table. I’ve played with a ton of musicians, but there’s nothing like the way she emotes, especially on stage. It’s mind-blowing. I don’t know if you’re this used to being so vulnerable in your other mediums, but you give it your all. Regardless of what you’re playing, you bring something that’s so deep. It added another layer to the band that I didn’t see at all.

Analogue: So how did you get into the studio with Ben?

Natalie: Right after that, we met Ben and it was awesome. He was going to bring us into the studio to do a few songs and then…

Taylor: They were just having a blast. They would be jumping onto different instruments and playing along. Originally it was a couple songs acoustic with vocals, but they were having a blast creating these worlds.

Natalie: Yeah our chemistry was so great and it was working so well. He said he wanted to do a whole album and then wanted to take us on the road. So we started touring with Ben and we were his opener for three legs of his North American tour. It was just awesome.

Analogue: Do you remember that first show?

Natalie: I think it was the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver.

Taylor: I think I blacked that one out. [Laughs]

Natalie: I think we raced through it. You sometimes have that happen where you have so much energy that you don’t realize you’re playing the songs a full 10 beats per minute faster than you’re supposed to be. But we were shocked at how receptive his fans were. His music is definitely different than what we do, so we didn’t know how it would resonate. But as we kept touring with him, his audiences were amazing.

Taylor: It was amazing. Our merch was just gone. We just played a lot of great shows. There’s nothing like live music. I’m excited and scared to get back out there. It’s been so long, so I’ll have that fear of being in crowds of people with COVID and all. But there’s also a need to come together more than ever.

VISIT: Hey, King!