There's a sense of wonder that permeates throughout every song indie rock band Hey, King! has written. Canadian songwriter, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist Natalie London and her partner, Tucson, AZ vocalist and percussionist Taylor Plecity, approach music with a childlike curiosity and adventurous spirit—fitting for a band whose name comes from a Where the Wild Things Are line. Their 2020 debut EP ‘Be Still’ was raved by Under the Radar Mag as "heartfelt indie rock" with songs that showcased "London and Plecity’s ability to turn tragedy into an exuberant celebration of life and love.” But now, the band finally follows it all up with their highly-anticipated self-titled debut LP.
Produced by 4x Grammy winner Ben Harper, Hey, King! is a dazzling 11-track collection that matches the overwhelming emotional intensity of the band's live show, a concert experience that Vancouver Weekly called "a powerhouse" and "quite possibly the music world’s best kept secret." In fact, many of the songs were directly informed by the 2018 North American tour where Hey, King! opened for Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals. Many of the band's rawest early songs dealt with London's years-long, near-death battle with Lyme disease and her recovery. "We were doing 45 minute sets, and there were times where our material was all very emotional, very heavy tracks," says Plecity, noting how emotionally draining it was to perform such diary-like songs. "After that first tour,” adds London, “we started writing more upbeat, driving songs that showcased more of our humor and personalities."
The resulting songs on Hey, King! are bursting with life, color, and charm. Take the bubbly "Get Up," where London and Plecity shout, "Get up, come on, you’ve been sleeping all day / Let’s tear down these blackout shades." On its surface, it's a rousing call for seizing the day but according to the band, it's more funny than that: "I had writer's block for a little while and Taylor dared me to write a song from our dog's perspective," says London. On the chorus, the two joyously yell, "I can’t tag without chase / I can’t tug without war." But even without knowing the silly backstory behind them, these songs are so inviting you'll feel like you're part of the inside joke too.
London and Plecity sang about their rock-solid relationship on their EP through love songs like "Lucky," and "Don't Let Me Get Away," but here they talk about the hard work and ups and downs that come with romance. The track "Sorry" turns a couple's argument into catharsis. The chorus is explosive with London and Plecity, their first lyrical co-write, singing: “Stop saying sorry please / Do I need to tattoo across my forearm 'Jesus Christ love I’m on your team'. " They later wonder, "What are we fighting about, anyway?" Elsewhere their anger turns righteous on the simmering "Road Rage," which was written in response to the #MeToo movement, grotesque cat calls, and facetiously imagining a world where men had a curfew. Over a menacingly bluesy riff, Plecity defiantly sings through gritted teeth, "Every little joke, another harmless tease / My keys slid through my fingers, can you just stay on the phone with me."
The arrangements on Hey, King! are muscular, driving, and anthemic, recalling the most fist-raising Arcade Fire offerings and the most ornate songs by Sufjan Stevens. The best example of this comes in the stunning and epic opener "Beautiful." The track is an absolute force with London and Plecity singing in harmony, “Come on now come on and get me / Cause with you, the world that I see / Is beautiful” in its cathartic chorus. It’s a hopeful salve and reminder when there’s much worldwide uncertainty. Even though no one knows what life will look like in the future, there’s excitement and beauty in the journey. London explains: "With all the uncertainties, insecurities, and worries, you just say 'I don't know where I'll be or where I'm going but I do know it's going to be beautiful.' " This is the ethos of Hey, King! and hearing these songs will give you that same optimism, even when things are dark.