An interview with Kaki King

If you have given Kaki King‘s new album, Junior, a spin, you probably thought — based on the first track, “The Betrayer” — it was going to be more accessible than her previous efforts. Although there are a handful of songs that have more of a pop sensibility than any on When We Felt Red or 2008’s Dreaming of Revenge, there’s still an air of distance coming from the out musician. She doesn’t want to be “gotten.”

Known for her finger-picking, fret-tapping and overall guitar skill-set, you are likely interested in Kaki for her musicianship rather than the fact she’s a lesbian, which, of course, is what most musicians hope for — they want fans of their talent, not of their personal lives. However, fans, at the core, are people interested in feeling connections, and the person or persons playing the music and writing the songs are where these connections begin.

It might not surprise you that Kaki King is a bit stoic in real life. She will quietly talk about her work, rarely smiling despite making sarcastic remarks or telling a story about “gray hairs” (AKA older fans who show up to her performances). But it’s with Junior, her fifth album, that it would appear her label (or possibly even Kaki herself) is interested in putting her out with a more “fun” image. Kaki tries to promote her show as “a dance party,” a description her shows circa Dreaming of Revenge would certainly not lend themselves to (at least not well).

She’s also not playing by herself, and her two bandmates have not only become a mainstay on tour, they were also a large part of her songwriting on the album. King used to play all the instruments on her own, where now she has multi-instrumentalist Dan Brantigan and drummer Jordan Perlson in more of a collaborative effort.

“With Dan and Jordan and I, we just really locked into rehearsing together and I’d come in with a simple idea and we’d play it and they’d go ‘Oh why don’t we change the beat here?'” King said backstage before her Chicago show at Park West. “It was really helpful to have other people go ‘What you’re doing is cool, but this idea’s better.'”