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King Princess interview: ‘LGBTQ fan culture is driving the music industry – it’s poetic justice’

Exclusive: The ’1950’ singer chats to Attitude ahead of performing at London’s famous Koko.

By Charlotte Manning

King Princess in the album artwork for last album Hold On Baby (Image: Zelig Records)
King Princess in the album artwork for last album Hold On Baby (Image: Zelig Records)

King Princess has just wrapped touring with Florence + the Machine around Australia and New Zealand, but they’ve got plenty more to come this summer. 

Mikaela Mullaney Straus, also known as King Princess, will take to the stage for their first back-to-back headlines show at Koko in London (tonight, 18 July) and the Marble Factory in Bristol, before supporting a little known band called the Red Hot Chilli Peppers for their UK shows. 

This summer finally marks her first chance to show off their first two albums, Cheap Queen and Hold On Baby, across Europe, too. 

So it’s all a pretty big deal. 

The genderqueer star dials in for a much-needed catch-up ahead of an evening slot at Madrid’s Mad Cool festival. 

Despite a bit of shaky signal, King Princess shares their excitement for a summer of European festivals, working with Mark Ronson and how it’s LGBTQ+ fans who are the ones driving the music industry forward the most. 

Attitude: Hi! How are you feeling ahead of touring the UK and getting your first proper summer of festivals? 

King Princess: I’m so excited. The UK has been such a firm supporter of mine since the beginning, from fans, but also BBC Radio. I’m really stoked to reconnect with people that I haven’t seen. New fans, fans that I haven’t seen in a long time. I feel really grateful. I’ve really missed touring Europe. It’s really challenging, but it’s a good challenge. The shows have been so wonderful. I’ve had so much fun.

You were shortlisted on BBC Sound of 2019, how have things progressed since then?

For me, the last two years have been like every other artists’. All my s**t got stopped. Everybody stopped touring. Everybody’s productivity went down during Covid. When I wasn’t touring, I was super depressed. Now, I feel like I have this opportunity to rebuild, and to play not only songs from Hold On Baby, but songs from Cheap Queen. I never got to bring that show to Europe or the UK. I’ve devised a setlist that hits both of those marks and brings people at the shows what they’ve missed from King Princess. My band’s really rockin’. We all feel like we have something to prove. That’s the energy we’re coming into this with.

You’re about to support the Red Hot Chilli Peppers on tour too, is there anyone else you’d love to tour with?

I’m so stoked about The Chilli Peppers, they’re the nicest people. So far, the shows have been a breeze. They’re just a really wonderful team of people. Very respect-based crew, which is awesome. Getting them watching your show every night is awesome. I’d love to tour Taylor Swift. I mean, that’s the dream, right? I’ll tour with anyone though, I just love to tour.

You had a lot of support from the likes of Harry Styles earlier on in your career, who else has stepped up to support you in that way? 

Florence [Welch]! Florence, has been an incredible friend and support system for me. I adore her. She’s been such an ally and a confidant for me. I’ve had wonderful conversations with a lot of people that have been helpful, and lovely, but Florence has been my number one.

You’ve worked with Mark Ronson on your records too, what’s that been like?

Well, our relationship with my records was mostly him acting as a listening ear. I would make something and, I’m a producer, and then he would help me finish it or see its completion and give me notes, tell me how to make things feel complete, which is wonderful. Having a listening ear like that is really important for young artists. I feel like he will always be somebody who will listen to my music with honesty.

You’ve always been very vocal about identifying as gay and genderqueer, do you think that’s impacted your music in any way?

I don’t think it’s impacted my music because I am who I am. I don’t really have any other option. The tides are changing. There’s more and more queer artistry being pushed to the forefront. That’s a direct result of fan culture. Queer fans have always propelled music to the foreground. Now that fan culture is driving the entire industry instead of labels, fans are responsible for things blowing up or not. A lot of the best fans in this world are queer and are fall under the LGBTQIA umbrella. It just feels like poetic justice!

Do you feel generally quite accepted within your sexuality and your gender identity?

I do. I’ve had the tools that allow me to accept myself. That’s the biggest struggle right now. Institutionally, we are not providing kids support to love themselves, and to understand that the things that make them different, give them gifts. If you don’t have that institutionally then how are you supposed to teach kids that there’s nothing wrong with you? The answer to that is through art, and adding people who you relate to making art and being out there. That’s how I found myself. I hope I can provide that – to some degree – to the people watching me. What’s happening right now with the government globally right now, especially in my country, is abysmal. It’s terrifying.

You’ve been quite open about using fluid pronouns, what does that mean to you?

It’s just personal preference. This is something that’s important. It’s a big learning moment, right? Because everybody’s queer differently. For a really long time, people liked to group queer people together as some sort of like unit like, we’re all the same. That’s just not the case. We’re not all the same. We all function differently, all like different music, different art, different culture, different clothes. Pronouns are just like anything else. If it’s something that makes you feel affirmed, you deserve that right to be called, what you need to be called. For me personally, I just don’t really care, or feel any more affirmed by someone gendering me. It doesn’t do anything for me. Personally. I’ve just had such a journey internally with it that that I’m the only person that’s going to make me feel better about myself. Doesn’t mean that it’s not necessary for other people. 

[Using the correct pronouns] is a small act of kindness. To refer to someone the way they want to be referred to, it’s a very small act of kindness. It doesn’t take any f***ing energy away from the person speaking to just do the right thing. It’s so confusing to me why people are such d**ks about it!

In terms of other queer artists, is there anyone who really inspires you, or anyone you’d love to collaborate with? 

There’s a lot. I collaborated with a band that I love that’s on tour with me right now called Boyish. I’m super stoked on them. I’d love to collaborate with somebody like Phoebe Bridgers. There’s a lot of really incredible people on right now, Ethel Cain. There’s so much good stuff happening. I’m excited for the community that’s growing.

Your queer fans must mean a lot to you too.

I have a lot of queer fans and I have a lot of straight fans that like my music too. I don’t care if you’re gay, or you’re straight. My rule of thumb is that if you’re at my show, you are going to be respectful, you’re going to have fun, and you’re going to take care of each other. That’s all I care about. I don’t care if there’s a seventy year old man in the crowd, everybody follows the same rules. You have to be respectful, kind, open and have fun, period.

Finally, what can fans expect from King Princess’ upcoming shows?

It’s just going to be a rocking motherf***ing show and you better be there. We’re gonna have so much fun. It’s gonna be a great f***ing experience. I’m so excited to meet you all. I’ll be at the merch booth, and I’ll be outside before the show saying what’s up. Hopefully we’ll do some meet-ups too so we can all see each other!

King Princess will play Bristol’s Marble Factory on Wednesday 19th July, and O2 Ritz Manchester on Saturday 22nd July. Remaining tickets are on sale now here.