They say heavy is the head that wears the crown, but you couldn’t tell that from listening to King Princess. The unabashedly gay and genderqueer artist sings with the confidence and lightness of someone who’s completely untethered, her voice floating weightlessly through songs like “Pussy Is God” and “1950.”
A multi-instrumentalist and producer in her own right, King Princess (a.k.a. Mikaela Mullaney Straus) has had a busy year: dropping her stellar debut album Cheap Queen, touring, posting hilarious remixes of Mariah Carey songs on her SoundCloud, posing as both a cheerleader and a football player for Playboy. We got in touch with King Princess before her upcoming show at The Van Buren on Wednesday, January 29, to discuss her songwriting process, becoming a centerfold, and how she feels about the increasing popularity of queer pop music.
Phoenix New Times: As someone who’s mostly self-produced, have you had trouble taking notes from other people in the studio?
King Princess: I’ve been working on getting better at taking notes, ’cause that’s a huge part of the process. You have to listen to other people, and it’s honestly a detriment to yourself if you stop listening to them. Everyone who is on my team has the ability to make me better.
For your Playboy photoshoot, you embodied both male and female high archetypes — the cheerleader, the jock. Was that your idea?
I wanted to do six characters. I’ve done a lot of work becoming other people through hair and makeup. I think that’s really fun. It’s kind of a weird acting exercise.
It seems over the last couple of years that the pop music landscape has become much more open and accepting of queer aesthetics and music. In some respects, it seems music is embracing gay culture much faster than other media like film and television. Why do you think that is?
Ideally, it’s not an aesthetic. It’s like, gay people exist. The world is playing catch-up to the obvious reality that gay people exist. I’m just really fucking tired of straight people dictating what gay music gets to be. Pop music has always been gay. It baffles me, honestly, that it’s becoming a genre now. How is a group of humans who exist in the world — how are they a genre of music you can put into a fucking playlist?
The minute you start categorizing something based on sexuality, you’re actually kind of saying that everyone in that group does the same shit. And we’re not. There are amazing gay artists, and there’s bullshit too, you know? We deserve to have amazing gay artists and terrible gay artists, and we deserve for those people not to have to be put in the same category because I don’t want to compete with other gay people. I want to compete with fucking straight people.
As someone who’s been so open and proud of your own genderqueerness, do you find it’s a challenge being an authentic representational figure for people in the queer community without it turning into a marketing hook or strategy?
The only strategy that I’ve seen is that my album came out in a year where we as a culture decided that all of a sudden, it’s important to be gay again.
For me, it’s like I’m riding the coattails of a movement that has always existed. Queer music being labeled and promoted as such is helpful. This big business machine we’re in, it’s sure to exploit us. So I’m here to exploit the system that puts forth art.
I don’t give a fuck, really, whether I’m gay or straight. It’s about good music. It’s about being really talented. In my mind, I justify using queerness as a marketing tool by saying that at the end of the day, it’s about being good. But if straight people are going to get excited about me being gay, I’m here for it.
King Princess is scheduled to perform on Wednesday, January 29, at The Van Buren. Tickets are $27.50 and available via Ticketweb.