Shedding Old Skin: King Isis Talks Grunge, Shadow Work, and Breakthroughs on New EP ‘shed’

King Isis © Gianni Gallant
King Isis © Gianni Gallant
Oakland-based singer/songwriter King Isis speaks with Atwood Magazine about their latest EP, ‘shed’, the second (and grungier) chapter in their journey of self-discovery and acceptance.
by guest writer Emma Rayder
Stream: ‘shed’ – King Isis

Listening to King Isis’ latest EP, shed, is a 14 minute, 33 second journey through the artist’s psyche, traversing shadows and safe spaces alike through five formidable songs.

shed - King Isis
shed – King Isis

The Oakland, California native  – whose moniker pays tribute to their great-great-grandmother, Omega King, one of the first black opera singers in Chicago – introduces their latest EP as the second chapter to the story told by their debut work, scales. Grungier, darker, and more vulnerable than their first EP, shed is a nod to the many artists – Paramore, Panic! At The Disco, and Erykah Badu, to name a few – that helped King Isis make it through their formative years as a queer teen in a religious household. Born from a guitar and notebook in the artists’ bedroom, shed delivers angsty anthems with powerful vocals that are perfect for belting out in the car with friends or blasting while crying alone.

When I jump on the phone with King Isis the afternoon before shed is released, they are calm and confident – belying the blood, sweat, and tears poured into both their first and latest EPs. “Before I released scales, I knew I wanted these two to be of the same world, two chapters of the same story,” they tell Atwood Magazine.

“The EP is called shed because I wanted the titles to align, beyond both words being one syllable and beginning with the letter S. Shedding is a release, it’s literally shedding skin, uncovering yourself more, and saying goodbye to stuff that no longer serves you. Scales is the beginning, it’s what you do when you warm up on the guitar, it’s more of an introduction.”

King Isis © Gianni Gallant
King Isis © Gianni Gallant

Themes of chase, destruction, and escape are woven throughout the EP, starting with the first track, “POISON.” “Don’t breathe, don’t wait / I can’t escape / No sleep most days,” King Isis sings through a haze of fuzzy distortion, offering a glimpse into the well of despair from which the artist can’t seem to break free.

The EP’s second track, “MAKE IT UP,” begins with a more hopeful tone – “Will you kiss me if the world ends? / Be my best friend / Loved me in a past tense / Fill me again” – but any sense of cautious optimism falls off at the bridge. “Still see you in my rearview / No, I can’t keep running from / Release you, I still bleed you / Hold me like another crutch,” they sing through gritted teeth. Drawing inspiration for the EP from the idea of shadow work, King Isis channels their pain into a grunge-rock playground of their darkest thoughts.

For as long as King Isis can remember, they have been most comfortable in the presence of and while making music.

“For me, music has always been my safe space and where I feel most vulnerable and okay with exploring myself,” they say. With music being something that was encouraged in their childhood home, having access to creativity and a guitar allowed a young King Isis to explore alternative worlds and sounds.

On shed, they expanded beyond their typical creative process to experiment with music software such as Logic, drums, and bass, creating space for themself to push past self-doubt and towards self-discovery. Their songwriting process is equally avant-garde, following the path set forward by their melodies. “Words are some of my favorite things,” they share, “but I’m not super precious with my lyrics. I just kind of write and let things come out, and the meaning comes after.”

King Isis © Gianni Gallant
King Isis © Gianni Gallant

Meaning abounds on shed, but the EP’s final three tracks hold the most emotion for King Isis – and if writing is therapy for the Oakland-based artist, then “333” is their breakthrough session. “Some of my favorite words that I have ever written are in that song,” they explain. “It’s about the rediscovery of my relationship with spirituality, which I felt very distant from growing up and for a long time, with my family putting pressure on me because of what they believed in.”

Notably, from an instrumental standpoint, the song is much lighter than others on the EP, showcasing a form of radical self-acceptance – “Will you give me deliverance,” they sing over ethereal chords, “I will never match your footprints in the sand / I do the best I can.”

MONKI” was the hardest for King Isis to write and release, requiring the singer/songwriter to once again compartmentalize love for their family and the reality of their emotions tied to their queerness and identity. “Heard you’re still married to faith / Well did he save you today?” are among the song’s more powerful lyrics.

King Isis © Gianni Gallant
King Isis © Gianni Gallant

NVR RLLY” dives further into the emotions that King Isis does not let themself feel outside of songwriting. The song reads like a letter never sent to a particularly toxic ex, airing grievances (“You always hold me in the wrong ways / I never know the things you might say”) and questioning the truth (“I know you never really loved me”).

Shed is active self-discovery for King Isis, but it also touches on a collective sense of unease. Younger artists are increasingly turning to grunge and rock to emphasize the heaviness of their emotions, and people are listening (I just attended a packed Cherry Glazerr concert in Washington, D.C.). As King Isis has shown, using music to uncover darker corners of the mind can bring beautiful artifacts to light.

You can listen to King Isis’ second EP, shed, here.

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Emma Rayder is a New York City-based music journalist, writer, and communications professional. In her free time, she enjoys curating perfect playlists, discovering old songs that become new favorites, and seeing her favorite bands in cool places. Email her at and find her on Instagram at @emmarayder!

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:: stream/purchase shed here ::
:: connect with King Isis here ::

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shed - King Isis

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an EP by King Isis

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