Artists of Color: Spring Silver Is A Princexx
Spring Silver is the baby of 25-year-old non-binary musician K Nkanza from Silver Spring, Maryland. Their music is as lively as it is focused. With their latest album, I Could Get Used to This, they bring a sound that’s much bigger than the DMV. To understand what I’m talking about, I recommend you listen to “Little Prince,” “Fetch,” and “Set up a Camera.”
I was fortunate enough to speak with K over the phone to get more insight into their work.
Check out the interview below:
First off, how are you? How was your day?
K Nkanza: I’m doing okay. Uh, I had a reasonable day. I’ve just been working on an animation and stuff like that, so that’s pretty fun.
Oh cool. What do you do for a living? Is that the animation stuff?
No. Right now, I’m a music teacher, and I also work at an ice cream place.
That’s actually the perfect combination.
Yeah, ideally. I’ve been doing these summer music camps, so I haven’t been to the ice cream place in quite a while. So, I’ve checked in to see if I’m still in the system. We’ll see. (Laughs)
Well, I’m hoping for you. So, you teach music, but you also do the ice cream thing on the side. How do you, if at all, fit your own music into the musical lesson? Do you ever catch yourself showing the students Spring Silver stuff?
Um, pretty rarely. There was this one kid I showed the “Little Prince” riff to before the song came out, and he was super excited. He’d be like, “How’s the song coming along?” (Laughs) Yeah, so now I think he’s a fan of that track, so that’s cool.
Perfect. And speaking of “Little Prince,” you open up the album with that track. In your words, what makes a prince spoiled and little? Would you consider yourself one?
What’s a good term for non-binary royalty? Is there one? Probably not, right?
You could make it up.
Princexx. Like princess, but with the x at the end. Two x’s. (Laughs)
Awesome, alright. I’ll write that down.
I’ll take princess, though. Either way. Um, the song itself is supposed to be kind of ironic. I’m not actually accusing anyone of being spoiled or anything. I just think that affluent suburbia—and not affluent suburbia—in America is very strange. And the people I’ve known who live in big mansions and stuff, it’s like, “How could you be mad? You have everything.” And then you look at what they have, and it’s like a weird mausoleum house that’s poorly decorated, and you’re like, “Oh. That doesn’t sound great. That doesn’t sound enviable.”
Yeah. I get you. So, I discovered your music about a month or two ago. And really, your entire discography is impressive enough for me to think this isn’t your first go. This isn’t the first time you decided to play music. How long have you been playing music in general, and how long have you been making records? Are you the producer?
Yeah, I’m the producer. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 11 or 12. I’m 25 now. Before that, I was playing violin. I started violin when I was 4. So like, music, more or less, has been my life since before I can remember. Like my earliest memories are musical memories, oftentimes. I started making electronic music and writing rock songs when I was like a teenager, maybe 11 or 12. Around then. Yeah, for the longest time, especially when it came to recording music, like when you’re making electronic music, the production is all on the computer for the most part. At least it was for me, anyway. But when you’re writing songs, and you wanna record them, I was really nervous that they just wouldn’t sound good enough. I was very self-conscious about that early on. So, the more I did self-recordings, the more I was really adamant that it should sound as good as possible. Like, I’ve listened to some lo-fi stuff, but the type of music I wanted to make was never lo-fi. I don’t wanna make lo-fi, even if it’s DIY. I just don’t want to.
Lo-fi by default.
Yeah, I don’t want it to be accidentally or purposefully lo-fi. So, the first kinda serious music project I had from high school to college was Aerial View. That was me and some friends. We would go to the studio for the most part, but as time went on, I would do more and more home-recorded stuff and combine it with studio stuff. That workflow eventually led to the Spring Silver workflow, where it’s kinda me doing a lot of home recordings and then doing some of the final recordings and the drum recordings with my friend Ananth. And then we end up mixing it together at his home studio.
Alright. How exactly does that work? I know you’re a multi-instrumentalist; what instrument do you write your songs on? How do you choose your backing band when you play live? I saw you got Alex of XK Scenario for the Fort Reno show. That’s pretty sick. He’s a great guitarist.
Yeah, it is sick. (Laughs) For the songwriting process, I mostly start on guitar. I’ll write, arrange, and record stuff oftentimes in Logic, the DAW. So, I build up the songs in there, and I’ll maybe hit up different people for different parts. For the most part, I do almost all of the guitars, bass, and lead vocals. For this last album, I had a bunch of friends do backing vocals, and a lotta drums were my friends too. I play drums on a few songs, but a lotta the drums were various folks I know. For the live show, it’s just like whichever musician I know is a great musician and is interested in playing, really.
Right. That makes sense.
Yeah, it’s just whoever I know that might like Spring Silver and is just interested in playing. For a good while now, it’s been my friend Jian, Reid, and Alex on their respective instruments. It’s a very fun group; it’s been really neat. I also play drums in Reid’s project. When you’re in the scene, you just end up playing instruments in people’s live bands. That’s oftentimes how it is.
I can understand that. So, I hear several influences in your music. I’m just gonna name some that first came to mind, so excuse me if I get it wrong, but I hear Silversun Pickups and At the Drive-In. What’s the one unlikely genre or artist that you draw inspiration from?
Well, I really like both those bands, so that’s flattering. I guess maybe the unlikely genre is maybe classical music or just orchestral music. I really like romantic and modernist composers. I really like Debussy, Ravel, and then like Stravinsky. I like those guys a lot. Yeah, basically a lotta orchestral music from 1890 to 1920.
That’s very specific.
(Laughs) Yeah, it is. Probably cause that’s the stuff that I grew up listening to. My parents would put that era of music on. I guess it’s also spanning multiple shifts in the ideology that’s behind classical or orchestral music. I think what my music has in common with it is that it’s very emotive and very colorful. Like it’s just based entirely around just kind of like painting as vivid as an emotional picture as you can, you know?
Ok, that makes sense. So, since the pandemic was announced in 2020, you’ve released several singles and a full album. What was that writing process like, and how does it compare to your earlier writing process before the pandemic?
It’s actually kinda similar because, for the first album, I was also recording everything at my parent’s house essentially. So, in that way, it was kinda a similar thing where I didn’t have to go to a studio or anything like that. So, from a practical standpoint, it was kinda similar. From an emotional standpoint, there was all this stuff that influences you. Just the way the pandemic does where you’re like, “Wtf is going on? I feel very strange about this.” (Laughs)
Gotcha. You’ve been very busy this summer, from what I can tell. You played a lot of shows. When’s your next show? If that’s not scheduled, what’s in store for Spring Silver?
On October 2, we’re opening up for Kyle Marx at the Pie Shop, which is pretty sick. And in November, we’re going on tour with Bartees Strange in the east coast, which is gonna be super fun.
Oh, that’s awesome. Congrats!
Ok, I saved my stupidest question for last. Who came up with Spring Silver? Like, was that a dare or was that just you?
(Laughs) No, that was me. I had a long list of names and was like, “Oh, if I switch it around, it’s nice.” And if you’re not from Silver Spring, it’s just a nice-sounding name. It’s kind of an evocative name, and it’s also kind of silly. It’s a little wink for people who are from the DMV area.
I think it’s perfect. I saw it, and to this day, I still think it’s a typo. And I think that’s perfect enough. What else do you have to say to your fans?
I hope you enjoy the music video and see y’all soon.
Spring Silver’s sophomore album, I Could Get Used to This, is available everywhere. You can watch the music video for “Little Prince” here.
Be sure to check them out on tour this fall with DMV native Bartees Strange. Tickets are on sale now!