The King Stones return from Europe, played 200 shows
A combination of sultry female vocals with modern live loops, jazz- infused nylon-string guitars and other string arrangements makes the sound of The King Stones. With three musical members from Jamaica, Italy and Germany, the group has created a minimalist sound that merges elements of their different heritages. The group consists of Gabrielle Reno (singer and songwriter) from Jamaica, Samuele Vivian (guitar, vocals, loop station) from Italy, and Jansen Folkers (violin) from Germany.
Reno told The Sunday Gleaner that she met Vivian in Kingston's rush-hour traffic.
"I was stuck there, in my car singing, and Samuele was being stopped by the police," she said. According to Betty, Vivian ignored the police and approached her to tell her that he loved her voice and wanted to collaborate musically.
Soon after the fateful encounter, the pair started writing music and performing together, with Folkers providing consistent support. Initially, the group performed using their individual names. After touring together in Europe in November 2014, they decided to focus their energies on a singular musical journey, eventually referring to themselves as The King Stones.
The group returned to Europe the following year, where they have performed at over 200 shows across the continent. Recently, The King Stones toured Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Austria, Denmark, Slovenia, and Croatia.
"The main reason for spending so much time in Europe for the last two years was to be in a large area with many cities, where we could have a consistent amount of concerts," Vivian told The Sunday Gleaner.
"We really believe in live performance as a way to perfect our craft. We know it's not a very popular concept for some artistes nowadays, because of the technological advancements of recording techniques which allow musicians to fix almost anything in post-production," he said.
According to Vivian, the group's inspiration for perfecting performance comes from musicians from the past, such as The Beatles and Bob Marley, "who were performing and rehearsing on a daily basis", he said.
"My very first introduction to Jamaican culture happened when I was 12," Vivian told The Sunday Gleaner, after picking up the guitar two years prior. He said during that summer, he 'literally devoured' two albums. "One was an album by American band Nirvana and the other was Legend by Bob Marley," he said.
Vivian told The Sunday Gleaner that he got Legend by chance, after being attracted to the cover art while browsing in a record store.
"I bought it out of curiosity and I was completely blown away by that sound. I listened to that album at least 1,000 times. My musical journey took turns in different directions after that summer," he said, revealing an academic background in classical guitar and jazz guitar.
"Fast-forward 11 years and I recorded my first album with which I had a Caribbean tour," he said, which took him from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to the waters of the Caribbean, where he spent five years collaborating with Grammy-winning artistes like Buena Vista Social, Sean Paul, Antonio Sanchez, Shaggy, and the Marley brothers.
His trip to Jamaica was scheduled for a week, but after an invitation to lecture at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, he ended up spending six years.
"It gave me the opportunity to get to know Jamaican music and traditions a lot more in-depth, and to make this beautiful island my second home," he said.
The King Stones are currently recording their second EP in Jamaica, along with Folkers.
"We are excited to be growing as independent musicians without any help from labels. We are experimenting a lot for this new work. We don't want to spoil any surprise, but there is definitely a lot of artistes that we would love to collaborate," Reno told The Sunday Gleaner.
"Locally, Sly and Robbie, Chronixx, Raging Fyah, Skip Marley, The Jolly Boys, and internationally one day we would love to play with Tracy Chapman, Sade, Imany, Jamie XX, Kendrick Lamar and Lauryn Hill," she said.