King Princess Discusses Meme Culture, Producing & Working With Father John Misty on Her Debut Album


In the middle of her set on Thursday night (July 25), Mikaela Straus, better known as King Princess, made a specific request of her adoring audience. “So I need a new laptop,” she said, grinning from ear-to-ear. “Who’s the head of laptops here?” It may sound like an odd thing to ask during a concert, but it wasn’t — the star was in the middle of her performance at the Apple store in Williamsburg for Apple’s latest Up Next Live concert in Brooklyn.

Fans packed into the brick-laden store to watch Straus perform, as the surrounding walls were lined with accessories for the company’s latest gadgets. Performing fan-favorite songs like “1950” and “Upper West Side,” along with teasing new music from her upcoming debut album, the star commanded the stage throughout her entire six-song set.

Nearly three hours before taking the stage, Straus sat down for a chat with Billboard, eating “way too many Fruit Roll-Ups” and taking the occasional hit off of her vape pen. She remarks that while the space is definitely unconventional, she’s performed in much stranger settings. “I did play a rodeo, so that was pretty fucking weird,” she says, laughing.

Just a block away from where she grew up, Straus says that she’s honored to be included among artists like Bad Bunny and Khalid for Apple’s Up Next Live series. “Apple Music has been really passionate about me and my record, and I got the opportunity to show them the music,” she says. “I’m super blessed.”

The record she’s referring to is Cheap Queen, her debut album. During an post-show Q&A session with Apple Music’s Matt Wilkinson, the star revealed that the project would be officially released this October, stopping short of providing an official release date (“I just don’t know for sure!” she yelled at one point). 

In our interview, the star dropped a few other hints about her new album revealing that one of her project’s tracks is a duet with fellow singer-songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr., and that indie rock icon Father John Misty can be heard playing drums on one of her upcoming songs. “He came in and laid down some super psycho, amazing Beatles drums,” she says. “I was like, ‘Give me Ringo, honey!’”

When describing her forthcoming album, Straus says that she wanted each song to contribute to a larger narrative. “If you listen through, you're gonna get the story, and really enjoy it,” she says. “I want a fucking saga, honey! I want a five paragraph thesis, girl! I want content! Start to finish!”

But what Straus is most excited about is for her fans to finally receive recorded versions of the songs she’s been performing live over the past year. “There's a lot of big instrumental moments, and there's a lot of rock-out moments,” she says. “For me, that connects my live shows and my record. These kids have been listening to these songs live without a recorded version.”

The star’s fans are adamant in their devotion to her — even three hours before her show, fans were already lining up outside, anxiously awaiting their queen. Straus says that getting to see her fans live, not just on Twitter, helps her continue to relate with them. “I know what those fans look like,” she says. “It's a queer fan, it's somebody who maybe has, like me, felt desperate for representation, but also desperate for good music! Like, good fucking songs, instrumentals, some sort of sonic variant!”

That’s not to say she dislikes her Twitter stans — in fact, Straus implores that the meme culture her fans live in is one of the things that keeps her sane while prepping her new album. “The shit that they think of is so fucking funny,” she says. “Joke-writing in 2019 is done on the Internet by random people, and it's some of the best comedy writing that literally everyone laughs at.”

Meme culture permeates Straus’ Soundcloud side hustle: along with releasing her own original singles, the star began making and release short, meme-filled remixes of hilarious moments in pop culture history. For example, on “We Were All Rooting For You, Sis,” Straus took Tyra Banks’ iconic meltdown on America’s Next Top Model, added some hard beats and a melody, and transformed it into a deep house track. 

When speaking about her remix game, she practically has to bite her tongue to not reveal what her next remix will be. “I get a little more wild over there,” she says, giggling. “I don't mix anything, and they end abruptly after 30 seconds! It's literally me, stoned as balls, on my laptop, and I give it a cool 30 minutes each time. She doesn't need more or less!”

Soundcloud offers Straus a way to channel her humor while also practicing her first love: producing. “Production is my first instrument in a way, it's my gig,” she says. Speaking about the future, she says one of her main goals is to work as a producer on someone else’s music. "It's what I do, and I would really love to be in a space where I can detach from my own project and actually inspire someone's sound,” she says. “Honestly, I wanna make some hot drums. That's all I really want in my life.”