UK garage, grime, funky and dubstep are terms that America may not be too familiar with. And, yes, though dubstep is the most recognizable of the aforementioned, could you name a " king" or "queen" of the genre? Probably not. But the Brits sure can. The national press has hailed young, raven-haired Katy B the queen of dubstep, pushing her to the top of a large genre that has yet to truly catch on in the U.S.
In fact, to compare her to those artists simply because she is a solo woman is to do her talent and her music a great disservice. Instead of following the marching orders of a behemoth record label, Katy B completed her album independently before she signed, and as a result, she's introducing us to something different.
“If someone got involved in my music, there's a lot of stuff to go back to and take a look at in U.K. music and the club culture... there's a lot of history, it's really interesting," she explains before her private performance at W Austin on Thursday night. "It doesn't matter what you know; you can enjoy the music, and you don't have to think ‘oh no,’ or get scared of the word dubstep or anything like that. But I think if you did get into [the genre], you would enjoy it and feel there's a whole other area to discover, and it would be exciting. I don’t think it would be like you couldn't understand it."
Her stage presence is very much the same—she sweetly asks the audience to let go and involve themselves with her as she bravely dances on stage alone, giving her best. At one point her MC, Tipper, lends Katy B a hand in her efforts and tells us: “When you hear the beat, we want you all to dance, all to smile, all to rave.”
There's a strong R&B edge to her music, which suits her serene, smooth voice and style of writing quite well. She references Jill Scott as a huge point of influence and inspiration. Katy B’s own voice is one that blends all of the different sounds on her album together with a cohesive thread—an amazing feat, and one that landed her her first record deal.
“That’s how i met my label, Rinse FM, a radio station in London,” she says. “They wanted to do an album of different DJs’ original material for the station, but they wanted someone to sing over the top of it to make the genres fit together, and that's when they asked me. It was a really cool project to get involved with and, at the time, it became like my own album.”
Of On a Mission (her proper solo album) she says, “I really just enjoyed making the album, the whole process and the people I worked with, like Geeneus. I think it felt more like a good experience that I was in, and I didn't have any massive expectations for it. All I knew was that I really liked it. I would have been content with a small fanbase.”
That fanbase is anything but small. Before Katy B had even released the full length record, her rabid fans in the underground club scene pushed her first, independently released single “Katy on a Mission” to 5 on the UK Singles Chart and number 1 on the UK Indie Chart.
As for her future plans stateside, she has a lot of European territory to conquer on tour first. Austin is her second stop of only two—the other having been New York Fashion Week. However, knowing how important the live music scene is to Austinites, Katy B decided it was imperative to bring her full five-piece band over from London for a fully developed show.
She hopes to play a smattering of club-like shows in the U.S. before next summer, when she’s guaranteed to play a series of festivals, which she looks forward to. “Festivals are cool because they produce the same kind of ethos or meaning as when you go out in a club,” she explains. “It’s that whole kind of escapism from normal life... People want to dance—and they’re up for it.”
The U.S. is lucky to meet Katy B, and here’s to hoping we creatures of habit can manage to loosen up and try something new, led by her soundtrack. As she says on stage before “Perfect Stranger,” "You know when you walk into a club and a DJ is playing a song and everyone's feeling the same emotion?" That’s all she’s asking us to try, really.