A multi-faceted singer and musician known for performing with seemingly half the Twin Cities music scene — from Dessa and the New Standards to his own bands Nooky Jones and Black Market Brass — Cameron Kinghorn somehow felt like was he in a creative rut in 2019.
And then came the rut that every musician in the world fell into in 2020.
"In hindsight, Joe really came to me at the perfect moment," Kinghorn said, explaining how he and Joe Christensen, guitarist for the Twin Cities instrumental R&B band PHO, launched a cosmic new electro-groove band called King Pari.
Sounding like an unlikely blend of Tame Impala's psychedelic breeziness, Unknown Mortal Orchestra's experimental stoner funk and a little of the classic 1980s Minneapolis Sound, King Pari became Kinghorn's main vehicle during COVID lockdown and was the driving force behind him moving to Los Angeles last November.
He and Christensen return to Minnesota to play 7th St. Entry on Thursday to celebrate the release of their first King Pari EP, "Mary."
The record has already generated some viral traction and NPR-brand radio play for the hooky and hazy single "Sunshine." They also just dropped a fantastically odd "visual EP" to accompany the music, featuring animation by Wisconsin's Jake Huffcutt.
Talking with us via Zoom from the apartment they share in L.A.'s Highland Park neighborhood, the two millennial-aged musicians said they were able to complete the seven tracks on "Mary" through the dark months of quarantine thanks to the lo-fi recording techniques King Pari was based on.
It not only kept them busy, but also sane.
"Making music at home had already felt freeing in a way, [and] very satisfying creatively, and that just became more and more true," said Christensen, who uses the pseudonym DJ Stepmom here.
The King Pari moniker (pronounced "pair-ee") is based on "Kinghorn" and Christensen's middle name "Paris," though "we also liked how it sounded like some old Jamaican dub artist," Christensen said.
The guitarist had begun experimenting with vintage tape and drum machines and guitar loops around 2019, and on a whim he shared some recordings with Kinghorn.
"It felt exactly like the kind of music I'd been wanting to make," Kinghorn recalled. "It was during a period I was starting to feel creatively stuck and having a bit of a reckoning with everything I was doing — a little bit of an identity crisis, I guess.
"It was huge for me. I was in a place, a moment, where I felt like I needed something that was only based on making decisions that I like, and this was it. Nothing else matters more than the two of us liking it."
Starting with "Sunshine" — the first song they completed together — the singer began experimenting with effects pedals to alter his vocals and match the loopy grooves Christensen had laid down. At the same time, he "had a lot I was dealing with personally."
"People hear 'Sunshine' and think it's light and happy, but it's actually all about depression," Kinghorn said.
While some of the EP's tracks sound like straight-ahead romantic groovers — including the sexy, yacht-rocky "Understanding" — several are deceptively upbeat, such as the falsetto-fueled highlight "Ya'llright?" and the emotional EP closer "Wouldn't It Be Nice?" (no relation to the Beach Boys classic).
Said Kinghorn, "A handful of the songs are all about dealing with mental-health struggles — things many of us dealt with [during quarantine], but I was already in a place where I was feeling stuck."
Just as Kinghorn quickly latched onto Christensen's grooves, the guitarist identified with the singer's words. And they both shared an affinity for what Christensen described as "making it all sound as weird and crazy as we want it to be."
"That's sort of what home recording is all about," he said. "Even in PHO, we were fairly experimental, but there's still always that wall when you're working in the studio with others. It never sounds as out-there as you'd like it to sound."
Between King Pari's rise and the duo's relocation to California, their other groups have been put on the back burner. Kinghorn's Afrobeat-driven horn band Black Market Brass is still recording regularly, though, with a 7-inch single coming soon. He also sang with Dessa this past week and plans to perform with his Twin Cities brethren when possible.
Given the pandemic, the Minnesota musicians haven't had much of a chance to integrate themselves into the L.A. scene yet, but they intend to soon.
"We're making friends and connections," Kinghorn said. "It feels like this was the right move."
He maybe should have said "moves" (plural), counting the change-up reflected in King Pari itself.
When: 8:30 p.m. Thu.
Where: 7th St. Entry, 701 1st Av. N., Mpls.
Tickets: $15, axs.com.