There’s this sweet spot between the early to mid-20s where musicians (primarily pop and rock artists) appear to have more credibility than at any other age. When’s the last time you heard about a ‘next best thing’ artist or band whose members were in their 30s or older and who weren’t already a proven talent with a well-established career? The older a rock or pop artist is, the more likely they’re perceived as being past prime and their work marginalized as retro. The same applies to artists under 20, usually considered kids playing at a grown-up’s game. They’re kitsch and a gimmick; all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows, forgotten in a heartbeat.
Toronto quartet Kingdom of Birds challenge that paradigm. All of them are under 16 years old, one isn’t even 10 yet, but collectively, they exude wisdom and instincts beyond–but not far removed from–their years. In his excellent profile of the band, writer Josh O’Kane points out that Kingdom of Bird’s talent and drive isn’t just the product of happenstance, but it’s also not because of parental pressure. Ása Berezny, Brighid Fry, Zeul Mordasiewicz and Sam Heggum-Truscott aren’t trying to make it big; they’re trying to make it great, and fun. Their recently released self-titled EP is peppered with witty references to Broken Social Scene, knowing nods to 80s new wave minimalism and a post-punk spirit that would be captivating regardless of their age.
There is a fearless quality to Berezny’s first-person lyrics, and she delivers them with more honesty than performers twice her age. Her songwriting is detailed and nuanced, expertly executed by her bandmates. Mordasiewicz and Sam Heggum-Truscott’s rhythm section rumbles through “Rain Song” (co-written by Fry) while Berezny and Fry shower this showstopper with touching harmonies. “Ása Dreams of Broken Social Scene” may namecheck an obvious influence, but the song (and the EP as a whole) is instinctually Kingdom of Birds’ own.
Kingdom of Birds has marked out their own sweet spot, one where youth is not a liability nor a contrivance. “I’ve been working so hard,” go the lyrics to “Keep Trying”, and it shows throughout the EP. A few lines later Berezny sings of being patient and persevering, qualities that the members of Kingdom of Birds have in spades. You get the sense that regardless of how old the calendar says they are, as long as these four musicians are making music, they’ll be in their golden age.