Gorgeous creatures and John Wick enthusiasts, rejoice! Nostalghia, the duo of Ciscandra Nostalghia (who goes by her surname) and multi-instrumentalist Roy Gnan, will release a new album, Imago, on Dec. 7. The Los Angeles-based duo, who’ve been described as “post-apocalyptic gypsy punk,” with Nostalghia’s voice being compared to Kate Bush and PJ Harvey, have a fan base — whom they affectionately refer to as “creatures” — that includes Marilyn Manson, Skrillex, Evanescence’s Amy Lee and film composer Tyler Bates, who played a key role in Nostalghia writing songs for the John Wick movies. Nostalghia, who’s of Persian and Russian descent, also appears as herself during a concert scene in John Wick: Chapter 2.
Below, Billboard premieres the music video for “Kingdom of Disturb,” the first single off of the new album, and talks to Nostalghia about how her music figures into a much larger worldview built around the concept of metamorphosis that includes crystals, essential oils, a book and an audio lecture series among other facets.
You’re credited as the creative director of the music video for “Kingdom of Disturb.” Did the concept come from you?
The director of the video, Shaun Peterson, is without a doubt the best director I’ve ever worked with. One of the reasons for that is he really respected and honored my vision, and he was the one that insisted on giving me creative directing credit, which is the first time it’s ever happened. I mean I’ve always had a big hand in my music videos — I have a big hand in everything. I sit with the editor, and I’m very hands on because the visuals are so important to me. Everything is important to me. But he was the one that insisted on [the creative director credit] and that was so crazy for me to feel, wow, someone is honoring me in that way. But he is next level and I really felt like we did it together. It takes a certain amount of humbleness to create something that’s really pure and grandiose, and I think he has the perfect amount of confidence and humbleness.
Your last album was titled Chrysalis. The new one is called Imago. Both are terms that refer to metamorphosis — as in the development of a butterfly. Tell me about the concept behind the new album.
The chrysalis stage is an insular one. You’re essentially in a cocoon. And there was a restraint to Chrysalis, the album. There were some limitations, and if you watch the music video for “Cool for Chaos,” I’m quite literally in a box. Imago is a kind of blooming into being and blooming into womanhood. It’s a transformation — the moment when I get my full-fledged wings and am using wings as my weapon. The concept of metamorphosis is actually very, very important to me for more reasons than just simply music.
What are some of the other reasons?
Alongside being a singer and a musician and an artist I’ve actually begun to look at the concept of metamorphosis as a way of life — a way of becoming and transforming. I write posts on social media that touch on this, but a lot of people don’t know that I’m also a clairsentient [someone who has the ability to feel the physical and emotional states of others], a certified folk herbalist; a certified aromatherapist, medicine woman and a metamorphic guide, mentor and ritualist. I’m currently creating what I’m hoping will be an enchanting book for all of our creatures. I call our fans creatures; I also just finished creating an audio lecture series too that I coined Metamorphosis for the Blossoming Bohemian. It dives into stones and essential oils and herbs and ceremonies for what I call the heart portal. I’m very excited for that to come into being because getting in touch with nature and intuition and the natural rhythms of life has always been a passion of mine since I was little. I would quite literally speak with the trees and flowers. I have long conversations and relationships with them. They were my wise elders I’ve always wanted my music to stand for something bigger than music itself. I wanted it to create a place of solace for our sensitive creatures.
So your fans will be able to connect to Nostalghia through more than just music?
Roy Gnan, my bandmate, and I are launching a store that’s named after our fans and is about the whole conceptual nature of metamorphosis. It’s also named after a song from the new record called Gorgeous Creature. It’s going to bring all of the symbolism into reality with things like therapeutic oil blends, organic flower essences, handmade altar pieces and sacred stone jewelry.
So you’ll have a website where fans can purchase these things?
Definitely. We’re going to be launching Gorgeous Creature by the end of the year on our website Nostalghiamusic.com.
Have you ever read the book The Hidden Life of Trees? It sounds like you’d be a fan.
I love that book. It’s amazing.
Where does the music fall in this dynamic? Is it the priority?
It’s hard for me to choose one over the other, but the reality is I’m an artist through and through so music is the focal point and all of this other stuff provides our fans and the people that are drawn to it with an entire universe to dive into. It’s like a novel really.
Do these other elements play a role in your live shows?
Well, showmanship is shamanism essentially. You are guiding an audience on whatever journey it is that you’d like to take them on. So yes and no. I’m not going to come out on the stage with herbs, but who knows maybe I’ll burn some rosemary in the future. Clear the ghosts.
I can see a festival in your future that would incorporate these other elements.
Totally. That would be really cool.
These elements you’re talking about are very positive and healing, which I find interesting given that a lot of your music and the video for “Kingdom of Disturb” can be pretty dark. How do you reconcile these two opposing vibes?
People that need the most healing have a tendency to really understand the shadow aspects of life. And part of why I write the music I write is because it’s cathartic for me, and I have to walk in those trenches and get drenched in that darkness in order to resurrect. It’s a natural progression. Harnessing, honing and empowering darkness is also part of healing. I’m not just positive, and I’m certainly not happy go lucky. I embody all emotions and I honor them as parts of my being. I’m not afraid of the darkness and I’m not afraid of the light.
Does your understanding of the “shadow aspects of life,” as you put it, come from your experiences growing up?
I definitely had a difficult childhood with a lot of darkness. I was also a very sensitive child and a very intuitive child and empathic. I felt the world in a way that not everybody does and I was placed in situations where that sensitivity was really tested. And so it was very hard for me growing up. I was bullied severely and I had trouble at home. I was different and different is not always held up in society, so it was not easy.
Where did you grow up?
Moorpark — it’s in Southern California. It’s pretty small.
You’ve got a lot of interesting fans. Tyler Bates, who has worked with Nine Inch Nails and composed music for the John Wick movies, Deadpool 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy, Marilyn Manson. Did this happen through live performance?
Some of it was through live performance certainly. I’m not really sure. People just kind of found me along the way, whether it was that I was playing some shit hole dive bar or I was playing some big show, people just seem to find me, which was a gift from the universe I suppose.
You also appear in a concert sequence in the second John Wick film. Was that through Tyler?
Yes, he introduced me to Chad [Stahelski], the director and Chad became a fan of what I do, and he asked me to be a part of both of the films. I wrote songs for first and second films, and was in the second. They flew me out to Italy and I got to be myself. It doesn’t get much better than being in the ruins of Rome.
You talked about Imago conceptually. Musically, how does it compare to the last album?
It’s more cinematic I would say; a little more raw and more genuine.
Are you going to tour behind the album?
I hope so. You can contact Marc Geiger and William Morris and make sure he makes that happen.