Following the adventures of Kristina Esfandiari of Whirr and Miserable—now donning her solo title, King Woman—we present an exclusive first listen to the black satin feathers of “Dove”, a fifteen-minute-plus ceremonial mass ritual that erases the gauges of time-keeping. In our discussion with Esfandiari that follows the premiere, she details the passion and thrills of her various outfits, and audio vehicles; in particular, her latest solo effort that takes on the sectors of sanctified, so-called saints.
As soon as “Dove” begins its downward descent, the fall from heaven is heard like a tape-recorded choir delivering a benediction for mass. The pipe organ undertones come through like bellowing growls, grumbled from the bowels of beasts and creatures of the unseen. Kristina appoints a soft-saw-swinging guitar chord pattern, anointed by her hushed, but engulfing, whisper. The harmonic signals of danger are sung, inviting a tone patterned after the foreboding air-raid siren spray. Though “Dove” challenges conventional beliefs about the soul, body, and being, it rises up in the catharsis of survival and soars through the pained nature of suffering. The song sulks through strings that bend with both a classical approach to composition and a modern narrative of expressing sadness through slow-sinking quicksand.
“Dove” is the A-side of a cassette single available June 17 from The Native Sound, b/w the Rema-Rema cover, “Fond Affections”.
In the following candid interview, Kristina describes the various inspirations, and underlying effects that have contributed to her latest solo recordings as King Woman.
What first prompted you to begin King Woman?
King Woman started as another project in 2009. I had to change the name due to some legal stuff. I started this project as a form of therapy for myself. I wanted to work through being raised in an oppressive, fucked up, religious environment. It's my way of telling the dark stories from what I saw as a child… dealing with the confusion of de-conversion from Christianity, working through spiritual abuse, and brainwash. It was very cult-like and traumatizing.
I know a lot of people out there can relate to this sort of thing. I want to facilitate a safe place for conversation about these things. A lot of people are angry at the idea of God, Christianity, religion, etc.. I want to spark a conversation after shows. The main focus is definitely spirituality, the supernatural, unanswered questions, sex, love, whatever else I want to sing about.
Is this like a reclaiming of the crown and throne?
Ha, no. Some people think it is a feminist statement but, nahhhh. The name just felt right to me. I wasn't trying to do some trendy shit. The music makes the name and not the other way around… so, fuck anyone who talks shit about the name. Also, though I love King Dude, the name was not inspired by him whatsoever. T.J. is the man though!
With “Dove”, how did you make this slow rising, slow burning beauty?
I wrote a lot of my songs in my head at work. Such an inconvenient time to write a song but inspiration is like the wind, you have to go with it when it comes. I would run into the bathroom at work and sing new songs into my phone.
I wasn't intending on releasing “Dove”. To me, it is so demented sounding and the lyrics are weird. For a month straight I kept waking up with the song in my head. I finally gave in after a month of the song repeating in my head, seemed like it was hounding me. I wasn't expecting to turn it into such a long song with strings, that was sort of inspired by Thom from Planning For Burial. Thom, Foie Gras and I were planning on doing a split (still are) and he said something about making a 10 minute song and that stuck with me. I just extended it and added strings.
Your cover of Rema Rema's “Fond Affections” is really cool, commanding and demanding the attention and ears of all. What was your approach to paying homage to this classic?
I was in the shower on mushrooms when I arranged and came up with the idea for covering Fond Affections. I don't know what else to say. Haha. It was strange, I heard it all in my head, almost audible. I love This Mortal Coil's version of the song and I love the album “It'll End In Tears”. I still want to cover their version of Big Star's “Kangaroo”.
Between King Woman and Miserable, how do they inform each other influence wise?
I'm not really sure how to answer this? I started Miserable so that I could use a deeper voice. I always felt like my voice didn't fit in anywhere. Like it wasn't “girly” enough. I think the projects fuse together though their masculine and feminine nature. King Woman is a lot more feminine than Miserable, for the most part.
King Woman is hugely influenced by: Black Sabbath, True Widow, and This Mortal Coil.
Miserable is influenced by some of the classics: Spiritualized, The Stone Roses, The Smiths, The Cure and my current favorite band, Glasvegas. You must see them live to understand how great they truly are.
How have the collective experiences from Whirr, and Miserable, to King Woman influenced your many-different approaches to audio artistry?
I learned a lot of what I know and was mainly inspired by Nick from Whirr. He rekindled my interest in writing and recording. He was always writing music. All of the fucking time. He was a good leader, always knew exactly what sound he wanted/was pretty stubborn about the sounds he wanted. I guess I learned not to compromise the sound I hear in my head just from observing Nick in the studio.
I recorded a Miserable Split with Grey Zine, with my close friends Evan Evans and William McHale. They are both members of Grey Zine. That was a lot of fun. We just drank beer and watched shitty YouTube videos. There were tons of people in the room watching me do the live take for one of the songs. I think we got it in one take. I was still developing the sound I wanted for Miserable at the time but I was really just fucking around with my friends and the recordings came out great. That recording session taught me not to take things so seriously.
Pat Hills recorded Halloween Dream and my two most recent King Woman releases. He is very laid back and easy to work with. Sometimes I hear parts for a song in my head and he helps me translate it onto the recording. Working with him has taught me to let people help you when you feel stuck.
I also recorded with Brad DerManouelian, who runs Sleep Genius. That was my first time recording professionally for King Woman. I was so nervous but we got through it. It was a great first experience for my solo stuff. I didn't know what the hell I was doing at the time. Those recording sessions taught me to have my shit together before going into the studio.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST
I just recorded four songs for something top secret. I recorded these songs with my friend Samuel Truitt. He has a studio in SF. We got the songs done very quickly. We are both very direct, honest, assertive. We both like to get shit done. He isn't a slacker, I really enjoyed working with him and we are going to work together again in the near future.
What are you looking forward to the most on your upcoming tour with Planning For Burial, Chasms, Mother Room and Foie Gras?
Freaking out on stage with my best friends, drinking heavily with everyone, traveling, meeting new people, listening to Drake in the van, bonding with my homies on tour. Everyone rolling with me on this tour is truly incredible.
King Woman’s Dove / Fond Affections cassingle will be available June 17 from The Native Sound.
Catch Kristina and company playing the following shows, featuring Planning For A Burial, Chasms, Mother Room and Foie Gras on select dates:
19 Santa Cruz – The Witch House
20 Oakland, – LCM
21 Sacramento – The Witch Room
22 Chico CHICO – TBA
23 San Francisco – Elbo Room with Chasms and Planning For A Burial
24 La Puente – Bridgetown DIY with Planning with Planning For Burial