Interview: Through The Shadow Of Death. King Woman On The New Album ‘Celestial Blues’

“I try to comfort people and provide that comfort I really didn’t have growing up. I do think about real things, but I want it to feel like a warm hug. Like someone is there for you.”

Feeling compelled to reshape the Biblical archetypes that once bound her, with the new King Woman album Celestial Blues, Kris Esfandiari has created a theatrical tale of rebellion, tragedy, and triumph, a metaphor for her own personal experiences over the years.

“Now I see the world through my own filter and own lens,” Esfandiari says. “It just comes so naturally, and I am so grateful that people do find some comfort in that and they can relate to it. When someone can see you, feel you, and relate to you, that’s feeling enough. That feeling when you listen to someone and it makes you feel validated, you feel like someone gets me, sees me, feels me. Because when we are growing up, plenty of our childhood wounds are not being seen, not being heard, not being validated. That’s a lot of the reason why fans get obsessive over certain artists. They feel validated by that person and it becomes an obsession. The world has been very crazy this past year and a half, so what do we do? We listen to music. I was at home making music to comfort myself, and staying away from the outside world for the past year and a half. There are people who have positively impacted me and given me comfort at times when I felt very lost and didn’t know if I could keep going. Music has saved me in so many ways— focusing on my creativity has given me a reason to live and a reason to stay alive. I always feel that I want to be here. I really need to stay busy, we need to assign meaning to this place to know why we are here. And for me, it’s music, for the most part. Music is reason enough for me.”

Kris Esfandiari founded King Woman in 2009 as a solo project which later gained the talents of guitarist Peter Arensdorf and drummer Joseph Raygoza. 

Now wiser, and holding less animosity than on King Woman’s previous releases (2014 EP Doubt and the 2017 debut full length Created in The Image of Suffering), the fantasy world that once plagued Esfandiari’s psyche is dancing in a new light on Celestial Blues

“I have been through a lot of different experiences in the past four years than when I first started writing,” Esfandiari says. “And I’ve also had to work through a lot of my, because a lot of the key themes of King Women are religion, spirituality, things I’ve had to work through, that have traumatized me, and I was very angry before, but now I find that things that used to really get underneath my skin just don’t bother me anymore. When you get older, you give less of a fuck, things that used to make you so angry just don’t even matter anymore. There were so many things that happened during those four years, I’m constantly evolving and shedding skin, and going through transformations, breakups, betrayals— there’s so much that has happened during their span of time. I can’t even remember what happened, but I definitely feel that I went through a lot. I was going through a really dark place but rose above to see what was really happening.”

During the writing process, Esfandiari went through the memories of her childhood. Kris was raised by her Charismatic Christian immigrant parents, who often held church at home, speaking in tongues and performing exorcisms. They preached about spiritual warfare, anticipations of heaven, and warnings of hell, which aided in the inspiration for Celestial Blues. 

“When I was little, I basically had a weird seizure, and basically flatlined,” Esfandiari says. “After that, I’ve just had this weird, I can’t really explain it, but growing up until I was eleven, I just felt death around me. I can’t really describe it, but I felt this thing attached to me. I had a few of these weird episodes, almost like blackout, seizure type episodes— the last one I had, I was really afraid of dying. And maybe I was internalizing that, but I woke up in the shower screaming, ‘I don’t want to die!’ bloody screams. I would have these weird episodes like that. And my mom would run in the shower with all her clothes on and pick me up in her arms. She was praying in tongues, speaking in another angelic type of language, praying for this death spirit away from me, casting away this death spirit. That’s the last time it happened to me, it stopped after that. It was really traumatic, and I just had to sit down to write about it. It turned into a poem which turned into the intro for the record.”

Esfandiari’s words evolved into a composition called Celestial Blues, which later became the title for King Woman’s long-awaited full length sophomore album.

“I had this title in my head forever, for years,” she says. “You can’t really rush those things— they have to come out when they want to, so I couldn’t really rush the process. But I definitely wanted to reclaim and reshape those things that once almost made me angry again. Because I was very angry in Doubt and Created in The Image of Suffering, and just working through a lot. With this, I was more interested in the character, because I wanted to tell more of their stories in a way, but also tie it in with my own personal experiences.”

“It used to be a really dark shadow,” Esfandiari continues. “But aspects of it can be comforting, if my mum wants to pray for me because I’m going through something, I let her. I don’t see it as something so threatening anymore, as I really processed my issues with it. You know, when you are a child, and you are so impressionable, and people can just project all sorts of ideas on you. It’s scary when people are just throwing ideas of the world on you constantly, and it can really fuck you up and affect you in negative ways, but when you are an adult, you can control that, and you can filter out what works for you and what doesn’t. But when you’re a child, you don’t have the capacity to really know what anything means. These things really stunted and terrified me in a lot of ways. I’ve had to work through them, but I can’t say I’m angry at the way my life was, because, in a way, I’m making music that has really impacted people because of those experiences. It worked out for the better.”

With King Woman, Esfandiari never ceases to transcend this life of afflictions, only to lead the listener to find some hope through her music, while she makes peace with her weighty past.  

“The world keeps spinning and this shit keeps happening, since the beginning,” she says. “There’s always chaos going on in this planet, so it makes sense to focus on me, look after the people around me and look after my inner conscience, that I need to contribute to make this world better. I try to listen to my own inner voice to help the people around me. One of my gifts on Planet Earth is music, and that’s how I give back to myself and the people around me. I feel a lot of the time being authentic and true to yourself— you end up helping a lot of people when you do what you are meant to be doing on this Earth.” 

King Woman

King Woman is the cover story of New Noise Magazine n. 58.

Listen to Celestial Blues below:

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