Ciscandra Nostalghia never liked big, bustling cities. Even now, she is not one for clubbing or bar hopping, and hates ads so much when she moved to Los Angeles, driving down Sunset Boulevard and seeing the billboards would reduce her to tears. “They’re everywhere and I was just feeling so overwhelmed. Every time I left the house I want to just run back in…I’m very affected by my surroundings and I take everything in.”
This, along with the stress of leaving home for the first time, sent the singer of Nostalghia into seclusion. She shutdown, deciding to put herself into the most uncomfortable position imaginable in order to come out of the shell she had created around herself. And so the album Chrysalis was born.
Chrysalis is the band’s second body of work, and according to the singer, it is a much more mature, conceptual piece. It is based around the idea of being trapped. Trapped by your own emotions. Trapped in self-seclusion. Trapped in an unhealthy love of shutting other people out. The chrysalis, as the hardened shell of a moth is symbolic, Ciscandra says, for putting up walls, shutting yourself off, and “watching your inner child die before you.”
“You can hear the sound of a moth throughout the entire album,” she says, “at one point it comes out of my mouth and you can hear it at the end flying into the sky, it’s hard to say how you know it’s flying into the sky but you do.” The singer confesses to be quite excited by how conceptual it is and how the ideas and the songs all tie together.
Nostalghia started, like so many things these days do, from an ad on Craigslist. Ciscandra’s [pronounced Cassandra] ad was “cold and rude. It was what I was looking for in a band mate. No picture, no music, it just said kind of music I like to create.” She didn’t want someone “half-assed.” She wanted someone “fully passionate and fully ready to be all in.” Roy Gnan found her ad through Google. He responded, sending music he had been working on. She loved it and sent him some of her music, but refused meet up until they had worked on a song together online. “I wanted make sure it would work in someway. I didn’t want someone who was going to waste my time… then we met up and he was the nicest person I [have] ever met.”
If the singer were forced to give the music that has come out of their collaboration a classification, she would call it organic electronics. “It’s a blend of orchestral and organic… and also a very electronic sound.” Others though, call them post apocalyptic gypsy punk. A friend of the band coined the term a few years back, and since it was funny, the band decided to run with it. Though she doesn’t mind other people making up names for her style of music, Ciscandra is loath to label it for herself, feeling once defined, it will be limited. “I don’t know what the hell this is. I ask myself everyday ‘what is this?’ and because I ask myself everyday it’s a bit of a challenge …for me its not about being in a box it’s about pushing, pushing all the time.”
Indeed, it is hard to find a box to fit Nostalghia’s music into. A large part of this is due to the unique way Ciscandra sings. She attributes her vocal style to the different cultural backgrounds she grew up around, from her Persian-German mother’s family to her Jamaican stepfather. She points to hearing Farsi as she grew up as a big influence, calling it “one of the most beautiful languages. It sounds like a song when you’re speaking.” This multicultural upbringing is one of the reasons why she refuses to limit herself to one singing style. She has to allow her voice to ‘morph’, she says, because she has “so many people and so much energy living in my body…to say that I have to sing one certain way would be so injuring to me.” She ascribes this to having many generations of pain in her heritage.
Beyond her upbringing, Ciscandra feels more inspired by ideas like seclusion and Stockholm syndrome than other music. “I got introduced to music by other people. I don’t listen to a lot of music [because] I love it so much that I could just get lost in listening to it if I listen to it on my own.” She comes up with songs from images, words, and people watching. Sometimes, she says, “I will be in complete silence and something will come to me.”
Onstage, Ciscandra also pulls from her past, this time from her experience as a dancer. This is not to say she does choreographed dance moves. In fact, she stays vehemently away from anything so rigid. “I break some walls … on stage I’m anything but rigid. I free myself completely… half the time I’m on the ground… [on stage] I have no sense of self. That, to me is a dance but a dance of life.” This may cause her some bruises, but she does not seem to mind.
Beyond music and dance, Ciscandra also deals in visual mediums. When Nostalghia played smaller venues she would think up ways to decorate the stage. Now the band is moving up in the world and opening on larger stages for bigger bands, she cannot really do that anymore. However, that is not to say someday she will not incorporate set design back into her performances. For now though, she has dialed it down to just making her own clothes. “I always made own clothes. I can’t find anything I like, especially now. It seems so limited and I often don’t have patience for really digging in thrift stores.” To remedy this she works with Widow Clothing, designing clothes and having the company make them for her.
Speaking of opening for bigger bands, Nostalghia has just come back from touring with 30 Seconds To Mars and will be opening for bands like Green Day and HIM during the Soundwave Festival in Australia. Ciscandra confesses to being “much less nervous in big venues than in small ones … in small [places] you can see their faces and it’s much more nerve-wracking because their eyeballs are practically down your throat.” Despite this, audiences small and large have proven to be quite receptive to Nostalghia and their music. So it looks like more and more big audiences could be coming their way.
Nostalghia will be in touring in Australia from Feb. 22nd to March 3rd. Stateside, their new album Chrysalis will be released April 8th.
Watch Nostalghia’s official video Cool of Chaos below.