By Christine Leonard
CALGARY – It has been almost a decade since vocalist Kristina Esfandiari founded the groundbreaking doom and drone crossover act King Woman. During that time, what began as a bold solo project has blossomed into an even grander quartet featuring guitarist Colin Gallagher, bassist Peter Arensdorf and drummer Joey Raygoza. Known for questioning convention and pushing their melancholic melodies into traditionally vascular heavy metal territory, King Woman has gained comparisons to SubRosa and Ides of Gemini while crafting a lush and evocative dark wave sound that is entirely their own.
King Woman’s debut EP, Doubt (2014), set off a volley of water-testing singles and EPs from the band and most recently a self-released cover of the Stone Roses track “I Wanna be Adored.” Unfortunately, Canadian fans were denied the opportunity adore King Woman when the group had to cancel their slot at Calgary’s 2017 installment of the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival due to a medical emergency.
“Our guitarist had cancer, so he had to go in for surgery and we had to cancel all our tour dates. It was very sudden. He’s still with the band and he’s fine now, but it was a very emotional time for us,” explains Esfandiari.
“It just brought us together. We’re really, really close and good at communicating as a band. And we were like, ‘His health is our priority right now and we’re not going to do anything to stress him out.’ Last year was a bit hard, but now things are great. I would just describe it as a sweet and sour low with lots of different highs and lows and uncertainties, but we’ve regrouped and we’re in a good place.”
Recovered and ready to move forward with their hypnotic storytelling, King Woman has continued to produce the dramatic and detailed numbers that have become their calling card.
King Woman’s brooding debut full-length Created in the Image of Suffering, recorded at Jack Shirley’s Atomic Garden, appeared in 2017 via Relapse Records and earned much critical acclaim. Still, Esfandiari, who has collaborated with shoegazers Whirr in addition to sustaining her own alter ego solo-project Miserable, felt that King Woman had yet to find the right management. Enter Sargent House (home to Russian Circles, Earth, Mutoid Man, Chelsea Wolfe, etc), who according to the vocalist “has been really amazing and kind of the perfect fit for us.”
As they embark on the next stage of their journey, Esfandiari credits her steady bandmates for allowing their art to evolve at a gradual pace. In her mind the most gratifying aspect of King Woman’s refusal to shy away from discussing difficult subjects, such as religious abuse and mental health, is how that honesty has proven to be a source of inner strength and inspiration for artist and audience alike.
“We’re currently working on new material and have already written about four songs for our new record,” she divulges.
“It’s still being formed and coming into view. There’s some really deeply personal stuff from my childhood that I’ve never talked about before that I’m incorporating into the songs. My favourite thing is being able to emote and connect with the audience. It’s just exciting to reveal the concepts behind new albums and expose a new part of myself.”
King Woman performs with Russian Circles on Wednesday, April 4 at Dickens [Calgary] and Thursday, April 5 at Starlite Room [Edmonton].Dickens, King Woman, Russian Circles, Starlite Room