Flames of Durga is a California-based three-person Rock band who have increasingly found their wings while weathering a very troubled time in the world. Featuring sisters Béah and Cecilia Romero on guitars and vocals and Nate Million on drums, the band released the single “Remember the Now”, building on their previous EP, shortly before going into Rancho de la Luna to record the upcoming self-titled album with Dave Catching (Eagles of Death Metal, Mojave Lords). The first taste we’re receiving of that new album is the single and video “Darkest Hour”, and with it a sense of their live show, which very much drives their music at this time.
With “Darkest Hour”, the Romeros are also setting out some conceptual clues about what most interests them, owning their “scars” and encouraging others to do the same in order to bring growth out of difficult times. I spoke with Béah and Cecilia Romero about just how important that concept has been to them, their excellent Rock couture, and what it was like recording with Dave Catching in his Joshua Tree-based studio last summer.
HMS: It must be great to have this new single “Darkest Hour” out in the world after such a strange time and also since it has so much relevance.
Béah: It fills my heart.
Cecilia: We actually wrote “Darkest Hour” during quarantine so it’s great to have it out in the world now. It’s all about getting through the darkest time and coming out the other end of that stronger and more beautiful because of surviving that. It’s fitting, especially as musicians, after the whole 2020 experience.
Béah: It could be about anything you’re going through, though, whether it was quarantine itself, or a toxic relationship that you need to cut yourself away from, or just some internal struggle that’s the dark night of the soul. The important thing is that you’re resilient and that you get through it stronger, wiser, and more of a badass because of what you’ve endured.
HMS: Sometimes people may realize that they have become more badass through those experiences, but sometimes it’s other people pointing it out to them, too, noticing, saying, “Wow! You’re different now.” I feel like it does fit universally into emotional journeys.
Béah: That’s so true. It’s great to write about something that’s so human and ingrained.
Cecilia: We love writing about stuff that’s going to empower the listener through our music and songwriting, woman especially.
Béah: Helping empower people through our music is important, but we also want to shine a healing light and raise awareness. We are hippies at heart!
Cecilia: We love heavy music, but we are also all about peace and love, and good vibes. Music does so much for the soul, whether you’re playing music or listening to the music.
HMS: I think that’s been part of why people have immersed themselves in music for the past two years, as well as feeling a sense of connection with artists via social media or buying merch. Being able to hear from musicians has really helped fans.
Béah: We’re so lucky to have that sense of connection at our fingertips on social media. It’s a balance not to get too consumed, but it’s an amazing tool to reach out to people, especially after this deprivation of live shows since that’s usually such a cathartic experience. Going through that time without live music was harsh for everyone, musicians included.
HMS: It occurred to me that all people, but especially women, often feel like they shouldn’t talk about the fact that they are going through hard times. There’s pressure to present as if things are always going great. One thing this song does is give permission to talk about hard times in this different way.
Béah: Yes! That’s such a great point. That really resonates. Women especially, in our male-dominated society, have been suppressed for so long, and told to put a smile on. We’ve been told not to embrace our emotions whereas the truth is that when you feel those emotions, that’s what helps you process and to heal. It’s awesome to write a song about embracing it, and not being ashamed of having those feelings.
Cecilia: It takes strong women to empower other women to embrace their scars, and to celebrate them.
Béah: Me and Cecilia both feel that our scars ultimately make us who we are. Whether they are emotional scars or literal scars, they are significant and should be embraced. I think we should wear them proudly because they’ve made us stronger.
Cecilia: That’s right, sister!
HMS: I feel like there’s an important element of choice involved. Sometimes if you’re going through something that life throws at you, and you think it’s just suffering without any value, it’s very easy to feel like giving up. But if you choose to say, “I’m applying this meaning here”, that’s more of a transformative thing, I think. We might as well embrace that earlier on.
Cecilia: Absolutely. You could easily be saying, “Why the fuck is this happening to me?” But ultimately, anything you go through is going to make you stronger, and create the person you are.
Béah: It’s also interesting to talk about this in the context of men, too, though we were speaking about women. Men are told, “Boys don’t cry.” A lot of the time, their pain comes out in aggression or passive aggressiveness rather than feeling something in their heart and allowing it to happen. Ultimately, that’s where the healing can come from. It’s important not to be afraid of those feelings, regardless of gender.
Cecilia: Also, as a musician, I’m so grateful to have this outlet to heal myself, too. It’s always so cathartic, whether we’re rehearsing as a band or working on a song. “Darkest Hour” is about that, but no matter what song we’re working on, that outlet is very healing.
Béah: I think it’s also a beautiful thing when you can turn pain into strength and channel that into your work, whether it’s music like we do, or visual art, or writing, or dance. Whatever your passion may be, that pain can be inspiring and fuel that fire of creative expression. Pain is inevitable in life, it’s going to happen. You can’t run away from it, so you might as well make some beautiful things because of it.
HMS: Have you gotten a chance to play this song live yet?
Cecilia: I remember we played it once last year, shortly after we finished it, and then a couple more times.
Béah: We haven’t played it live since the release and video release, so that makes it that much more exciting now that it’s out there.
Cecilia: Even though it’s a heavy rocker, it’s also a sing-along, too. That’s a fun little aspect. I can’t wait to hear people singing, “I’m the flower that blooms in the dark.”
HMS: The video feels like it has some retro elements to it, or maybe some film traditions, even though it’s not a story video. The costume changes may be part of that.
Béah: We worked with our friend Joe Rubenstein, who’s a super-talented photographer and videographer, and shot it in his studio in LA. He had all this awesome gear and cool lighting and we had a very similar creative vision when we bounced ideas off each other. The vibe of the video has a film, grainy quality to it, which we loved.
The different outfits are interesting since when Cecilia and I were in our white slip dresses, it was almost more like going on a journey within, a dream-like thing, or an introspective state. The outfit change where I’m wearing the big fur collar is more like, “I have gone through this, and here I am! Take it or leave it! I’m stronger because of it!” Then, for the live shots, we really wanted that for this video.
Cecilia: We had fun rocking these awesome jumpsuits that a designer made for us. Her Instagram is @shophexed, but Hexed is the name of her clothing line. We’re obsessed with badass Rock ‘n Roll attire. Béah was wearing a snakeskin jumpsuit and I was wearing the zebra print. We also love wearing Rock ‘n Roll fashion when we perform that makes us feel empowered as performers. We’re eventually going to be making our own stage outfits. We have made some before, but I can’t wait to design some more epic pieces for stagewear and videos.
Béah: Also, Nate, our drummer, is in the video, and there are some cool facial shots of him screaming.
HMS: Oh yes, he has some great chains on.
Béah: He brought this chain to the shoot, and it was a really cool look. We also had a vintage fur jacket that he was able to fit into, so he just rocked that with the chain. [Laughs] I’m obsessed with that look. We basically did all the styling and it was a lot of fun. Some of it was more about finding the magical moments as we were shooting it.
Cecilia: I know for “Darkest Hour”, Joe really wanted to incorporate natural elements, too, so there are moments in the video where I’ve got these vines around my arms. That was a hats off to the “blooms in the dark” metaphor.
HMS: A previous single that you put out “Remember the Now” also has really cool thoughts and ideas associated with it. I feel like with both these songs there’s a specific idea that you want to convey.
Cecilia: We love singing about deeper stuff. “Remember the Now” is another empowering song. We both do vocals on the songs, and on some songs, I’ll be more like the lead, and on certain songs, Béah will be more the lead. On “Remember the Now”, I did more of the lead, and on “Darkest Hour”, Béah was more the lead. Usually it’s a pretty natural choice, though there are also songs where we are both there harmonizing.
Béah: I love that song, too. Fuck the 9 to 5! Remember the moment!
HMS: There’s your inner hippie coming out too. For the album coming up, was that the first time you worked with Dave Catching?
Cecilia: It was! The whole recording experience was so great at Rancho De La Luna in Joshua Tree. It was a full month.
Béah: We had ten days to record and mix and album, which is a little crazy, but we spread it out. We’d do a few days here, then we’d take a short, two-day break, then get back into it. Dave is such a sweetheart and so talented. At Rancho De La Luna, there were so many cool amps and guitars. It was a playground for us. It was a guitar-player’s playground! Dave was so cool letting us try things out. Once we had scratch tracks down, he’d suggest guitars for different parts. We worked so well together because I feel like he really understands our sound. It was super-cool to see so eye-to-eye.
HMS: I know it’s a huge deal to find a Producer who really gets your sound as well as a location with a good vibe.
Béah: It’s been a huge journey for us, another part of the journey for this album. It did not come easy for us. But ending up with Dave on this album makes us super-excited to release it.
Cecilia: He’s such a humble and kind soul. Rancho De La Luna is a magical little recording studio which he’s been running since the early 90s.
Béah: It’s a little house full of magical energy, full of paintings and fun, weird desert shit. There’s a lot of personality to that place. It was interesting timing because we booked it for July, and Flames of Durga brought the heat!
Cecilia: In the actual room where we tracked the music live, as a trio, we got the drums and bass down pretty quick, but we were definitely dripping with sweat.
Béah: It was the best recording process I’ve ever had. We were all so ready to record this music. The heat was a small price to pay for getting to record there.
HMS: What were your thoughts about the sound direction that you wanted for this upcoming album?
Béah: Because our live show is a huge part of our sound and vibe, trying to capture more of the magic of the live show was definitely in the forefront of my mind. Before these recordings, that had definitely been a really hard thing to do. I feel like we did a lot of that recording with Dave. He caught on really fast to what we wanted to do, fucking loud Rock ‘n Roll!
Cecilia: John Russo was also there for a lot of the mixing process, and it was great seeing the songs come alive on the recordings.
Béah: John is a wizard behind the mixing board, and so fast! We had never fully had a recording that captured our live show, and we definitely did on this album.
Cecilia: We’ve also grown a lot through recording this album. We recorded “Remember the Now” just before going to Rancho and we learned a lot through recording these ten songs in this way.