Nostalghia Interview: Front woman and singer/songwriter of Nostalghia, shares all on her experience working on John Wick: Chapter Two.
Nostalghia is a name you may not be familiar with, but if you’ve seen either of the John Wick films you’ll know the voice. The music of Nostalghia appears on the soundtrack to both movies.
For John Wick they performed Who You Talkin’ to Man?, the song that takes place during Wick’s take-down of Alfie Allen‘s Iosef Tarasov. For the sequel, they provide two songs, Coronation and Plastic Heart, both of which were worked on with the film’s composer Tyler Bates. They also make a very memorable appearance during the portion of the film set in Rome.
We sat down to talk with the front woman and singer/songwriter to find out just what it’s like creating music for, and being part of, a John Wick film.
How did you get into music?
I was homeless and found solace in the oddest cramped campus piano room. I spent my nights there teaching myself to play piano and scribbling down poetical nonsensical things, and truly felling what it meant to be in a space of fear. The unknown has never really been easy for me, but it’s definitely been integral for my growth.
One night after hallucinating from hunger I found myself, I think it was around midnight, in one of those campus fountains that turn off in the evening, just to feel something. I started having these really strong visuals and instantly I heard a song, so I rushed back to the piano room and I wrote it.
I never stopped after that experience, and soon after, I met my main collaborator / musician, Roy Gnan. He’s a gem of a human, and wickedly talented. The live band is now made up of Roy Gnan, Jeff Sebens, Blake Estrada and myself. So I have all my boys and I wrangle them. They’re some of my greatest friends and they make the coals a little cooler. We’re very close friends and I think we were certainly meant to come together.
How would you describe your style of music?
Dark, alternative, pop with faithful touches of electronic and rock elements. It’s really an amalgamation of many things, but I know how much we love to categorise (chuckles) so I would say that’s my best guess.
You had a song on the first John Wick soundtrack, how did you get involved?
Chad Stahelski, the director, and Tyler Bates, asked if I wanted to take part. It came really natural to write for an action flick because my energetic field is pretty strong and I like a good release.
You worked with Tyler Bates on both [John Wick: Chapter 2] songs, what was that collaboration like?
Tyler and I had worked together on many tunes prior, so it was a no-brainer for us. In fact, two of the songs that were just released on You Tube, iTunes, Spotify and all that – God be You and Queen of My Sin, were worked on by both Tyler and Roy Gnan.
He really understands the emotional properties of darkness. He’s able to translate it beautifully into music without completely depleting you or serotonin. There’s still an ounce of hope which I personally feel is very important. So we’ve created some wonderfully heavy songs together and the collaborations have been a real experience.
Did you know in advance where the songs would feature, and did that affect how they were written?
I knew enough to know I didn’t know anything (laughs) at all. That’s the fun of it. I prefer being a vessel to being a robot. It turns out that the lyrics I ended up writing lend themselves accurately to the film. That’s always nice.
They work so well where they did end up though, and it’s impressive that you didn’t know exactly what was happening in the story…
I think I tend to channel music in general, art in general just kind of comes through me. It’s just picking up on wisdom outside of myself.
You also have an on-screen appearance, what was that experience like?
Well I’ve never been in a film so it was definitely new for me. But because I was Nostalghia as Nostalghia, essentially playing myself, it really didn’t require much work. I envisioned and designed my outfit and made that happen with the incredible Luca Mosca who’s also in the film.
I got on stage and I performed the songs. It was pretty simple really. The location in particular was exceptionally beautiful. I found myself wanting to wander and really taste the grounds. Rome has a certain magic to it that I couldn’t truly get acquainted with because I was exhausted and simultaneously shooting a music video with director Shaun Peterson.
Is it somewhere you’d like to go back too?
Yeah, maybe I would… it was a very long flight. If I was playing a show out there I would certainly go out there. I’m not much of a vacation type.
The songs really do pair with the visuals perfectly in the film…
Yeah it was a lot of fun. I loved that I didn’t have to become anything else but myself, and it just so happened to work with the film, which is perfect… when it all aligns like that.
Did you get to meet Mr Wick himself?
Keanu? Yeah I’ve met him a couple of times. He has a strong presence about him, but not without a bit of gentleness, which is probably why he’s so loved. I personally think he’s wonderful from what I can sense.
Is he as cool as he appears?
Yeah, I would certainly say so. I think he’s probably cooler.
Your performance in the film comes within a mob coronation, does that mean that within the world of John Wick that is Nostalghia is a part of the assassin shadow world?
(Laughs) Yeah certainly. I mean being in the film it kinda of shifts what you’re representing and what you’re symbolising in context of the script itself. I suppose what I meant by just being myself is that I didn’t have to be anything but the performer that I already am. So how I would naturally perform the songs was how I performed them onstage.
I’m usually typically in my own world. I didn’t even really notice (laughs) while we were shooting all the gun shooting that was happening to the right of my face (laughs). I had a friend there with me who was watching the shooting the entire time and he was like ‘do you realise that (laughs) John Wick supposedly comes up on stage and shoots to the side of your face and you just continue performing?!’ I said ‘no, I didn’t even realise that.’ (laughs).
So you didn’t know what was happening until you saw the film?
Yeah I had no clue. I mean I really require that I’m in my own world in order to perform my songs because I have to go into a different head and heart space in order to really lose myself to it. Otherwise I’m a pretty quiet person. So I’m just required to really loose myself in the performance of it all.
Will you come back to work on the music should John Wick Chapter 3 happen?
I would love to. I mean that’s ultimately up to Chad and the John Wick angels. They seem to like me, so possibly. I would love to. That would be amazing.
What’s next musically for you?
I am on the hunt right now for the right home for all the new music, but I’ve just released two new songs and a video that I collaborated on with the exceptional film director Shaun Peterson and DP Eric Zimmerman in honour of John Wick Chapter Two. You can search those on You Tube, Spotify, iTunes, or our Website: www.nostalghiamusic.com. God be You and Queen of my Sin.
Really my genuine intention is to put out powerfully honest music and work only with people I like. Honesty, I think might frighten some of those who have stayed safe, but to me fear is just as important as conceptual safety. I’ve really come to enjoy the way the truth repels those I’d rather not spend my time with, or share my art with anyway. The soulful ones end up staying. My music is for the soulful, the misfits and the ones willing to step into blackness with only one flickering candle. I suppose what’s next musically for me is everything, all the time (laughs), that’s ideal.
You can see Nostalghia perform their songs Coronation and Plastic Heart in John Wick: Chapter Two which is in cinemas across the US and UK now. If you like what you hear head over to the Nostalghia website for more music.