“Part of me is happy to hear that there’s not a lot of information about us. We’ve never wanted our personalities to be front and center,” says queer, doomy, experimental black metal duo Ragana. This is not such a surprising revelation, as the two – Maria and Nicole, who alternate on drums, guitar, and vocals – don’t even introduce themselves individually during our November phone chat. However, they’re far from inhospitable (or even particularly esoteric). “It’s easy to take for granted the opportunities to meet incredible and amazing people. This past 10-year journey has been my life in a really beautiful way,” they tell me.
Ragana came together in 2011 amidst Olympia’s DIY punk scene, and they currently split their time between Olympia and Oakland. Since 2012 the band has released three LPs and a number of EPs, including a 2018 split with Thou. The releases have all been either self-released or come courtesy of An Out Recordings. However, this October they announced their signing to The Flenser, who will release their upcoming album. Although this will be their first official release for the Jonathan Tuite-run San Francisco label, the company (literally and figuratively) isn’t new to the two: “We’ve been friends with Jonathan for a long time – 10 years – and kind of talked about putting something out back then, and we were looking for a new label.” They also tell me that the music that will be on the new album (which is yet to receive a release date) is something they’re incredibly proud of: “We are really excited about our next album. Everything is feeling a lot deeper. The metal sounds more full, darker…”
The themes of the duo’s work (and the reputation they’ve earned) are notably political, something which they tell me they don’t try to hide: “I think the messages are really straightforward.” And when I ask what kinds of things have been most inspiring them recently, they tell me that there’s a lot to choose from. But that, as depressing as that is, that’s what enables them to build their relationship with their listeners: “It’s easy to feel like we’re in an incredibly terrible moment in history, which we are. There’re people everywhere who are fighting against the way that society is organized to crush people, relating to things like reproductive rights, trans rights… So, it’s never been easier to connect with people.”
When I ask Maria and Nicole about some of highlights of Ragana’s career, they joyously tell me that one of the biggest ones actually came earlier this year: “The Microphones tour in February of this year! When we did that, we were like, ‘We’ve made it! That’s our heroes!’” The band are hoping to release their Flenser debut this summer, followed by a West Coast record release tour, but they do have a small handful of upcoming East Coast dates with Vile Creature kicking off next Thursday, January 5th, at our very own Kung Fu Necktie. And when asked what can be expected, they tell me that fans can definitely expect some unreleased music, in addition to the stuff they already know: “It’s just the two of us, not a lot of extra stuff. We’ll play a lot of new songs, but also some songs from our previous albums.”
*Get your tickets here.