The band Flames of Durga has had the ultimate desert music experience.
After moving from Los Angeles, the trio—identical twin sisters Béah and Cecilia Romero, and Nate Million—found a new home in the high desert. Songs like “White Owl” and “Shine” showcase a marriage of headbanging rock and two-part harmonies—and they recently recorded their debut self-titled album with local legend Dave Catching at the famous Rancho de la Luna studio, before having an album-release show at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.
“The desert has blessed us in a really beautiful way,” Béah said during a recent Zoom interview, as the bandmates and I discussed their move to the desert.
“We all bought a house together in 2018 in Yucca Valley, and that was the start of us falling in love with the desert, and the high desert especially,” Cecilia said.
Added Béah: “Our dad retired out here eight years ago, so the first time we came out to Joshua Tree was around that time, and my sister and I just loved it. Eventually, we got tired of living in L.A. We were so inspired every time we’d come out here, and we would just come up with all these new songs when we were out here. Our creativity was just thriving out here.”
The desert continues to serve as a muse for the band.
“(The desert has) always been really inspiring,” Cecilia said. “Whether we were living in the desert or visiting it, the energy in the high desert always inspired all of us creatively.”
Added Béah: “I think it’s actually expanded and enhanced the longer we’ve been out here. It’s been, like, 2 1/2 years that we’ve been full-time out here in the high desert, and it just gets better and better. There’s definitely a special vibe out here.”
Flames of Durga was excited to work with Catching on the band’s debut LP.
“Total dream come true, not just working with Dave Catching—because he’s been in so many awesome projects that we love, like Queens of the Stone Age, Earthlings?, Mojave Lords and Eagles of Death Metal—but also getting to record at Rancho de la Luna, because so many incredible albums have been made there,” Béah said. “We were just so honored to be able to get that opportunity—and I got to play whatever guitar I wanted. He’s got, like, hundreds and hundreds of vintage guitars everywhere, and all kinds of amps, and I messed around on his pedalboard a bunch. I feel like he was the first producer who truly understood our band and what we were going for. It was a fun collaboration.”
Added Cecilia: “It was like we were hanging out at a friend’s house. Rancho has that vibe, and that’s part of the magic of that place.”
The opportunity came about after the group signed a vinyl-record deal with Last Hurrah Records; that connection also helped them get the Sept. 16 show at Pappy and Harriet’s.
“Last Hurrah Records has worked with bands that have recorded at Rancho, so it was like a few of our different resources came together,” Béah said. “Nate had worked with Dave before, too, so it was cool how it just kind of lined up. Our intentions were really, really straightforward, and that was where we wanted to record our first album. I’m super-stoked that we were able to do that—and we’ve been wanting to play Pappy’s, so I’m super-stoked about that as well.”
That vinyl-record deal means exactly what you think: The album is currently only available on wax, with streaming coming next year.
“We’re really focused on the exclusive vinyl release before everyone’s able to listen to it digitally,” Béah said.
The band was slated to head to Europe not long after our interview.
“That was from an opportunity we got when we were live-streaming a rehearsal during one of the early quarantines,” Béah said. “This guy came across the livestream, and he really liked our music and was like, ‘Hey, I book bands out here in the U.K.,’ and he’s got a van, and he’s going to let us crash. It’s this regular thing he does, just because he loves music, and he loves to support smaller bands and get them out there. His name is Steve Iles; he works with IndigoBravo promotions, and he’s the reason we’re able to do this U.K. tour.”
Even though moving to the desert has provided a lot of opportunities for Flames of Durga, the members pride themselves on the ability to make things happen as a D.I.Y band.
“It’s been crazy planning it all ourselves, because you’ve really got to be strategic these days,” said Béah. “We all work together to manage the band right now, until we find someone worthy enough. It’s not easy, but we’re doing it.”
While the members of Flames of Durga love the desert, they said they still see themselves as part of the L.A. scene.
“There’s a special desert scene, and there’s a special L.A. scene, and we’re definitely part of both,” Béah said. “I feel a responsibility to play enough in each area—and we grew up in L.A., too, so it always feels like home, even though the desert is also our home.”
For more information, visit flamesofdurga.com.