You see her before you hear her. And you sense her before you see her. Soraya Sebghati, songwriter and lead vocalist for Night Talks, a Los Angeles alternative rock band, takes the stage long after sundown with the metallic burn of sequins and silent inner fire. Yeah, she’s sultry, smoldering, sylph-like, and sloe-eyed. But a “hot chick singer” she’s not.
Born in 1994, she cites her musical influences as Björk, Radiohead, Portishead and Fiona Apple, and, much earlier, David Bowie. To older ears, there is an ambience of Pink Floyd and the piercing, controlled concentration of a classic Grace Slick vocal, notably on the current cut in heavy turnover on KROQ, “Green” (about jealousy, not kale salad, btw). The single is available on iTunes, and streaming. The tune by Night Talks is also in the mix for voting on “KROQ Locals Only”; listeners can vote once a day.
The Night Talks players are Soraya Sebghati, vocals, Jacob Butler, guitar, Josh Arteaga, bass, and Cris Arteaga on drums. Sebghati, Butler and Cris Arteaga have worked together since they formed Blacktop Saints a few years back; Sebghati and Butler write the songs. Seghati has just graduated from Occidental College with a BA in English and Comparative Literary Studies.
She says: “Growing up as an Iranian woman in Los Angeles has been a really interesting, frustrating, and great experience. At first I wanted to distance myself from my own identity as an Iranian person because as a child I was so concerned with fitting in at a predominantly white private school.”
“I was made fun of for my eyebrows and the hair on my upper lip, for my funny name, and the way some of my relatives had accents. As I got older, I tried to hide from the sun because I didn’t want to look ‘too dark.’ These are a lot of the things I’ve come to appreciate about myself and my rich cultural history over the years. I’ve learned that these are beautiful traits that make me special and ones that don’t take away from my value as a person.”
“However, there were certain things that I noticed about a few Iranians that I still continue to distance myself from. As Middle Eastern people, we straddle a unique line of being both what is called ‘a model minority’ and a feared/supposedly violent one. We’re valued because a lot of us go on to be doctors or lawyers, but we’re also feared because of the recent spike in Islamophobia throughout the world. A lot of Iranians I’ve experienced try to combat Islamophobia by talking about how great Persian immigrants are, and how we’re the ‘most successful’ group of immigrants in this country, and how we’re ‘different from Arab people.’ I find a lot of that rhetoric to be unproductive and racist, and I really try to stay away from that kind of talk. As racial minorities, we should be doing what we can to help out other racial minorities, and instead of distancing ourselves from our fellow people of color we should embrace our belonging in that group.”
“Being both a woman and a musician is pretty difficult, as people are not really likely to take you seriously right off the bat. I’ve dealt with a lot of people thinking I’m the girlfriend of the band, or that I’m just ‘the girl’ in the band, and it’s often discouraging. However, I really love performing and playing music far too much for that to stop me. It’s just another hurdle I have to jump in order to attain my goals.”
She says although she loves the academic classroom environment, she has no plans to return to school for her Master’s anytime soon.
Really. Would you?
Night Talks is now on tour. Next gig: Friday, June 17, 2016, Resident, 428 S. Hewitt, Arts District, DTLA; Monday, June 20, Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd, Silver Lake; free show, Tuesday, June 21, The Hi Hat, 5043 York Blvd, Highland Park; Thursday, July 21, The Mint, Los Angeles.
PHOTO OF NIGHT TALKS BY JUSTIN HIGUCHI