Self-Love, Acceptance, & Kurt Cobain: Royal & The Serpent Dives into the Depths of ‘searching for nirvana’ EP

Royal & the Serpent © Conner Sorensen
Royal & the Serpent © Conner Sorensen
An incredibly emotional and stunningly dramatic musical journey through intimate personal depths, Royal & the Serpent’s ‘searching for nirvana’ EP is a magnificently expressive and evocative record of growth and self-discovery.
Stream: “girl” – Royal & The Serpent

An incredibly emotional and stunningly dramatic musical journey through intimate personal depths, Royal & the Serpent’s new EP is a magnificently expressive and evocative record of growth and self-discovery. Vulnerable and impassioned, searching for nirvana hits home with raw songs that tap an exposed, radiant core. It’s a thrilling soundtrack to one person’s comeuppance, and a record all can turn to in order to find their own inner strength, unapologetic sensibilities, and so much more.

searching for nirvana - Royal & The Serpent
searching for nirvana – Royal & The Serpent
Girls like me, kill boys like you
‘Cause girls like me like girls too
So I don’t really care if you’re into me
RIP to your self-esteem
Go six feet deep with your big pipe dreams
Honestly, all I need is
Girls just wanna have girls
Just wanna have somebody who sees me
Listens to my feelings
Never tries to leave me
These are just some reasons why
– “girls,” Royal & the Serpent

Released June 4, 2021 via Atlantic Records, searching for nirvana tracks a voyage from self-doubt and strife to love and self-acceptance. Arriving a year after Royal & the Serpent’s breakthrough single “Overwhelmed” took over summer 2020’s airwaves, it’s a special seven-part outpouring that finds Royal & the Serpent – the musical moniker for 27-year-old artist Ryan Santiago – diving deeper and flying higher than ever before.

Royal & the Serpent © Conner Sorensen
Royal & the Serpent © Conner Sorensen

“It’s a collection of songs I’ve written over the course of the last two years that pretty much tell the story of my life and circumstances: My heartbreak, frustration, depression, confusion, etc. One of my favorite parts about making it was getting to turn all of that hurt into art with the people I love most. Creation is so healing,” Santiago tells Atwood Magazine. “I’ve always really wanted to tell one continuous story in the form of a project – and have every song sort of flow into the next (hence all the intros/outros). Channel Orange was actually a huuuge inspiration in that regard. My brain works in a super visual way, so through the process I kept imagining every song as a little movie and it was really fun to put all the scenes together. All the soundbites and the interlude are like these cherished tangible aspects of the puzzle to me – like the yummy icing on a gluten free cake!”

The title searching for nirvana is a two-fold encapsulation: It’s the story of Royal & the Serpent’s journey to self love and acceptance – “that self acceptance was sought, first, through lust/love and material gain, only to find that true nirvana must come through self acceptance – hence, searching for nirvana.” It’s also a nod to ’90s grunge legends Nirvana, as many of the artist’s songs (and in truth, personality) are inspired by Kurt Cobain: “While writing the EP, I was constantly influenced by his personality and his sound, but also wanted to be careful not to try and be a copycat. Therefore, searching for the perfect balance of Nirvana and Royal.”

“There was a period of time when my manager and I had this joke about Nirvana (we wanted to really lean into their sonics and essence as inspiration), and for like two months every 10 minutes or so when we were together one of us would blurt out a loud “NIRVANA!!” and then the other would repeat it back and we’d just be standing there yelling it at each other from across the room ’til the next time someone brought it up!” she laughs. “Then one day I jokingly was like – what if that was the title?? eventually we played around with enough combos like “nirvana saved my life” and “nirvana is god” to finally land on “searching for nirvana” – I’ll never forget it; I had chills all over my whole body when i first saw it written out!”

Heavily inspired by hard rock, while still full of pop punk and pop energies, searching for nirvana defies genre while remaining catchy and easily accessible. “I think this project in particular has been the perfect stepping stone in the direction I’ve been heading with my music lately,” Santiago explains. “It really captures the same girl everyone got to get to know with ‘Overwhelmed,’ but it incorporates a lot more organic instrumentation and begins to dabble further into the alt rock world which I’ve been leaning pretty heavily into these days. I think it very nicely captures this part of my sonic evolution.”

Royal & the Serpent © Conner Sorensen
Royal & the Serpent © Conner Sorensen

Highlights abound on a record built off and inspired by passion: From the radiant opener “i can’t get high” and uncompromising “phuck u,” to the confessional “freak flag” and resolved “i am,” searching for nirvana unveils a vivid tapestry of emotions as the artist undergoes her own transformation. Santiago herself finds it hard to choose, “but I’ve always said that if I was purely a listener, ‘girls’ would definitely be the song I played the most.” Featuring phem, “girls” is a stunning embrace of sexuality and one’s own identity brimming with roaring overdriven guitars and pulsing, surging drums.

The artist also cites the lyrics of “freak flag” as some of her favorites: “Karma is a bad bitch, she takes all the sad kids, turns them into astronauts and Travis Scotts and classics.” It’s an unsuspecting anthem for underdogs everywhere, as well as a resounding reclamation.

Karma is a bad bitch, she takes all the sad kids
Turns ’em into astronauts and Travis Scotts and classics
Look who’s in the pro leagues, they’re still playing Madden
Yeah, the world is bigger than we ever could imagine
Blast some Good Charlotte, dance in my apartment
Even when it’s easy you know I’ma go my hardest
This world can be heartless but pettiness is garbage
Even where the sharks live you can be a starfish
I’ma let my freak flag fly
High up in the big blue sky
They say I’m a weirdo, no, no, no
I’m a superhero, woah, woah, woah
I’ma let my freak flag fly
High up in the big blue sky
They say I’m a weirdo, no, no, no
I’m a superhero, woah, woah, woah

Royal & the Serpent © Conner Sorensen
Royal & the Serpent © Conner Sorensen

searching for nirvana has a little something for everyone – whether you’re drawn to the feverish fires lit in “phuck u” and “fanny pack,” celebratory middle-finger-in-the-air anthems like “girls” and “i can’t get high,” or intimate reckonings like “gay interlude,” “freak flag,” and “i am.” It’s a cinematic record with a definitive beginning and clear end, and one that leaves it all out on the table. Royal & The Serpent surrenders herself in seven songs that find her confident, poised, exposed, and wrapped up in the throes of life.

“I hope people feel a little less alone in whatever they may be feeling,” Santiago says. “I just want people to feel related to, and like they can be themselves unapologetically. I think for me, I’ve had a lot of time to go inward and work on my self-worth and confidence in this process. I was so nervous to release it and really second guessing myself towards the end leading up to it coming out – but getting to finally share it with the world has been so immensely healing and I am forever grateful for every single person that is out there listening. Y’all are everything to me and my reason to keep going.”

Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Royal & The Serpent’s searching for nirvana EP with Atwood Magazine as Ryan Santiago goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her new release!

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:: stream/purchase searching for nirvana here ::
Stream: ‘searching for nirvana’ – Royal & The Serpent

:: Inside searching for nirvana ::

searching for nirvana - Royal & The Serpent

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i can’t get high

the EP starts with an aggressive, in your face and sonically lustful experience. No matter what Royal does, she can’t get high. Nothing can compare to the lust/love she feels of a new and toxic relationship. (with a male counterpart) However, she feels that she is constantly chasing the dragon of the high, and ultimately that High isn’t worth the crash. No matter what she does, she chases that high she can never fully experience.

phuck u

Now, after chasing that high in other forms (instead of love, she has turned to materialistic gain and success) she realizes even if she gets everything she wants on the outside, it will never fill that void left in her inner being. She can’t get high on love, so she turns to success and material gain, and achieves it, and is still left in the mirror hating herself saying FUCK YOU (to herself)

fanny pack

well, shit nothing works and maybe that because I don’t know who I am. And maybe I don’t know who I am because Im still just a kid trying to make my way in this confusing world. I don’t know shit, one day I woke up and I was 20 something. “We all fall down, life is a trip. When I get a grip is the minute I slip” The world can be a scary place for a full blown adult, and Royal is just trying to figure shit out as a kid. She just wants to feel something but its fucking hard when you’re so young and expectations on you are so high.

gay interlude

Shit maybe I’m gay? Is that what it is, is that why nothing is working because I’m bi/gay and I’ve been trying to fit into some societal norms that aren’t going to work for me?

Girls (feat. phem)

Oh shit, I am gay/bi. I like girls because they fucking rock and get me! Because I’m a woman, and being a woman is a dope thing to be.

freak flag

You know what, I’m different than the norm, and I’m proud of it. I’m proud to be different and I’m proud to be myself. This is who I am and this is who I am proud to be. Finally, Im going to let my Freak Flag Fly and start to accept and love myself for it, because I’m an awesome fucking weird woman! Actually, I’m a superhero just like the rest of us. We just have to accept ourselves and connect with the divine perfection in all of us.

i am

The title is simply the point of searching for nirvana. To come to the realization that I simply just Am. I’m sorry if I ever hurt you in the past, but I am simply in love with my divine purpose and I have so much love for everyone and everything in my life because it is all in divine order. This is who I Am.  I AM … I Am… I Am… on to the next chapter. “Am I growing up and just not getting older?” It is also a buddhist and spiritual teaching that everything simply just is, and we are all just being in the moment.

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:: stream/purchase searching for nirvana here ::

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searching for nirvana - Royal & The Serpent

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? © Conner Sorensen

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