The Ice Plant is Christiana Key’s favorite bar in St. Augustine. It reminds her of a place she frequented while she lived in New York City, with high ceilings and a modern atmosphere. She didn’t love New York, but it’s where she started her experimental magic-infused pop music project, Delphic Oracle.
“Ultimately I would like it to be called priestess pop,” she says.
She’s a one-woman band who plays everything through a loop pedal. Her medium is her electric violin, a keyboard synthesiser, a microphone and a four-channel interface mixer.
In the two years since she started the project, Key’s done an East Coast and West Coast tour, but has recently settled into St. Augustine, close to where she grew up, in Jacksonville. Most of her days are spent in a pirate souvenir and costume shop, a touristy place where she works and lives in a tiny room off to the side with only a curtain as her door. She works as a clerk in the shop, and sews some of the costumes sold there.
When I meet Key, she’s dressed in a black plunging-neckline dress, a color she feels most comfortable in. She’s 27, but looks younger on account of her edgy aesthetics and petite body.
We order drinks. The bar’s cocktail menu employs songs titles and pop culture references. She chooses the Mellow Gold, named after a Beck album: Old Forester bourbon, Liquor 43, ginger, lemon, orange, sugar and bitters. It’s a tall glass — and, she says, a big bang for your buck. It’ll get you drunk after just one. I press record on my iPhone, and for the rest of the night I’m engulfed in Key’s strange mind.
She starts by telling me about her music.
“I try to write songs that are really spiritually uplifting, and then I find myself going for a sexually tinged spiritual pursuit,” Key says.
A lot of the revelations she’s had in her life have been through sex and relationships, and she’s more than open to describing them in her lyrics, and in person. She tells me about her tattoos, all of which represent a part of her life, she says, and some that she wishes she’d forget, like the feather on her side that an ex-boyfriend drew.
“He was my soulmate. He’s the only person in the world that pisses me off to the point where I want to kill someone,” she says, smirking. “[But] he makes me feel very deeply.”
Her music has hints of this darker personality, with an Old World sound that ties in with the name of her band. “[Delphic Oracle is] this young, beautiful, red head priestess causing a scene in the Catholic church. I can get down with that,” she says.
In Greek mythology, Delphic Oracle is a priestess who was the highest authority both civilly and religiously in a male-dominated Greece society. She’s also a redhead, like Key.
Delphic Oracle is just one of many music projects Key’s taken on. Music has always played a large role in her life. At 5 years old, her mother bought a violin for her birthday, and she took lessons. At 7, she started to play the piano, and at 8 she participated in child operas. Fast-forward to her teenage years: At 16 she taught herself the drums, and started to write. She eventually found herself at UNF studying violin and opera.
“I could have gone to Juilliard, but then I thought, ‘I don’t want to teach violin for the rest of my life. What am I going to do, play in an orchestra? Play solos for old rich people?’” Key says.
She decided to travel and get life experience instead. At 18, she moved to London to keep her sister company at fashion school. She describes herself as being a “stupid punk” during that time. She made friends with bands like The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys, whom she met going out to shows.
Then she left London for New York, and ended up staying there throughout most of her 20s.
She became interested in magic while she was there when a friend gave her a book about it, and became obsessed with experimental music like Psychic TV, Coil and Current 93, known for using occultist imagery. She began playing violin with popular goth industrial artist Zola Jesus and post-folk band Cult Of Youth.
“I realized that music was already incredibly powerful, and it doesn’t have to be experimental stuff like Coil or Current 93 to change your reality, but you can actually make pop music based on magic stuff,” she says. “And so that’s what I’ve been doing with Delphic Oracle — experimenting with different tones and how they affect people.”
When she says she “does magic,” she means she does rituals, focusing her energy on the outcome she hopes for. “Envision it, and then do a ritual around it it. Put that intent out into the world, and then you just have to trust that it’s going to happen.”
Each ritual she does is different, and she says there are a lot of different ways you can do them.
“There’s black magic ones, where you can call up bad demons and ask them to do things for you, and then there are other ones where you can look inside of yourself and meditate for a while,” Key says.
There is a prayer that comes with it, a very focused intention, and then Key waits for it to come to her. It doesn’t always go as planned, though. She first got into it with a selfish attitude. “Money, sex, fun, ego things, you know? And then after getting those things so easily, you realize that it’s not what you need and that’s not really what you want anymore,” Key says.
She does magic every full and new moon, and then whenever anything big astrologically is happening, or if there’s an emergency.
“Magic isn’t just about getting things, it’s also about self-discovery, and realizing the world around you and what you can actually do to help other people.”
In her performances, she attempts to conjure an energy that will affect people on a subconscious level. She lights incense and clears the space, and in the middle does an actual ritual, in which the songs are based around.
Key admits that her act could come off as a gimmick, and that all her talk about magic might seem over the top. “But it’s more humanitarian gimmicky, you know? One of the things that I strive for with all of the Delphic Oracle shows is to make people realize that they’ve just had an experience together. That even if they didn’t take the same things away from it, they still experienced something together, and that opens up communication between people.”