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Interview: Varna talk debut EP, "My Heart" music video, and living your dreams

Varna released a music video for single "My Heart," off of their debut EP, 'This Time, It's Personal,' on January 10, 2014.
Varna released a music video for single "My Heart," off of their debut EP, 'This Time, It's Personal,' on January 10, 2014.
press photo/ Big Picture Media

Female-fronted hard-rock band Varna has been making waves around the world with their mix of catchy hooks and heavy guitars. Their music has been playing on radio in both the U.S. and U.K. alongside major artists such as Linkin Park and Three Days Grace.

Varna, made up of vocalist Tiana Woods, guitarist Rossen Pinkas, and drummer Rob Shin, released their debut EP, ‘This Time, It’s Personal,’ in February 2013.The band released a video for the EP’s second single, “My Heart,” on January 10 through RevolverMag.com.

I had the opportunity to correspond via email with Varna to discuss the band’s origins, influences, ‘This Time, It’s Personal,’ the video for “My Heart,” bad jobs, and living your dreams.

I read that the band started when Rossen installed a fan in Tiana’s apartment. How did that lead to starting a band?

Tiana: I was sitting at my piano, playing and singing and Rossen was installing a fan in my apartment. He asked if I was in a band and I had said I was looking for one to join because my previous band just fell apart. He said he was looking for a singer and we started talking about music. We had the same vision for a band and the rest is history!

Rossen: The Devil had something to do with it. hahaha. Another thing that you maybe never heard is that a little before we first met, me and Tiana were at the same Flyleaf concert in LA, and she was there passing out flyers to look for musicians. A day before that show I played that same stage with my previous band, and that's how I heard about Flyleaf playing in LA. That Flyleaf show is where I got inspiration to write the music for "Running Away" (on our EP, 'This Time, It's Personal').

Why did you decide to change your band name from Living Eulogy to Varna?

Tiana: We had a lot of band member changes, bad demos, people couldn't remember or pronounce the name, we were being confused with a Death Metal Christian band. We realized we needed a new change after all that happened.

Rossen: I threw it out there a while back, but we weren't ready for a new name. The name change happened when we decided we want to make everything in this band professional. We had to grow musically and as a band until we could take that step. When it happened, VARNA just felt right.

How did you develop your sound? Who/what are some of your influences?

Tiana: We all have different influences individually, so when we came together it happened very organically. We never had a band we wanted to mold ourselves after. My influences are Mariah Carey and Silverchair.

Rossen: Every new song that we write is more mature and more intricate. I think when Tiana and I first met, we had that sound in our mind, but we weren't ready enough and it took us so long to find the right people to work with, before we could make our vision a reality.

My influences are Rise Against, Papa Roach, Slayer, The Offspring, etc…

Rob: I go over the basics every day for a couple hours to stay solid on grooving/fills on the drums. Afterwards the rest of it is just artistic preferences. My influences right now would be the drummers of: Jordan Mancino (AS I LAY DYING) and Ryan Parrish (DARKEST HOUR).

You released your debut EP in February. Could you tell me a little about the songs on it?

Tiana: I think ‘TTIP’ is a perfect example of who we are as a band. It has the darker song, the pop hit and the inspirational song. It shows what everyone is capable of in the band. It has something for everyone. I am so proud of it!

Rossen: Musically I think there is a little bit of everything in that EP. “Running Away” is the heavier yet "positive" lyrics wise, “Down” has a lot of changes, and is very melodic, and “My Heart” is the softest and most pop-y one which automatically made it a fan favorite.

How do these songs represent you as a band?

Tiana: We are just a band that sings about life and how we get through it.

Rossen: These songs were exactly what we wanted to sound like, when we recorded them. It was our triumph, after so many failed attempts with other band mates, producers, engineers, etc... Now that we have the set the groundwork, we are only going to get better from here.

Rob: I believe it represents our lives as individual members very well; meaning all three of us has either had a loss in family, abuse from before, or just simply feeling a cold sense of isolation and not wanting company period. We are not angry/sad people at all (NOT AT ALL), we just have THAT artistic style of preference; It's as if a painter just painted away no thoughts no visions on an empty canvas.

What is the songwriting process like for the band?

Tiana: We have multiple processes. Rossen and I match up what we have and get together, we jam at the studio, etc.

Rossen: I really like when we get together and three of us jam. I would come up with a riff or Tiana would come up with a melody, sometimes Rob hums a riff and we try to bring it to life. The best riffs come from the most random jam sessions.

Rob: The songwriting process is never done the same way twice!

You just released a video for the song “My Heart.” What was it like acting in the video?

Tiana: This is really funny; I used to be a child actress. Fact is I'm actually a really bad actor! I was laughing the whole time because I am aware of how horrible I am at it. Rossen and I were acting like it was MTV’s ‘Making of the Video'! We both loved that show. Rob is definitely the actor of the band!

Rob: Acting is one of my favorite side things to do; always wanting to get better on it. My dream would be to tour with VARNA, studio session drums for pop artists, and voice-over act on games/CGI movies.

Rossen: I was super excited; I always wanted to be a part of a video. I suck at acting and every time we had to "cut" because of me looking at the camera or laughing...

How did the concept for the video come about?

Tiana: I had a vision for the video right away and our director, Eric Mendoza, was amazing at bringing it to life. I wanted the video to be a metaphor for how people deal with their emotions when they are by themselves. I was going through such a hard time when I wrote “My Heart” that it needed to be addressed. It's also a metaphor for how we deal with our own emotions--by playing in VARNA. Eric did an amazing job for us!

I read that you took refuge from your “mundane day jobs” in the studio. What were the worst jobs you had before starting the band?

Tiana: Trying to sell newspaper ads when I was 17. I quit the first day.

Rossen: Mine was installing a fan in Tiana's apartment...HAHAHAHA!

Rob: Assistant Manager of Jamba Juice for min. wage!

I also read that your name symbolizes “the place and time where you get to live out your dreams.” Did you ever dream that your music would be played on the radio next to Linkin Park or that people would hear your music all over the world?

Rob: You dream and wish but it's nothing compared to when it actually happens on the spot and you hear it yourself. Scary but cool to be on the same station with talented minds and badasses!

Tiana: I know that you think about it happening, but you really don't actually think it's going to come true. We are so lucky to have people want to play our music especially since we have no management, no label and we do everything ourselves. It's really rare. We are nothing but excited. We are so thankful to anyone that takes notice of what we are doing!

Rossen: I have dreamed it before, but I still think we have long ways to go. We need to keep pushing our music to people's ears, and we want to have as many people listening to our songs and relating to the music. That's what it’s all about! The Fans!

‘This Time, It’s Personal’ is available now. Check out the video for “My Heart” on the band’s YouTube page. For more information about Varna, visit the band on their website, “like” them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter.