Day in and day out, bands from all around are striving for the music industry to take notice of them. Not every day does a band come along that has the professionalism and determination like no other. Female fronted hard rock/pop group, VARNA is that band.
Formed in Los Angeles in early 2010 as Living Eulogy, band members consist of Tiana Woods (vocals), Rossen Pinkas (guitar) and Rob Shin (drums). With a variety of influences from Mariah Carey to Slayer, they came together after Rossen (an electrician by day) met Tiana while installing a fan in her apartment. Rob joined the line-up after answering an ad at Musician's Institute.
Their band name was taken from the street that their rehearsal studio was located on. They would take refuge there after working full time at their mundane day jobs. "VARNA symbolizes to us, the place and time where you get to live out your dreams.”
In late 2012, they recorded their debut release, ‘This Time, It’s Personal’ EP with rock producer Erik Ron (Panic at the Disco, Saosin, I the Mighty) including songs “Down”, “My Heart” and “Running Away". A mix of commercial pop vocals accompanied by hard rock guitars, their songs emotional lyrics deal with the ups and downs of life, making sure that the end result is always uplifting. Within 2 weeks of releasing their first single, 'Down', VARNA had been added to Internet radio stations all across the US and the UK, charting in the company of major artists including Linkin Park and Three Days Grace.
VARNA are a 100% “do-it yourself” independent band who are known for their close relationship with their fanbase. "Our fans are everything to us." says Tiana "We treat our fans like they are the ROCKSTARS."
In 2013, they received international acclaim through press reviews and interviews reaching countries as England, Bulgaria, Australia, Latin America and The Philippines. After a successful residency at The Good Hurt in 2013, their energetic live shows have brought them to various iconic LA venues which include The Viper Room and House of Blues.
2014 proved to be an even bigger year for Varna. With their debut video for 'My Heart' premiering on RevolverMag.com, a 'Success Story' from Musician's Institute, a clean sweep feature on Los Angeles' KLOS FM 'Stay or Go' with Heidi & Frank plus multiple media press lead to a sponsorship deal with ColdCock Whiskey and their loyal fanbase securing a spot for them on 2014's VANS Warped Tour. This fall, they are in the studio gearing up for their second release with Erik Ron once again.
Indie Ville TV will sit down to have a chat with Tiana of VARNA today. We at Indie Ville TV will like to congratulate Tiana for winning the 2014 Barebones Entertainment Award for Female Vocalist of the Year and the band for winning Music Video of the Year for ‘My Heart’. • Thank you for taking a moment to sit down and speak with me regarding the band VARNA. I’ve included a detailed bio of the band in this interview, but can you breakdown VARNA in your own words? VARNA is a hard-rock, pop trio based in Los Angeles, CA. We started in January 2010 with this month being our fifth anniversary. Basically, the music of VARNA is hard-rock guitars with pop-commercial melodies.
• When I did my pre-interview research on the band, I pulled up a lot of great things—one being the video ‘My Heart’. Can you detail what the song meant to you? When you’re in a band, the songs that you write can take on a completely different meaning as the band grows. When I wrote ‘My Heart’, I was going through a rough time in my life. [The song] meant giving your heart to the wrong person. It’s during that confusing time when you see it coming, but it still hurts. [My Heart] is about that emotion. Usually when people write songs about love, they write about after-the-fact or being in love. No one really writes about the in-between. Now, it’s taken on a completely different meaning for the band. When you see things in your life that are going on, to make that decision and have the courage to move on regardless of how scared you might be. • I love the video and the concept. Your voice stands out in the video. It’s very strong and strong voices tend to come with time and practice. How long have you been singing? I’ve actually been singing since I was two years old. Many people have asked if I’ve had vocal lessons. The funny thing is the only time I’ve had vocal lessons is when I ended up on Judge Judy at age thirteen. My mom sued my singing teacher. The show of course made it into this big drama for television, but basically my teacher stopped giving me lessons and wrote my mother a letter saying I would never be a professional singer, that I had 'no talent, drive or confidence'. In regards to that particular experience, you should believe in yourself no matter what anyone else says. Other than that, everything was self-taught for me. Singing lessons are very expensive and I grew up in a single-parent household. So basically, what I know is from singing so much and making sure my voice is in top condition. • How long have you been performing with an actual band? I’ve been in so many bands. I think the first band I was in was when I was sixteen. • Have you always done the alternative/rock genre? When you’re a little girl and you love to sing, you tend to sing what’s popular at that time. I’ve done pop demos, rnb demos, and my first band, when I was sixteen, was a blues-rock band. And I really loved it. I still love blues rock and it’s what gives us that edge in VARNA. I have a very pop-commercial voice, but I try to incorporate that soul and that passion that comes from blues music. But, I love all genres of music. • So VARNA is an all-inclusive, independent group. How has being independent been for you? Can you tell me some of the best and worst experiences in being independent? It all depends on the person and their perception of [being independent]. Some independent people will tell you that this is frustrating and all I want to do is get signed. Other people say that this is the greatest freedom that we’ve ever had. I prefer to look at it as a great freedom. If you’re going to have your own product and being your own brand, you have to have the first say on how you’re presented to other people. Being an independent band is a struggle…I’m not going to lie. However, no one is going to care about your music like you are. One of the biggest struggles as far as the industry goes, in my personal opinion, is usually when people see you’re an independent band, they won’t give you the same courtesy as they would a major label [artist]. However, since the independent bands and labels are coming up so hard and so fast, they’re even coming bigger than the major labels now. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for [independent artists] any longer. • What would be your advice for an artist who is pondering whether to pursue being signed by a major record label, stay independent, or just give up? I would ask them a question first. Is there anything else that you would rather be than a musician? And if they would say “no”, then I would say go for it. The next thing I would say is how long are you willing to give it? Are you willing to put everything you have behind it? And if so, then start doing it independently. Even bands on major labels are doing things independently, they just don’t realize it. A lot of bands do everything themselves (booking, promoting, etc) before they get signed and I am seeing a lot of bands on major labels branch out from music to make income from writing books, painting or other creative endeavors. That's all an independent mind set. Everybody’s favorite band was a local, unsigned band when they first started out. No one’s doing anything different. It’s just how far you want to take it and then if you’re willing to hold out for a really good deal. I’m not saying that major labels are evil and should be done away with. I’m saying, you work hard and get the farthest you can then people will notice and the major labels will come to you with a fantastic deal and make it worth your while to sign with them. • If there was anything else out there you could do—if music was gone—what would you rather do? I’d be gone too. It’s funny because I’m educated. I graduated in Music Business at Musician's Institute when I was 17. I said if I’m going to be a woman doing this thing in the music business, I need to know what I’m talking about. I’ve been doing everything myself forever, so this [business] isn’t anything new to me. I’ve always wanted to be a singer my entire life. I had no plan B. Of course, that’s terrifying for parents, but it never entered my mind that it wasn’t going to happen. When you go to elementary school, teachers say it’s great that you want to be a singer, but what will you go to college for. I would say, I’m going to college for music. They didn’t like that very much, but I was seventeen in Music Business class—the only girl getting straight A’s with the boys—then people started taking me seriously. So, I wouldn’t want to be anything else besides a singer and a songwriter. • Who were your inspirations growing up? My inspirations growing up were Mariah Carey and Daniel Johns of Silverchair, an Australian hard rock band. I actually got to go to New York [in December] after waiting twenty-five years to see [Mariah Carey]. I got to see her, front row, at the Beacon Theatre. It was amazing. She continues to inspire me, the same way she did when I was four years old. When I heard her [when I was a child], I said I’m going to be a singer. Whatever she does is gold. When she came out no one sounded like her. • What was VARNA’s best performance? My personal favorite was when we did VANS Warped Tour. Our personal fans voted and we got VANS Warped Tour. It was amazing. We got put in front a crowd of people that would’ve never known us otherwise. When we finished performing, there was a line of people coming to meet us at our merchandise table. It was so genuine and so beautiful. We had such a good time. We gave one of our best performances. • What was VARNA’s worst performance? Our worst performance was the first show we ever did. Before we were VARNA we were called Living Eulogy and our very first performance was horrible. We thought we sounded awesome until we saw the video. We didn’t sound great; we sounded horrible. • VARNA has an amazing fan base. Fans fuel the independent world. What is some advice that you can give to other independent artists to sustain and grow a healthy fan base? Number one, don’t kid yourself. Every band sounds a little bit like someone else. Go and find bands on social media that sound similar to your band and start adding their fans. Tell them to check out your music—give them a link right away, so they don’t have to go and find you. They’ll eventually start adding you to their lists. Once you start finding those fans, make sure you stay in contact with them. We’re in an era of social media, so it’s not always about “hey, go buy my music.” Sometimes it’s about “this is what I did today” or “this is the music that I’m listening to…what are you listening to?” Keep up the conversation. VARNA can honestly say that we have a personal relationship with all of our fans. If we go to a show and a fan approaches us and says that they are on our twitter, we know exactly who they are and we thank them for being loyal fans and we keep up the relationship. • That covers the detailed part of the interview. Get the hard stuff out of the way first. Now for the fun questions. These questions can be applied to you or VARNA. What is your pet peeve in life? My pet peeve is unprofessionalism. I grew up and live in LA and I can’t deal with people who are unprofessional and people who are fake. • What are some of your odd habits? And odd habit? I have so many odd habits. I’m such a weird person. I’ll randomly break out in song. If someone says something and there’s a song to go with it, I’ll break out in song. I don’t even notice that I’m doing it half the time, so it’s really not my fault. • You can pick one of these three topics: top five foods, cities, or bands? Top five bands. Let’s see, oh my gosh, how much time do you have? Silverchair, Incubus…people are going to disagree with me on this...Nickelback…Foo Fighters, and let’s pick a female band…Evanescence. • …Nickelback is questionable… Hey those guys know how to put on a show. • Final question. Is VARNA—the shows, the music, the radio spots, the interviews—a dream, a career, or a side gig? Oh, definitely a career. It’s too much trouble to be a side gig or a dream. You go big or go home. Indie Ville TV thanks Tiana Woods of the hard-rock band VARNA for doing this interview. If you want to check the band out please friend, like, follow them on social media or through their website at the following links: www.varnarocks.com www.twitter.com/varnarocks www.youtube.com/varnaband www.facebook.com/varnarocks