I recently sat down and got to interview the members of Varna, Tiana Woods (vocals), Rossen Pinkas (guitars), and Rob Shin (drums)!
You guys were originally known as Living Eulogy when you formed in 2010. What made you guys decide to change your name and take that new step?
Tiana: Well, we had a bunch of different band members. A lot of band members came and went in the band, so we had a much different lineup, except for Rossen and I. Then we had Rob come in, and we just became a trio. We just thought that the band needed a fresh start, new blood in it, so we named it Varna after our rehearsal studio. It was the street that it was located on.
That actually ties perfectly into the section I have, which is: where does the name VARNA come from? So comes from the name of the street that your studio was on?
Tiana: Exactly! Actually, Rossen is from Bulgaria, and Varna is the second biggest city in Bulgaria.
Rossen: It’s also the capital, that’s where I’m from. Varna is the second biggest city. It’s a tourist area; there’s a lot of people that go there.
I’ve interviewed a lot of bands, and that is definitely one of the most original names I’ve heard of.
Rob: Dude, it’s also easy to chant!
Rossen: Yeah was actually one of the things that we considered. We had to put it up to the chant test.
You recorded your debut release “This Time, It’s Personal” with producer Erik Ron (who has produced acts like Panic! At The Disco, Saosin, and I The Mighty). What did he bring to the table as a producer for this EP?
Tiana: I had the great pleasure of knowing Erik before he was a producer. He was a musician and friend of mine. The great thing, for me personally, was just being really comfortable around him and being able to tell him my insecurities, tell him my fears, tell him all of that stuff that’s going around in my head when I’m recording. He just knows the right thing to say, the right thing to do when I’m recording. That’s what made it easy for me.
Rob: For me, it was the dedication. It was the fact that no matter what happened, he would always sit there going, “I think we could do better. Let’s do it one more time. Can we do it one more time?” And then he just…, he always pushed for the best every single take. And that’s something that you could just take a lot of respect for.
Rossen: For me musically, me and Tiana, when we got together, we had a vision of how the band should sound. When we used to be Living Eulogy, it just… we went through so many band member changes and so many producers and we recorded the songs so many different times and ways that we were never satisfied. We were never satisfied enough to release the music and to go with it professionally. I think Erik was the one who could hear the music and see what our vision was, and he was able to bring to life, exactly how we imagined it, which was really surprising to us. We were really happy with the final result.
That’s fantastic. Yeah, I’ve heard from other artists that I’ve interviewed that have worked with him that’s very good at bringing out the best in an artist, and that he’s very dedicated. I’m glad you guys had that experience.
Tiana: He’s an amazing guy, and we are so honored to work with him. He really cares about the song! He really cares about the song like he’s another band member. He’s not just “okay, that was good enough! Let’s go onto the next thing!” He’s like “No, we’re not gonna stop until we get it to how we want the song to sound.” Not in a bad way; it’s amazing. He really believes in you when you don’t believe in yourself. He pushes you to make that beautiful product.
Rob: Yeah, like an example: when we were recording “My Heart”, I think it was about a few hours in, I started getting really physically tired towards the end. He was so attention to detail on everything that he called me out. He said, “it feels like we’re playing a little quieter, and it feels a little softer than it did in the beginning of the song. We can’t have that way; can we just bring it up a little more and do it one more time?” I think that’s exactly what Tiana was saying. The amount of care he put into each thing. It brought out the best in us, and it actually even motivated us, too.
What does the EP title “This Time, It’s Personal” mean?
Tiana: I actually thought of the name and brought it to the guys because I’m a big tagline person, and especially when you’re doing your first debut EP, you want people to take notice of it. These songs were actually very, very lyrically personal to me, and I really didn’t think that we were going to have them on our EP. “This Time It’s Personal” gave it that kind of vulnerability and edge to relate all these songs together.
Rob: When she told us, I pretty much just threw my hands in the air. I was like, “Let’s do it!”
What made you decide to choose the song “My Heart” as your single as opposed to any other song on the EP? Was there a particular reasoning behind this?
Rossen: That one got the most response out of people, I think. It was a fan favorite. It was the catchiest one, and the poppiest one.
Tiana: Even when it was in the baby stages, before we were working with Erik, I said “this is our song.”
Rossen: Me and Rob were actually trying so hard to make Tiana not record this song. She actually told us “No, I want this song, and I want to record it.” At first, we didn’t even want to pay for the recording, and she totally believed in the song, and she said “I don’t care, I wanna pay for it all. I want this song out there, and finally brought to the way that it should have been brought.” We recorded it so many different times that we just gave up on it. Tiana just kept pushing with this song.
Rob: For me, since I joined the band last, this song had a lot of importance to the band already, and the setlist that they were playing. It was one of the big songs. Immediately, when we recorded it, I kinda had this nervous feeling of “okay, I really have to work my ass off. I really have to make this one extra special because it’s special to them.” And I think the fact that all three of us brought that out and were like “okay, we really have to do something AWESOME with this song”, it just ended up that way. When it came out, it was like “oh my god! This is awesome!” It just worked out perfectly!
Tiana: Yeah, everybody was against me. They were like “write another song!” And I was like, “No! You don’t get it! If this song is put together in the right way, it will be amazing! I promise you!” Kind of like how Anberlin re-recorded “Feel Good Drag”. Their second version of it is one of my all-time favorite songs, one of the best produced songs I think I’ve ever heard. You know, in my top 5.
All it really takes is one person with a vision and the ability to bring it all together, whether it’s with a song, or any kind of art form. If you just keep working at it, you see that potential and it turns out the way you want.
Rob: It’s kind of funny. If one of us gets motivated, and the three of us are actually in the room together, it’s just like… fire spreading all over oil. The three of us are just so lit up, it’s crazy. We’ll stay past the amount of time we paid for the studio because we can’t stop. We literally can’t put the guitars down (laughs).
You released a music video recently for the song “My Heart”, which premiered on Revolver (congratulations!). Can you tell me a little bit more about the concept behind this video?
Tiana: When I was writing “My Heart”, I was going through a really bad time emotionally. I was thinking that the video should be about how people feel with their emotions when they’re alone and by themselves, versus when they’re out. This song, being about a boy and a girl in a relationship is very cliché. In the video, it’s basically a metaphor for how people deal with their emotions. Either creatively (which would be me), Rossen (which would be sleep all day, tune everything out), or you’d become self-destructive, which is what Rob’s role was. We deal with life situations and emotions by playing in this band. So that’s basically what the concept of the video was about.
What kind of message would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
Tiana: I would like them to walk away with a sense of hope. This EP has songs about feeling down, but believing in yourself. There’s hope for something better if you just wait out the wait.
Rob: Exactly! I remember growing up and there were a bunch of my friends who were like, “Sublime changed my life!” I think that it’s really preference to an individual person. Really, everyone has their own little war going on. If they can feel like there’s someone else who’s on the same level as them, that they can compare, and they have an outlet, especially with that outlet being music, I think that’s the biggest thing we can do for people.
Tiana: I know that when I was younger, I would literally get up the next day just so that I could hear one of my favorite songs. That’s what would literally get me up in the morning. I was like “You know, I’ve heard this song, I can go on with my day.”
What does music mean to you?
Tiana: How much time do you have? (all band members laugh)
Rossen: It pretty much means everything to us. We live and breathe it. We deal with it every day, with every aspect of it. The writing part, the creative part, the performance part, the business part. Rob’s selling drums for a living, We literally live and breathe music all day. To us, it’s everything.
Rob: It really is. On one hand, we are writing based on what we think would make an awesome song. We think “okay, we need to keep our fans happy. We have to something that shows our skill level.” But then, in the mid-process, our artistic style starts to force its way out. It’s no longer worrying anymore. It just starts coming out for us. And that’s what it’s literally like for us. It’s literally everything.
Tiana: For me, music is life support. I knew that music was a part of me even before I had a concept of who I was as a human being. I remember being a child and thinking about how music is very special, for me. I look at it as almost a spiritual thing.
What are the future plans for Varna? Any new music, videos, tours, that you want fans to know about, go for it!
Tiana: Well right now, we are writing for our second EP. We’re actually going to be going over video concepts for the third single, which is going to be the last single on “This Time It’s Personal”.
Rob: Another thing that the fans can do to try and contact us and get ahold of us at is, we usually record our practices.
Rossen: We stream them live, actually.
Rob: You’re more than welcome to give us feedback, any comments, ideas, any possible thing like that! That’s also a different way that you can contact us too.
Tiana: We’re all over social media. When you contact us through there, you’re getting us personally. Either Rob, Rossen or I will respond to you. We’re really easy to get ahold of. The practices are really great because people can hang out with us for a half an hour and see how the music is made. Maybe somebody in Italy wants to see us but, you know, it’s going to take some time for us to get there, so they get to come online for a little bit. We’re also doing some tour dates and some things out of California for 2014, so that’s going to be on the calendar. Doing as much as we can!
Rob: Oh man, we’re writing some new songs right now. You guys are really in for a treat. It’s so… I can’t give anything away, but it’s definitely Varna, but it shows that maturity. It’s just awesome. You’re gonna really, really like it. We’re really excited for the new music!
Tiana: I mean, we’re just so lucky to have people that care about what we’re doing, and appreciate how we spend our time and our effort, and all of our money and work. We’re doing this all ourselves; we have no management, no booking agent, aside from our publicity company, we do everything.
Rob: So we know what it feels like to have people not care, so for everyone that does care for us, we really, really do cherish it.
This has been another shameless promotion.