February 21, 2014 Interview – Tiana Woods of Varna
There has been a revolution in recent years of female fronted rock-n-roll bands. The influx of talented women into hard rock and metal gives a much needed breath of fresh air to a male saturated scene. One of the brightest young bands looking to make a name for themselves is Varna hailing from Los Angeles, CA. Led by Tiana Woods (vocals), Rossen Pinkas (guitar), and Rob Shin (drums); the band came together in 2010 and has been making waves across the west coast, playing iconic venues such as The Viper Room and House of Blues. Mixing a hard rock sound with pop accents, their style glimmers with potential. Recently we caught up lead vocalist Tiana Woods for a look into the passion behind Varna, their drive to succeed, love for horror movies, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – Varna came together in 2010. Since then you have taken a working class approach to spread the word of your music and build a fan base. How redeeming is it to see the music you put so much into become more recognized by more listeners?
Tiana Woods – It is really surprising, shocking, and overwhelming for us. We have worked so hard to make this music the way we have envisioned it to sound for years. You hope that people respond well to it when it is finished, but I do not think we really believed people would freak out about it the way they have! It is so amazing and we are such a lucky band to have people love what we are doing!
CrypticRock.com – It has to be very exciting, and it will only continue to be as time goes on. Your sound has a hard rock edge while maintaining a clarified pop sense. When you put the sound of Varna together, what was the band’s vision?
Tiana Woods – We knew right away what kind of band we wanted to be; a commercially successful hard rock/pop band. The actual sound of Varna is what came out when Rossen, ‘the metal head’, myself ‘the pop/blues-rock girl’ ,and Rob the ‘pop-rock drummer’, got together and created. It is purely organic and we are so happy it has come out well. A lot of bands have a vision, make music and it never turns out right. It has happened to all of us in our previous bands. It was literally pure luck that it finally worked for us.
CrypticRock.com – That is great that you found that connection. There seems to be a revolution of female fronted rock and metal bands in recent years. How empowering is it for you to see this change in what has been a male dominated scene?
Tiana Woods – Very empowering! See, girls like to rock too! I have always been surrounded by guys since I am a female musician, so I really do not feel like I am doing anything different. If anything, I am proud of the guys in the rock and metal scene who are open, happy, and proud to be in a band with a girl. At the end of the day, we are all just humans making music for humans.
CrypticRock.com – I agree with you and I think we are taking positive strides forward. Plus it is great to hear different dynamics in rock-n-roll. Your debut EP This Time It’s Personal (2013) is an extremely well put together group of strong hard rock songs. With the writing and recording of these songs, was it encouraging to see the end result come out so well, and are you currently working on new material?
Tiana Woods – Thank you so much! Yes, we have videos on our Youtube page (www.youtube.com/varnaband) documenting the process of recording the EP. We are all perfectionists when it comes to the music, so it is an interesting thing to see. Yes, we are currently writing for the next EP and after we release the third single off This Time It’s Personal, we will be going in the studio.
CrypticRock.com – Sounds very exciting and something too look forward to. You recently released a video for your song “My Heart”. The video seems to be very fitting to the lyrics and music of the song. Tell me about the concept behind the video?
Tiana Woods – We met with our director, Eric Mendoza, and made it clear that we wanted the video to be about two things. How people deal with their emotions differently when they are by themselves and as a metaphor for how we deal with our own emotions in life, by playing music. The song has a much bigger concept than people might perceive at first listen.
CrypticRock.com – It does really have feeling to it and interesting to have a deeper look into that concept behind the song. Being in a band is extremely hard work. I think sometimes people do not realize the amount of time and energy put into writing, recording, and touring. With that said, how has the chemistry of the band growing over the past four years?
Tiana Woods – Thank you for noticing and realizing that! It is selfless hard work that you do out of pure love with no guarantee of any return. Rossen and I had so many band members join and leave that we were very lucky when Rob joined the band as he has the same drive, enthusiasm, and vision that we have. We know each other and that makes being in a band so much easier.
CrypticRock.com – I imagine so and it is working well for you. With so many bands within the hard rock genre, it is sometimes easy to get caught in the shuffle. Varna’s sound is definitely very distinct. What is the key for the band to distinguish yourselves among the crowd?
Tiana Woods – For one thing, we are known for treating our fans like they are the rockstars. Everything starts and stops with your supporters. Musically, we became the band we thought was missing from the hard rock scene, we set out to be our favorite band. Most female fronted band vocalists are screaming, whining, or trying to be a knock off of another band they all want to be like. We are a trio and all ethnically diverse. I think the hard rock scene is really aching for a band who can crossover and be commercially successful with more than just a couple of hits. We always joke that we want to be the female Nickelback.
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) Well you never know and it is good to have an open attitude and approach to the music. What are some of your musical influences?
Tiana Woods – We all have different influences. I love Mariah Carey and Silverchair. Rossen loves Slayer, The Offspring, and Papa Roach. Rob loves Alkaline Trio and Carlos Santana.
CrypticRock.com – That sounds like a very diverse mix of tastes, which is great. My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. If you are a fans of horror films and what are some of your favorite horror films?
Rob Shin – The Exorcist (1973)!
Tiana Woods – I personally love the Saw series. I think the scariest movies are the ones that you think could actually happen. Aside from that, Freddie Kruger from Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) or like Rob said,The Exorcist, it always gets me. My kindergarten yearbook states I told my teacher that ‘CHUCKY’ was my favorite movie while everyone else had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) or The Little Mermaid (1989). Obviously, my television choices were not regulated very well.
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) That is pretty funny actually. I was similar to you as a child, loving horror films. What got you into the films and what do you think of the modern horror films?
Tiana Woods- Since my favorite movie was Child’s Play (1988), ‘Chucky’ is what got me into horror films. My mother is a big horror movie fan and I really did not get a choice in the matter. I really like modern horror films and how they have become very psychologically twisted, clever story lines, and better graphics overall. However, the classics will always stand the test of time.