I first met Tiana Woods (vocals) and Rob Shin (drums), two thirds of VARNA a little over a year ago. They were one of the first interviews ever to grace the pages of A&GS and we have remained close friends since then. So much so that with each and every good thing that has happened for them since then I can’t help but smile and beam with pride. They’ve been involved with Big Picture Media for the premiere of their “My Heart” video, they’re currently brand ambassadors for Coldcock Whiskey, and in just a few days they’ll be rocking the legendary Shiragirl Stage at Warped Tour for select dates. So I said to myself, “That’s it! I need to do another one with these guys/gal!” This time I was also able to pin down mysterious guitarist Rossen Pinkas so all three of us could chat. Check it out:
Amps: OK, roll call!! Who’s here??
Tiana: I’m here!
Rob: What’s going on man, I’m here! (long pause)
Rossen: What’s up, Damian?
Amps: I was about to say, “Where the fuck is Rossen?!?” I’m not going through all this lookin’ for him shit again!
Rossen: Don’t worry I found my soda.
Amps: Buy him a fucking CASE of soda so he’s within line of sight at all times, willya (laughing)? Seriously Rossen, nice to finally meet you. And Rob, Tiana so nice to talk to you again! I can’t believe it’s been a year since we last spoke.
Tiana: Wow, has it been that long?
Amps: Indeed. So there’s a LOT that has gone on with VARNA since then. How has this last year felt for each of you with everything happening?
Tiana: It’s crazy!! In like, four months our world changed and This Time It’s Personal got so many great reviews thanks to people like you and it’s been amazing! We got this deal with Coldcock Whiskey and playing Warped soon…it’s really been insane.
Rossen: For me it’s been crazy because of all the great responses to the video that REVOLVER premiered and now with Warped Tour this is a dream come true. We’ve all been there as fans and to get to play it is just awesome.
Rob: It’s a high you can’t pay for. It’s refreshing. It’s seeing something you’ve really worked for take off. I really, really like it a lot and I’m waking up with more energy and motivation than ever.
Tiana: And Warped Tour is special because it’s fans that got us there. No one booked us a show, we got there because we have so many fans who love us and want us to succeed and when people give you opportunities because they love your band, it’s amazing. We’re still in shock.
Amps: How did the whole Coldcock thing come about?
Tiana: I actually met Adam Grayer, one of the main guys at Coldcock and he heard VARNA and he loved us. We actually met at a mutual friend’s party and he said, “You guys are exactly what this brand is about and we love the hard workin’ hard rock band you guys are.” And to be in the company of people like Kerry King from SLAYER that blew Rossen’s mind. He thought I was lying when I told him! But it’s so cool to be involved with the same brand as bands like SEVENDUST and DROWNING POOL; all these huge bands.
Amps: How was working with Big Picture Media?
Tiana: They were great to us, we had them for the “My Heart” campaign. They were amazing for us, and they brought us to a lot of people who write about music, and we were so lucky and honored to have so many people want to write about our band and our music. So we’re extremely thankful to them for getting the word out about VARNA and helping us on that front.
Amps: Ahem…Let’s talk new music. Where are we on that?
Rob: We’re actually going into the studio soon, around September, maybe. We’re gonna put out all new material.
Tiana: You know what, Damian? You’re actually the first person that we’ve told about this, no one knows about it. It’s still in the beginning stages but I just talked with our producer Erik (Ron) and it’s looking good for another EP. We’re super, super-excited. The thing is, we want to do an album but we want to have something out by the end of the year and with time constraints we have to decide if, time permitting, it can be a full album.
Rob: It also depends on when we can release it. We don’t wanna do it before Christmas because everyone might forget about it, but we don’t wanna release it too late. We really have to think about the timing.
Amps: Have we developed any crazy hobbies in the last year? Tiana, did you ever pursue that coke habit like we discussed?
Tiana: (Laughing) No, not yet!!
Amps: Rossen, we don’t know much about you, mystery man. Tell me what’s going on with you.
Rossen: I actually got married, and that’s going great, the band’s going great. I spend a lot of time trying to come up with riffs. Things are really busy here with everything going on.
Amps: What about a residency? Will you do another one like at Good Hurt?
Tiana: Actually we haven’t been focused on that. Now because of all the stuff that’s happened we’re getting show offers and playing with other bands. We wouldn’t have time for one even if we got an offer for a residency. So that’s good for us, I guess!
Amps: Let’s take a step back and look at where you guys were a year ago. You didn’t have too much going on other than the residency. And NOW you guys need fuckin’ day planners on top of day planners to keep track of everything!
Tiana: I know, it’s really overwhelming sometimes. We just do our best to keep up with it.
Rob: Everything we do, we’ve done it ourselves. And the pace has picked up so much more now, it’s crazy.
Amps: There’s NO band I know of who is as DIY as you are, so be proud of yourselves.
Tiana: Oh, thank you so much, that means so much to us.
Amps: Rossen, what’s your guitar/amp setup?
Rossen: I have a Music Man guitar and a Les Paul Studio. My amp is a Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier and a Marshall 1960. That’s pretty much my sound. I don’t use too many effects, just distortion out of the amplifier.
Amps: Rob, what’s your kit like these days? And Tiana, your mic?
Tiana: I just got my dream baby: my Sennheiser G3 Wireless!!! I am such a whore for Sennheiser!!
Amps: So looking ahead, what’s next for VARNA?
Rossen: Oh, you know, world tour, album release party in the Hollywood Hills…(laughs)
Amps: Hahahaaaa, I’ll fly out for that!
Tiana: Because we have so many people wanting to help us now and opportunities coming our way the world is our oyster, so to speak. We could be doing ANYTHING next year.
Rob: We would love to be on a big world tour, but the way things have been working out for us, it’s been very sudden, out of the blue, and we love it. So I haven’t thought too much about long-term right now.
Tiana: Obviously we’d like to be on tour next year after we finish the record. We have some labels looking at us and hopefully we get some management behind us which would be amazing. We need someone to help us with the business side of VARNA. We’re managing things we never did before.
Amps: What is everyone listening to now?
Tiana: I’ve been playing NICKELBACK for the last three days. It seems like you always catch me when I’m jamming to them, and I know you love them, too! But I also listen to a lot of pop melodies on the radio just to keep some of that in our hard rock.
Amps: I have more of an unholy obsession with them.
Rossen: A lot of SLAYER, especially South of Heaven.
Rob: Metal…metal…metal. A lot of DARKEST HOUR, just blasting the REPEAT button on them.
Amps: What would you like to say to all the VARNA fans out there?
Tiana: Get ready for some new music! And we’re so happy and grateful for all the opportunities this year. Bands say this all the time, it’s so cliché, and I always feel like it doesn’t even express enough how much we love our fans and care about them.
Rossen: I think now that we have real fans who follow us and quote our lyrics, write us letters, and come to our shows, it’s like a dream. This is what we always wanted and we never imagined it could happen to us. The fans we have are so great!
Rob: The love we have for our fans really can’t be put into words. We would still be in a garage doing nothing but practicing if it wasn’t for our fans. They are everything for us. And that’s exactly how we feel. Words can’t do it justice at all.
Tiana: And thank you Damian, for all that you do for us. You’re crazy and we love it (laughs)! And we are so grateful to have you on our side and love what we do and taking the time right now to interview us at 11:00 at night. We can’t thank you enough. And you tell Mini-Amps hello from VARNA!!
And with that it was time to say goodnight to my good friends in VARNA. I couldn’t be happier for the success this band has achieved and if you haven’t already picked up This Time It’s Personal then please, GET ON IT, willya?? And don’t forget to catch them on Warped Tour this weekend at the dates you see above!!