Every year on New Year’s Eve I like to post an interview with members of bands that I not only love and admire, but ones that I’ve become great friends with. Last year was ROSES UNREAD, and now, this year, VARNA. I’ve known singer Tiana Woods for almost four years, and during this phone call I got to know drummer Sean Moriarty who’s been pounding the skins for almost two years now. I am now privileged to call him a friend as well. This conversation got a little nutty as they caught me up on everything going on in the crazy world of VARNA, from smashing into Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Indicator chart at #34 with new single “Survival of the Fittest” to what’s next in 2017 and beyond. So strap in, keep your heads and arms inside the vehicle at all times, and awaaaay we go:
Amps: Sean, how did you come to be in the band?
Sean: I got in through a mutual friend. I was in another band for a while, and when Rob (Shin, former drummer) left I was asked if I’d be interested in an audition so I came down.
Amps: Tiana, when he came down, did you know right away Sean would be the guy?
Tiana: We had seen a few other people, but when he came by he really impressed me. I knew that I wanted him in the band, but of course you have to screen everybody. They may be a great musician but you have to make sure you have that chemistry, and of course their personal life is a big factor when it comes to being in a band. And he’s great and I’m happy to have him!
Amps: What are you doing release-wise? “Living a Lie” and “Survival of the Fittest” are now out as singles. What can we expect next?
Tiana: We were originally doing an EP but we kind of rethought our whole marketing plan because we weren’t planning on taking a hiatus with all the band drama that went on. We didn’t wanna have a pause in our music schedule`so we decided that instead of releasing an EP which would take a lot more time, we’d just break it up and release it as singles.
Amps: With that said, are you instead working on a full-length album?
Tiana: With all the new blood in the band we’ll be working on new material, but it depends on where the year goes for us. We have so many exciting things happening where we can’t really make a plan. We go where we’re wanted, you know? But we will be releasing new music in 2017 whether it’s a single or an EP, or an album. We would LOVE to do an album, but life throws curve balls at you.
Amps: What’s on VARNA’S calendar for 2017?
Tiana: There are some shows lined up, but I can’t say where yet because they’re not confirmed. I already have six songs written that I haven’t shown to Sean, which he’s just finding out now on this phone call (laughs)!
Sean: I knew you had two, not SIX!!
Tiana: I had six already written but you never wanna say that because when you bring your songs to the group and they”re already finished lyrically, you never know if they’re gonna pan out. Let’s just say we have “material” (laughs).
Amps: Sean, what did you think when you first got into VARNA?
Tiana: Don’t answer that question, Sean!!
Sean: (Laughing) my dirty fuckin’ pirate mouth can be on full display and I don’t have to hold myself back with all my fucked-up thoughts. Me and Tiana have this younger brother/older sister relationship, and I enjoy annoying the fuck out of her. Musically I have super-eclectic taste in music and so does she. The only area we disagree is on the bubblegum pop thing she likes, which I’ll never understand. Then again, I listen to bluegrass, which I’m sure she doesn’t understand.
Tiana: You haven’t mentioned our mutual love of GINUWINE-
Sean: (Interrupts) no, that is NOT a mutual thing!!
Amps: Do you ever do any writing and bring stuff to Tiana, Sean?
Sean: I always have riff ideas in my head, but in one of my old bands the songwriting process was excruciating. I’d literally have to sit there and hum the riffs I came up with to the guitarist and he’d try to replicate that. That isn’t the case here, thankfully.
Tiana: This is the first group of months that we’ve had to stop and work on material. Because from Sean’s gotten into the band up until right now, we’ve just been playing, and going all over the U.S. and doing interviews, and it’s been nonstop.
Amps: Tiana, VARNA has largely been your baby from day one. At this point, having these guys in the band with you, how do you feel?
Tiana: Oh, it’s exciting! That’s why I wanted to be in a band, to do what I love with people around me who do, too. It’s good times and fun, and the other side is the grueling hard work we put in. It takes a lot of time and energy, and a lot of things that other people aren’t willing to do. It’s a no-brainer for us. Whatever has to be done, we do it. And that comes from our passion and loving the music and being in a band that will take us further and further.
Amps: What are you listening to now, whether it’s old stuff, new stuff, rock, metal, folk, funk, what?
Sean: Actually for the past couple of days I’ve been jamming THE ROOTS album How I Got Over and before rehearsal tonight I was listening to this metalcore band we’re friends with from Seattle called FOR THE LIKES OF YOU. I just popped in their EP The Wizard.
Tiana: I’ve been listening to DARKEST HOUR, JOURNEY, STEVIE NICKS, IN THIS MOMENT, and this band we’re friends with from Arizona called ELLA KAYE. They’re metalcore and you should all check out their new EP No Nights. It’s a great stress reliever when I’m sitting in traffic.
Amps: Can you tell me what went into the writing of “Living a Lie”? You know that’s my favorite.
Tiana: I was in a really bad time in my life and we all know how that goes. And I just kept seeing, reading, and hearing the words “living a lie”. So I got the idea for the song when I was randomly listening to “Bring Me to Life” from EVANESCENCE. When they say, “I’ve been living a lie” I was like, “Fuck! Someone needs to write a goddamn song about living a lie!!” And then I said, “Fuck, why don’t I write it??” So I did. I wrote it for myself to make me feel better. And so it turned out to be a crowd favorite when we’d play gigs. I’m really glad that you like it because it’s an important song to me personally.
Amps: What does the future hold for VARNA?
Tiana: The world is our oyster, Damian (laughs)! The cool thing about this band is that every year we’ve progressed and every year something bigger happens for us, so considering what just happened with Billboard, I’m hoping for an even bigger and better 2017! We’re open to whatever comes our way.
Sean: We’re open to being signed if it’s the right situation. Personally, I’d love to get over to Europe because I have family over in Northern Ireland, and a friend in Spain who says he can get us some club dates over there. Europe loves American rock and metal, so that would be great.
Amps: What about interests outside of music?
Tiana: I’m still working on getting that cocaine habit (laughs). Other than music, which rules my life, my hobby is reading books.
Amps: That STILL hasn’t happened? It’s been three-and-a-half fuckin’ years already!! What the fuck?? We discussed this!!
Sean: (Laughs) you’re so LAZY, Tiana!! Me, I really like watching historical documentaries on Netflix. I love Egyptian, Greek, and Roman history.
Amps: What do you want to say to all the VARNA fans out there?
Tiana: Thank you for supporting us from the very beginning and being excited about the music. In all honesty, the fans are the only reason why we keep going and why we’re still here. Everything begins and ends with them. A lot of musicians say that, but for us it is entirely true because we’re completely independent. We would not be here without them. We love them dearly!
Sean: The short time I’ve been in this band I’ve LOVED going into unfamiliar places for us where we have no fanbase and as we start playing slowly watching people get converted to our little VARNA cult. I’m looking forward to going to more new places and converting more of you.
VARNA will always be a band that A&GS flies the flag for. And that’s not just because they’re super-awesome people, but because they make 100% honest, kickass rock and roll music that also makes you think. Being one of the only unsigned bands in rock to have not one, but TWO hits on the Billboard charts is just the tip of the iceberg. 2017 promises to be a big year for them, so get acquainted if you haven’t already, people!!