Meet Varna! The trio is made up of Tiana Woods (Vocals)
Eddie Haddad (Guitar) and
Sean Moriarty (Drums).
They recently put out their latest EP, “This Time It’s Personal.” It features the singles, “My Heart” and “Running Away.” Very soon, they will release a brand new EP, “The Ones Inside.”
Learn more about Varna in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! How’s 2016 been treating the band so far? What were some of the biggest highlights of 2015 for the band?
Tiana: Thank you so much for having us today! 2016 has been a whirlwind! We have been doing a lot of touring, big shows and winning the NAIRMA this January, set things out of the park for us! We are gearing up for our upcoming release, #THEONESINSIDE and we couldn’t be more excited! I would say the biggest highlights for the band in 2015 was getting new members in VARNA and finishing up our new release. We were so happy to introduce Eddie and Sean to our dedicated fanbase, our #VARNAFAMILY!
Sean: 2016 has been a lot of fun! The highlight of this year so far has been NAMM, the NAIRMA Awards, and hitting the road out to Austin and New Orleans!
Eddie: We’ve been blessed with some great recognition and experiences thanks to the NAIRMA Awards! NAMM 2016 was also a great step forward for us in terms of endorsements and connections. I’d say the biggest highlight of 2015 for us was to be finished with our new EP “The Ones Inside”, which we are very excited to finally release to the world!
Can you talk about how Varna first formed? How did you all meet and what do you think led you to believe that you could be in a group together? Was it hard to pick a band name?
Tiana: Varna first formed in early 2010. The band name came from the street our rehearsal studio was on and when it popped up in my favorite book, Interview with the Vampire, we took it as a sign and ran with it. Our original guitarist and drummer left the band unexpectedly in 2015, but we were so lucky to bring Eddie and Sean on board and pick up right where we left off.
Eddie: I joined the band a year and a half ago, when the name stuff was figured out. But I was referred to audition for the band through a mutual friend and our chemistry as a band felt right from the beginning. It’s been a blast ever since!
Sean: I was asked to audition back in June of last year because I had played with Eddie in a few different bands over the past couple of years.
What does it mean to be a DIY band today?
Sean: I see it as a very natural/logical approach given the situation the music industry is currently in. The business side has become very predatory now that it’s all too clear that their business model is dying rapidly. We’re just one of the many bands out there from various genres that have taken this approach. Maybe the DIY model will become the way of the future, and we’re just apart of the early wave of American DIY bands? I wouldn’t mind that at all!
Tiana: We weren’t going to waste our time begging labels to listen to us. We took the bull by the horns and put everything in motion when no one believed in us. DIY means having 20 jobs opposed to just being a musician in a band. You are the booking agent, the tour director, the merch person, the manager, the record company, the promoter, the publicist, the songwriter and the musician. It also means that you get to have complete control of your vision and your music. It’s a double edged sword. When you are first starting out it feels literally impossible. Now that we have created such a phenomenal band that is bigger than ourselves, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Eddie: I feel that more bands should consider that route, since these days the artist holds more power and potential to accomplish the things needed without a label contract. From a business perspective, I believe it’s self-empowering and makes you that much more valuable as a band.
Tiana, I am curious to know if you ever feel any kind of pressure being the female front-man of a rock group? What has that experience been like for you?
Tiana: I always get asked that question and I’ve never felt any pressure. I grew up in a single mother household and have always been out-numbered by men being a female musician. I suppose that I strive to show you don’t have to lose your feminintity to be in a hard rock band. I was never trying to go toe to toe with the boys. If anything, I always felt it was weird not seeing more front women in music.
What was it like putting our debut EP, “This Time, It’s Personal”? How long had you been working on it? Are you going to be releasing new material soon?
Tiana: Releasing TTIP was an amazing experience. I never expected to get the response that we got from it. The fans telling us how much they loved our music and how our songs have helped them will always mean the world to us. It took about 3 years to release it because we went through band member changes along with the process of finding the right producer for the project. When we worked with Erik Ron (New Years Day, Issues, Panic at the Disco), it brought the EP to what we always wanted to life. I will forever be proud of that EP and still listen to it today. We are gearing up to release our second EP, #THEONESINSIDE! we are having a surprise release date, so we are so excited.
Eddie: Our latest EP, “The Ones Inside” is due for release very soon! Also we’re planning to start writing brand new material for a subsequent release that we are ALSO very excited about.
How do you think Varna has grown over the years? In sound and what about the band dynamics?
Sean: The band dynamics are that of a family. We laugh together, we bicker together, we succeed together, mess up together etc, and that’s exactly how it should be. I would be worried if things always seemed good or always seemed bad because that isn’t how anything works in reality.
Tiana: With the band member changes, there is definitely a ‘step up’ in the live performance department that will come with having different chemistry with different musicians. Sean and Eddie have brought the fun back to our band. I know I have personally grown as a songwriter due to all the obstacles we have had to overcome and we are excited to grow with our fans.
Eddie: Sean and I have been in bands before, and we have a chemistry that’s rooted in groove and syncopated blowouts. We both have very diverse musical influences and we plan to bring some fresh sensibilities to the already solid Varna sound.
It’s a long ways off, but how excited are you to be performing at Anne Rice’s ‘Midnight In The Savage Garden of Blood and Evil Ball’ in October? How did that all come together? How/Why do you think your music lends itself so well to that kind of an event?
Tiana: Talk about a dream come true! I have wanted to attend the ball since I was 14 and now we are PERFORMING there. I went on a solo vacation to New Orleans in 2014 and started chatting up with my amazing tour guide who hooked me up with Sue Quiroz, Anne Rice’s former assistant and president of the ARVLFC. Our music will be perfect for the event due to our second Halloween-esque single on #THEONESINSIDE. This EP is a lot darker than our previous one, so you will see why it’s perfect when it comes out!
Eddie: We have been itching for a gig for awhile! It’s great to finally know that we’re for sure gonna play there this time. Tiana is a bit vampire fan and uses some of those motifs in the band’s lyrics. We think we’ll fit right in while we’re there. Also it’ll be a good chance for us to go all out with costumes.
Sean: I’m extra excited for that gig because it’s happening on my birthday, October 28th! Once you see the cover of the new EP, you’ll immediately understand why we are a perfect band for something like the Anne Rice Ball. “Midnight In The Savage Garden of Blood and Evil”. That is one of the most metal things I’ve ever heard!
What was it like recently opening for Drowning Pool in New Orleans?
Tiana: It was absolutely amazing. They are such a talented band and such great people in general. Not a lot of major bands would take a DIY band on tour with them. We really look up to a band like them and we are proud to call them friends of ours. We will be doing some future dates with them.
Sean: Making our way over there ended being one hell of an adventure because we had to take a 5 hour detour from Austin due to a storm and shutting down the main interstate fwy! The show went great! We met everyone in Drowning Pool at the NAIRMA Awards in January and they have been really good to us!
What was it like winning ‘People’s Choice’ at the 2016 NAIRMAs? Did you have a speech all prepared when you accepted it?
Tiana: It was unbelievable! It just goes to show the power of our fans. We never expected in a million years to win. We didn’t really have a speech prepared!
Eddie: We thought we had a speech prepared, until we found ourselves on the podium (haha). We made sure to thank our fans and the people that voted because they really help define us as a band and that keeps us going.
Sean: That was a really cool experience! Made several new friends that night, and got to hang out with some of our rock heroes backstage! If you see the video of us getting the award on YouTube, it’ll become very clear that we did not have anything prepared! When Tiana tried to hand me the mic to say something, she received a very confused look and had to quickly take the mic back!
Who are some of your favorite artists? Who continues to inspire Varna’s sound? Who would you love to collaborate with in the future?
Tiana: My two favorites are Mariah Carey and Silverchair but honestly, I listen to everything. I would love to collaborate with Deftones, Papa Roach, Darkest Hour, Indigenous and Amy Lee.
Eddie: We love everything from blues, funk, and classic rock to the hits of today. But if I had to pick a band I’d like to collaborate with in our niche, I’d say Breaking Benjamin or Papa Roach.
Sean: My favorite artists are bands like: Killswitch Engage, Toto, Steely Dan, Unearth, Times of Grace, BB King, Darkest Hour, RHCP, The Eagles, Testament, Anthrax, Galactic, Lettuce, Pantera, The Roots, Old Crow Medicine Show, Elton John, Trampled By Turtles, Punch Brothers, Deftones, Underoath, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Cannibal Corpse, Blackstar, Mos Def, Talib Kweli etc…
I’d love to collaborate with a band like Trampled By Turtles, they’re all a bunch of rock musicians that found Bluegrass by accident. They would probably be able to come up with a really cool way to fuse our two genres together!
So what are your true #Varnafamily members like? How do you think they have evolved over the years since you’ve been around?
Tiana: The coolest thing about our #VARNAFAMILY is that they are just like us. We really think of them as friends of ours and they are. We listen to the same music, they support us unconditionally and we couldn’t ask for better people in our corner. I never expected to have such passionate fans. Since we are a DIY band, we can honestly say that everything we have is because of them.
Eddie: Varna fans are unlike any fans I’ve ever met, because they really feel connected with the music and it shows when they talk and share their stories with us. Since I’m still a relatively recent addition to the band, I can only say that I know the fans are dedicated and they have stuck by Varna throughout all of the changes.
Sean: The hardcore Varna fans are extremely loyal, and have been very patient with us.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
Sean: Positivity. That’s not to mean that we just make “feel good music”. The lyrics have substance. You can listen to our songs and walk away feeling empowered.
Eddie: We really want to deliver a message that’s positive and empowering for people. There’s too much negative energy already out there in the world, and we want to help our listeners to find an escape from that. That’s exactly what it does for us.
Tiana: If you listen to our songs, we have a range of topics in our music. We write about the ups and downs of life and it’s situations and we just want our fans to see themselves in our music and help them in anyway we can with what we can offer as musicians. We want to offer them release. We are all just trying to get through life and we are all in this together.