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Interview With VRSTY's Joey Varela

What first got you into music Joey and made you want to make the music that you make that’s a genre mix of pop, R&B, and metal?

Joey: I’ve always been into music. The first artist I got into was obviously Michael Jackson. I watched a concert of his on a VHS. You know, VHS was a big thing back in the day [Laughs]. I just saw him on stage and what he did with the crowd. That was kind of the catalyst for everything else. Right after that, I said I really want to do that. I want to be a singer I want to be you know this musical person. Then I got into guitar in high school, and then the rest is kind of history.

Press shot for the post-hardcore band VRSTY.

Dang, yeah. 'Cause how long has been VRSTY a band?

J: We’ve been only like a band like six years. But the first year I don’t really count it was just me writing and recording music and putting it out on the internet. I had moved to Florida, then to help with my mom with some stuff, and then I moved back to New York City. I passed by some guys and friends and be like, hey do you want to help play this music live and then here we are.

Yeah! It's been a huge journey for you guys 'cause I’ve followed you guys since the BLCK record.

J: Yeah! That was the first real record, which is crazy!

Just thinking of that, but you guys have a record before that right?

J: Yeah, we had one before that, which was an EP called The Lights EP. That one, I just wrote a bunch of random songs. I'm like, oh, this is good [Laughs].

So your new one, Levitate, is coming out, Did you write all the lyrics or did any of the other band members help out at all with the writing process for this release? How was the writing process for this release, overall?

J: Our writing process is very interesting. I write and record everything. I show it to the guys sometimes they will be like, oh we should change these parts or I should do this, or whatever. Sometimes they hear the song and are like, you know what that’s good. Levitate was really weird because it was the first time I was like I have no material or prepared material written. When the record label was like we need your record. I was like, I need to write a bunch of songs on the spot. I kind of isolated myself, they gave me the full range to do whatever I want. I pretty much wrote the entire record by myself and then I got Justin DeBlieck -he was the former guitar player from Ice Nine Kills- he helped produce some stuff on it. I had some other friends to help out with it the dudes from Nevertel helped me out with some stuff.

Nice! How was it like working with Justin DeBlieck and Nevertel as well?

J: So… Justin is a genius like I can tell you right now I gave him songs he knew exactly what I wanted before I told him. He’s like I get what you are going for just hearing the song [Laughs]. And the dudes in Nevertel like they are so good in like just the pop structure and melody. Working with them was definitely fucking cool as well. They are so young to as well like such a young band they have such a good groove on what they are doing.

Yeah, I compare you guys a lot to Nevertel a lot 'cause you guys are very similar.

J: Dang, yeah. They are very good friends of mine, good musicians. Yeah, I think they helped with like 3 or 4 songs on the record.

Oh wow! Yeah, it’s a decent size record compared to Welcome Home.

J: I think this one is like 15 songs or something like that, it wasn’t supposed to be. I wrote the songs and I gave them to the label and said hey pick your favourites and I'll pick my favourites. They were like we love them all. I'm like okay [Laughs].

That’s huge I guess for you, right?

J: I was like yeah, I didn’t expect that, but alright [Laughs].

Was there any you were thinking of cutting last minute?

J: Okay, actually there was one that actually got cut that was like I don’t know if I should say this, but I'm gonna say it anyways, we're actually gonna use it now as a bonus. We're gonna do a special thing, if you pre-order something, you get that song. It's actually one of my favourite songs. It got cut 'cause it didn’t fit the vibe of the record fully.

What are your music influences for this record compared to Welcome Home and BLCK?

J: I had None [Laughs]. I was so scared and nervous, I wouldn’t listen to other bands. I think I listened to Lil Wayne this entire time when I wrote this record [Laughs]. Just 'cause I'm like I cant steal from lil wayne so let me just stay away from all these bands (laughs)

Well, you can put a little spin on Lil Wayne, right?

J: Yeah, no, of course, but I was too afraid to listen to bands 'cause I'm like very easily influenced on things. I have a lot of favourite bands including like Bad Omens, Spiritbox, Sleep Token, and stuff like that. I didn’t want that on how I influenced the record. I completely cut them out for like 3 months. I starved myself pretty much [Laughs].

That must have been hard for you, right?

J: Yeah, it was. I just listened to Lil Wayne and Drake the entire time when I wrote this record [Laughs].

What were the main songs you listened to from Lil Wayne and Drake?

J: From Lil Wayne, my main one was "Mona Lisa." God, I love that song so much. Love him and Kendrick together. With Drake, I don’t have a favourite of his. I listen to everything. Certified Lover Boy is one of my favourite records. I think I listened to "N 2 Deep" a lot.

Good songs, good picks. What's something you hope fans will take away from the new record?

J: This one, I went with a producer, and even though it was great, I had fun it was more so a learning curve. I was like, what is good for the radio, you know? What is good for this and that. I don’t give a shit. I'm gonna do what I want, I don’t really care [Laughs] And it's really toxic.

What do you mean toxic, like how?

J: On Welcome Home, I wrote some really sad songs, really deeper meaning songs. With this, I tried to write some, but I also wrote some songs kind of like me. We just released a song called "Glad You Came." That song is about just partying and doing drugs. I was like, hey, I want to write songs kind of like this is just a fun song. I wrote one of say instead of sad relationships like shitty things we did. One of the songs is about me and my ex [Laughs]. She's not gonna be happy about this song, but how we broke up, but we would still hook up with each other and ruin each other's relationships on purpose. There's a lot of toxic shit in this record that I normally don’t talk about, but I'm human. I've been through all this stuff, I'm gonna talk about all this shit. If I'm going to talk about the good stuff, the sad stuff, I have to talk about the bad stuff, right?

What do you think the fan's favourite track will be on the record?

J: Right now, "Glad You Came" is doing pretty well. I thought people would hate it. I'm kind of like rapping on it, but it's going great. I think people are going like a song called "Dangerous." It's like our version of "Thriller." It's just a fun song. It's about killing and eating someone [Laughs]. That one and two others at the end of the record, Can You Love Me" and "The Feeling." "The Feeling" is more like Weeknd-ish kind of vibes and "Can You Love Me" is kind of more pop elements to it.

When your record releases, your just going to party? [Laughs].

J: Yeah and I’ll be way less stressed, dude.

How stressed are you right now?

J: Very… Usually, when records come out, it's usually the worst time ever. I'm proud of the record up until the singles get released, then I'm like people are going to hate this. So I'm trying to train myself to not think like that. Once the music is out, it's out. That’s it, don’t talk about it. Don't do nothing.

Yeah, you guys will be performing it like crazy next year?

J: Yeah. We will be performing these songs for a while now [Laughs].

Now what's your favourite track off of Levitate? Not the bonus track, of course.

J: My Favourite track is "Doomed" or "Can You Love Me." It's one of those two.

I guess it's a toss-up between the two?

J: Yeah, it’s a toss-up between those two. I actually love this record so much that it's hard to say those two every time. I come back and listen to it, I fall in love with a different song. I'm like, oh my god, I wrote that? Crazy.

Nice. I like this. I got to listen to a few songs off the new record. Wanted to ask, is Andy from Monuments on "Kill The Rich"? How did that come to be?

J: Yeah, he is. So I’ve known Andy for a couple of years now. And we always wanted to work together. I wrote "Kill The Rich," I kind of really wanted a feature on it, but I was like, who do I know who would do this feature justice? And it randomly me and him were talking and I'm like fucking Andy... I'm a fucking idiot. He's like what? I have this song that you would be perfect for it and I sent him the song and he sent it back in two days.

What!? That quick?

J: Yeah. I gave him the song and that night. He was like, dude, I love this song and sent it back the next day. Dude, I felt this so hard.

Andy is insane and you guys just toured with him too?

J: Yeah. Watching him perform Is something else. That dude is one of the best vocalists in this industry. He does shit that I'm like how is this possible?

Yeah! How was it? Like what was your favourite moment of the tour with those guys?

J: Man... I don’t think I have one! Every day, it was so cool. Just hanging out with them. It's so interesting 'cause they have a different mindset for the music industry works and stuff like that. But if I had to pick one day though, on one of our off days we went to a Cheese Cake Factory to just hang out, all three bands -us, Monuments and For The Fallen Dreams- and that was one of the funniest nights I've had in a long time. Just sitting and talking. It was the most fun ever.

What was your guy's favourite city you played on that tour?

J: Probably California. Was it Santa Ana? I think it was we went to. I'm a sucker for California but every time we go there for some odd reason, California treats us like we are a home band. It's almost like we are from California. We've played more sold-out shows in California than in our own city. It was just cool, it was my favourite show and it was also sold out it was just such a vibe.

I’ve heard so many good things from so many bands about Califronia, which makes sense.

J: Dude, California and Arizona go so hard, it's not even funny.

I’ve not heard that from Arizona, that’s a new one for me.

J: Yeah, Arizona is very sick!

Good to note. I will go to an Arizona show and be like Joey has told me.

J: [Laughs]. You just fly out to Arizona, what show is here? I'm going [Laughs].

Is there any song off the record you’re excited to play live on the next tour with Nonpoint?

J: I’m excited to play "Glad You Came" live. Another one I'm excited to play and I don’t know when we will play live is "No Chill." That one is more like a Beartoothy kind of thing. I really want to play it live 'cause it's a very high-energy song and we don't have much of those songs. That one kind of hits.

Do you guys have set-in-stone plans for tours next year yet?

J: Nothing is set-in-stone. We are talking to a couple people on a couple different tours. We already know we will be touring next year quite a bit, but nothing confirmed yet and I don't want to spoil it.

Any bands, in particular, you would like to tour with that you haven't yet?

J: The Word Alive, Dayseeker, Nevertel... God, there are so many! I would love to tour with Bad Omens. There's so many bands. I would love to tour with Sleep Theory, as well. Oh, Fire From The Gods is another one.

You should just get on a festival at this point.

J: We're trying to do festivals this coming year. We didn’t do any this year 'cause we had bunch of like changes within the team. Agent changes, manager changes. Stuff like that. A lot of stuff this year kind of held us back. I'm surprised we toured this much. But now we have a very solid team that we want to try and get to festivals this year.

That’s good. That would be huge for you guys.

J: Yeah and that would be also so much fun. I love going to festivals I couldn’t imagine not playing one.

Wait, have you guys never played one?

J: We’ve played like smaller ones, never anything like big. I think people don’t realize how small of a band we actually are yet [Laughs]. 'Cause yeah, we are pretty small. I tell people we haven’t played anything in Blue Ridge or anything like that. I tell people they are like no there's no way! I'm like no, dude [Laughs]. This year we played the Blue Ridge pop-up show that was ridiculous.

How big was that?

J: Dude, that sold out in 30 mins. That was like 700-something tickets. It was absolutely insane dude. That show was ridiculous!

What was your biggest show you guys have played so far?

J: Probably that one.

Actually? No, that can't be.

J: We’ve played like some big ones with Nonpoint, but that one was probably our biggest, but also that was the show we were best received ever. Like I don’t think people expected us or what came out of us on stage that night. That was something else, man.

What is a place you guys have yet to tour and would like to finally get to go to in the next few years?

J: There's two. Australia and Hawaii. We’ve always said we wanted to go to both. I don’t know many bands who play in Hawaii, but I want to do it.

When I see bands play Hawaii, it's usually a good week-long trip. Chill in Hawaii and then you just play like a couple shows here and there. I've heard good turn out in Hawaii. Plus, the scenery.

J: That would be so sick! It sounds like a dream man [Laughs]. Even without a show I'm just gonna go to Hawaii now [Laughs].

If you can have your listeners and fans remember one thing about yourself, Joey, what would you want them to remember you by?

J: Probably, we didn’t take ourselves too seriously. This shit, we love it! We're having fun doing it, we all know we all are jackasses. That’s it. We are just kids having fun [Laughs].

What's the best piece of advice that you've ever gotten Joey, while doing music?

J: I’ve actually gotten it from blackbear. I got to meet him randomly one time. He told me whatever you want to do, do it anyway. No matter what anyone tells you, just do whatever you want. That’s the best advice I got from the guy. I know it's not like a crazy metaphoric thing like that to do whatever you want that was enough to be like, he's right, I should totally do it that way. I'm the only one who will understand my vision anyways.

Cool! Finally, what are your guys’ plans for the rest of 2023 I guess touring? and the start of 2024?

J: For the rest of November, we're filming a bunch of music videos. We're doing some acoustics and then in December, we're on tour with Nonpoint -a good handful of shows sold out. That’s it for this year. For next year, we start off... I can't say that. Next year, I have something booked in February that I have yet to announce, so after that, we are going to keep moving.


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