Introducing Interview: Varvara

Finnish garage-rock piece Varvara are set to cause a stir in the UK with their forthcoming album Death Defying Kicks. For fans of dark indie rock with a garage scuzz, Varvara are a fundamental band to become acquainted with.

We at Gigslutz caught up with guitarist Tommi Muhli before the release of their third full-length album, recorded in Stockholm with the esteemed likes of Pelle Gunnerfeldt and Brad Boatright… 

We understand that a statue nearby the band’s hang out spot inspired Varvara’s name. Please tell us more…
After studying and living in various parts of Finland our singer/guitarist and main songwriter Mikko and his family moved back to our old hometown Hamina in Southeast Finland… I think the year was 2007. He decided to start a band to spend time and have fun with a bunch of friends who shared his passion for alternative rock stuff. Mikko wanted the band name to have a strong connection to his roots and chose to name it after a statue where we used to hang out and meet in our youth.

The lady in the statue is Varvara Schantin who sold refreshments to reserve officer students during their hard training on the verge of WW2 – she was a highly respected and liked person amongst the soldiers-to-be and her story is an interesting bright spot in our hometown history. It would be cool to say the band name had some ties to the history and some deeper meaning behind it but most of all it’s about our roots, that particular spot, friendship and good times.

How did Varvara get the prestigious likes of Pelle Gunnerfeldt (producer of Refused’s The Shape Of Punk To Come and guitar player/producer of late ’90s alt band Fireside) and Brad Boatright (Beastmilk, Fucked Up and High On Fire) on board to mix and master the forthcoming Death Defying Tricks?
We were really lucky, I guess. Pelle was the first person we thought of when we started to think about who should mix the album. He’s been working with many of our favourite albums and we just somehow knew if he’d get the chance to listen our stuff he’d get what we’re about and would enjoy it.

I first contacted his management but after not hearing from them went straight to the source via Facebook messenger and sent some live demos we had made. Pelle liked the tracks and we set the details with his management and ended up with a killer mix! Mikko had worked with Brad earlier on one album, so he kinda had the connection and experience already. We think these guys were a great fit and Brad’s manner is really warm and dynamic.

Even though these guys are big names, they are more or less specialized in marginal music. Like us they are fans of alternative sounds and seem very passionate with what they do. I think the key here was to find the “perfect match” and like-minded people. We are still really excited about having Pelle and Brad working on our music, and guess it also gave us more confidence in presenting the material further to media etc. Would be awesome to work with them in the future as well!

The new record has been described to have an eclectic sound ranging from dark indie-rock to garage, lo-fi and psych. But how would Varvara themselves sum up the record’s sound in a sentence?
Modern rock ‘n’ roll with a fistful of influences from the nineties, and a twist of garage sounds…

Death Defying Tricks has been out in Finland since January – have the band been pleased with the response to the record over there? How do Varvara think its reception will compare to that of here in the UK?
There’s not that much media for alternative or rock music in general here and the “gate keepers” are VERY careful in getting behind domestic bands/artists singing in English before it gets recognized outside of Finland. We’ve been releasing our music by ourselves from day one, taking small steps at a time – It’s really hard to make yourself heard so it’s slow to build things up here but I think we’ve managed to do alright, and are really pleased with the response we’ve got so far.

This is the first time that we’ve actively promoted our music outside Finland and are really excited to see where it leads us. UK is much bigger market with more potential listeners, media and a more versatile music scene. There’s more competition but also more possibilities for bands like Varvara to find their audience. We might not be the “coolest” band on the block, but we are confident that we’ll find listeners that enjoy our stuff.

Do you feel this is your most mature record to date?
I think we somehow managed to capture the band’s sound and energy better than ever on Death Defying Tricks. We don’t think about the album format while working on songs so it’s a colourful collection. Not sure if mature is the word I’d go for… I’d say it’s quite childish, relaxed and, in many parts, tongue-in-cheek.

What new heights do the band expect to reach with this release here in the UK?
We hope to introduce our music to more listeners, build a following and make our band more interesting for venues to book us for shows. It would be so great to come and play there in the near future!

How do the band expect the release of Death Defying Tricks to progress the Varvara journey?
We don’t really have any long-term plans and are taking one small step at a time. I hope that with this album we find more listeners and get a chance to start touring outside Finland. We are also writing new material and now that we’ve been introduced to all key music markets, it’s hopefully easier and bit faster to spread the new songs in the future.

Huge thanks to Varvara for answering our questions! 

Death Defying Tricks, the new album from Varvara, is out 4 November via Haminian Sounds.


Photo Credit:  Kaj Kuhlman

Emily Schofield

Emily Schofield

Emily Schofield

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