Without one of the most inspirational and simply glorious albums to light up 2012 has been Pleroma from New York band Vajra. It is an album of aural majesty, a beautifully crafted and emotively driven piece of wonder which wraps tender and mesmeric yet evocative arms around the thoughts and senses. It is a release with a background as full as the fiery sounds which ignite the passions within so we had to know more. With gratitude we had the pleasure of asking vocalist, song writer, and band founder Annamaria Pinna all about the release, the album, and her personal journey to this point.
Hello Annamaria and welcome to the site.
Hello. Thank you. Welcome to the Vajra Temple.
With the recent release of your stunning debut album Pleroma, things seem like a whirlwind of energy, attention, and activity for the band, what is it like from the inside?
Thank you. Since we played our first show in November, 10, 2011 (which sold out), it has been both exciting and hectic. We played the Bowery Ballroom, Mercury Lounge in NYC to sold-out audiences, two shows at SXSW in Austin, TX and recently returned from a West Coast tour, performing at Sylvia Massy’s 4&20 Blackbird Music Festival, as well as The Bottom of The Hill in San Francisco and The Roxy in Los Angeles. Virgin America selected our single “Erode The Will” for their In-Flight Entertainment Series in December, 2011, and that single is also included on the Red Gorilla SXSW 2012 Compilation and the GoGirls 2012 Music Compilation. Our music was added to regular rotation at 200 radio stations nationwide, syndicated radio shows, podcasts, and music websites. We recently signed licensing deals with The Discovery Network, MTV, Showtime and Bravo. We sponsored a team at the 9th Annual Goals for Hope Women’s Soccer Tournament, (a benefit to raise money for the Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation) and we were added as Supercuts Music Ambassadors. The debut album was released on the Summer Solstice (06.21.12) and we seem to be getting a lot of positive reviews from around the globe, which is pretty cool. So, let’s just say, we’ve been very busy. But, I can’t complain. It’s all good.
Yes, of course. I must say that I am surprised at the amount of really positive reviews coming from all around the world. This project is my baby. And I would love it regardless of what anyone said. When I started writing the album, I just wrote what I felt in my heart and what I heard in my head. I had no idea how people would respond to it. I had a feeling that it was decent enough when Blake (Fleming) agreed to drum on the album. He thought I had something unique and catchy. And then, when Sylvia (Massy) said she loved the music and agreed to be part of the project, it was another indication that people would respond positively, I suppose.
Tell us about you the person and you the musician.
There is no separation. All of my experiences in life inform my music. And my music informs my life. Music has always been a part of my life. I studied music theory at Juilliard, played violin from age 6-8 and flute from age 8 through high school. I taught myself some piano, guitar and bass and took some drum lessons. Also, I started dancing at age 3, so I was reacting to music from a very early age. I lived in India for 5 years, where I acted in a feature Bollywood film, and started writing this album. I am an attorney and I practiced International Tax Law and Trusts and Estates at a prestigious law firm in NYC. I’ve lived in Siena, Italy, New Orleans, Mumbai, NYC and San Francisco and aside from the music, I love to travel, cook, drink wine, mountain bike, run, hike, read, learn, write and spend time with friends and family. That sounds like a personal ad, l0l! Ahahahaha!
As a child you were encouraged and guided to learn about the world and question assumptions, yours and others. It is fair to say this has carried on into your music?
Absolutely. Generally speaking, like I mentioned above, my life informs my music. So, the time I spent in India gave me an appreciation for Classical Hindustani music, which I digested and then incorporated those elements into my own music. I also think that many of my experiences are reflected in my music either in the lyrics or the music itself (or both).
Do you think your music would be as potent it is if you had not had that guidance?
The album carries some rich and expressive Eastern Indian themes and weaves within its progressive rock body as you just said. These have stemmed and being inspired by your self-imposed exile in India one assumes, can you tell us about this part of your life and how it impacted on your creativity and music specially?
I felt that I needed to challenge my assumptions and learn more about myself and the world around me. So, I had to pull myself out of my familiar surroundings and go to a place where I was forced to question my thoughts, motivations and actions. I had to step out of my comfort zone, challenge myself and explore other possibilities of being. I wanted to sort through the things we usually take for granted and see things from a new perspective. I learned a lot about myself and my world and I think I grew tremendously as a person. If one has the opportunity, I think traveling and living abroad is very useful for growth and self actualization.
Before we move on to the music may we ask about the condition you have synesthesia? Would you explain about its effects and how it has challenged or alternatively enhanced your songwriting and the way you compose?
I see shapes and colors when I hear sounds. When I describe music, I sometimes describe it in terms of color and wave my hand or body in a certain manner to reflect something of a shape. Initially, I thought it was a product of my dance background. And, I thought I was a bit crazy. For me, music is layered and multi-faceted and takes on many shapes and colors. I think this has enhanced my songwriting because it provides another understanding of this language of music. I mean that it provides another way to describe or sit in that musical space.
As with the India question do you think it brings a spark to your music which would be missing without having synesthesia?
Pleroma is a majestic weave of haunting shadows, flaming melodies, and emotion driven passion, I am sure you will not disagreed haha, but how much is inspired by personal reflection and experiences and how much ignited from observation?
That’s pretty cool. Thank you. It is a combination of both. I am inspired by a leaf on a tree, an experience in the subway, the color of the sky, and my daily interactions with those close to me, and some not so close.
Please tell us about the theme behind Pleroma and where its inspiration came from.
Pleroma is ‘fullness’ in Greek. It is the totality of all divine powers. We are exploring paradox and duality in this album (light versus dark, soft versus hard, female versus male, east versus west, knowing versus unknowing, etc.). To have one, you must also have the other. This is ultimate fullness.
Pleroma- fullness – duality and nonduality are concepts I am very interested in at this time of my life. We set out to explore this in the lyrics, the music, the arrangement and the performance.
Your lyrics are closely aligned to your music compared to the majority of bands where it’s a union of a separate two. How do you write your songs and is it a simultaneous thing for both aspects as songs evolve?
It’s different for every song. For most of the songs, I wrote the music first. Most times, I started with a bassline, but, sometimes, I started with a guitar riff or a drum beat or a keyboard melody. And then, I would build from there. When I returned from India, I enlisted the help of my band mates to help flesh out bits and pieces that weren’t quite right. We were very patient with this album. I wanted to take time to let each note and each sound emerge in its proper place. The album was written in such an unconventional way. We dissected each piece of the composition and recorded each instrument separately. We didn’t play all together until right before the first show in November, 2011. And when we did, we knew we had something really special
You recorded the album with Sylvia Massy (Tool, System of A Down, Prince, Johnny Cash) and Tom Baker (NIN, Foo Fighters, Ministry, Prince) bringing their experience and skills to the party, they undoubtedly found it easy to understand and interpret your vision for the Pleroma and how did you pull them on board with the project?
I reached out to Sylvia. She is incredibly talented and I have so much respect for her. She understood the music right away. She listened to skeleton versions of the songs, and said she loved it and that it was very dark. Then, she expressed her interest in working with me. I just knew she was the right person to work with. And, it was truly thrilling to work with her. She introduced me to Tom, who is also extremely talented, and I was very excited to work with him as well.
The songs upon the album for us were a warm and evocative wrap which ignited thoughts and feelings whether in blazing light or shadowed realisation, but what is the least you hope people will get out of the release other than enjoyment?
We hope that the listener will feel something from the music or that the listener will come away with something, whatever that may be. We want the listener to determine that for herself.
It helps by introducing our music to new audiences. So basically, more people will have access to our music.
They are not necessarily companies certainly looking from the UK which one would imagine are an easy fit with metal and heavy rock music. What persuaded you it would be to your benefit musically by linking up?
We are trying to spread the musical word in many different avenues so we can increase our fanbase and affect a wider audience.
Can you tell us more about the recent collaboration with filmmaker Jordan Stone involving your music and his video
Jordan is so talented. Jordan’s work has been presented at the Independent Film Festival in Lima, Mono No Aware, Light Industry, Harvest Works, Brik Gallery, and has been included in several touring Micro Cinema’s including Deep Leap and The Speculative Frontier. He also composed music for Messhof Games projects that were exhibited internationally and in the U.S. Jordan’s work addresses alienation, drugs, death and transcendence. He works primarily with hand processed and hand painted 16mm film. When we first saw Jordan’s films, we knew his work was a perfect fit for our music. We started by creating videos for the live show. We just started working on music videos specifically tailored to each song on the album.
What is next for and from Vajra?
We are currently getting the word out and increasing our fan base. We just released our debut album on the Summer Solstice (6.21.12), so we are focusing on this. We are working on a couple of videos this Fall. We would love to open for some of our favorite bands and start writing the next album early next year. And we hope to tour and play Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bamboozle and Voodoo Fest next year.
Thank you so much for sparing some of your busy time to talk with us.
Would you like to end with a final thought for the readers?
Thank you so much for listening. We hope the music can serve as a catalyst to create, pursue or explore something new-in whatever capacity. Certainly, our influences have done that for us.
Read the Pleroma review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/vajra-pleroma/
The RingMaster Review 18/10/2012
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