Flames of mesmeric beauty: Interview with Annamaria Pinna of Vajra

Without doubt 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 heart of 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.

Obviously you would have been confident in your music and album but has the response to Pleroma surprised you in any way all the same?

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?

Probably not.

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.

Photos By Brian Matus

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?

Yes indeed.

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.

You have recently signed licensing deals with The Discovery Network, MTV, Showtime and Bravo, how will that hopefully impact on your reach and presence within rock music nationally and overseas?

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

Photos By Brian Matus

work?

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

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Vajra: Pleroma

Having already been captured by Vajra through their track Inside The Flame which was featured on The Bone Orchard Radio Show, there was a lot of biting at the bit hoping to have the chance to hear and review their debut album Pleroma. From that song alone our anticipation and expectations were probably unjustly high not that it was a problem as the album simply blew everything imagined away. It is aural majesty, a beautifully crafted and emotively driven piece of wonder. Admittedly the list for album of the year candidates is longer than the waiting list at an NHS hospital but Vajra are there at the fore with their stunning introduction to the world.

The seeds of Vajra began with its founder composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist, Annamaria Pinna during her self-imposed exile in India. The daughter of a former monk and school teacher, Annamaria was encouraged to look at, learn about, and question assumptions about the world including her own, her creativity and music borne from and continuing that premise. She also has a neurological condition called synesthesia, which results in one sensory stimulation opening a secondary involuntary experience, in the case of Annamaria she attaches colour and shapes to sound.  How it impacts on her songwriting one cannot imagine but certainly her music is nothing less than enlightened imagination and melodic mastery.

With sell out gigs including shows at The Bowery Ballroom, The Mercury Lounge and The Bowery Electric in NYC, licensing deals with The Discovery Network, MTV, Showtime and Bravo, and their music being played across 200 radio stations nationwide in the US and of course across the internet, Vajra is on an unrelenting rise. Alongside Annamaria bringing her vision and music to realisation upon Pleroma, there are the skills and talent of drummer Blake Fleming (ex-The Mars Volta), bassist Doug Wright (The Dirty Pearls), and guitarist Will Dahl (ex-Harley’s War), together the quartet exploring and expanding the passions of progressive rock and welcoming hearts.

The theme of Pleroma is an exploration in paradoxes (east vs. west, soft vs. pummelling, female vs. male), with songs which are enveloping and inciteful suns of melodic rock woven with Eastern Indian themes and sounds. Grammy-award winner, Sylvia Massy (Tool, System of A Down, Prince, Johnny Cash) co-produced and mixed the tracks whilst mastering was handled by Tom Baker (NIN, Foo Fighters, Ministry, Prince), the resulting understanding and clarity as important as the invention within.

The album opens with the wonderful Inside The Flame, a song which wraps its tender arms around the senses with melodic beauty whilst squeezing throughout with anthemic intensity to increase the wanton pleasure. It opens on a brewing atmosphere, slightly haunting but soon with shadows lit by bobbing bass tones, fiery guitar play, and the stunning voice of Annamaria. Her voice is that of an angel and devil combined, her tones warm caresses or heated squalls forged with feisty and forceful power. The song itself rises and ebbs throughout, always with a sirenesque call no matter if consuming the heart with subtle whispers or blood surging sonic anthem. The bass of Wright is glorious, a moody and prowling presence whilst the rhythms of Fleming ignite all primal and instinctive urges and passions.

As mentioned the song was a deeply rooted fever before the album so a fall was a possibility from then on in but no chance. The following Almost One slowly treads its way through the ear with shimmering keys behind the provoking bass and precise guitar touches. Once more the vocals lead to drifting thoughts and imagination as the lyrical content is unveiled with heart and expertise. Though not as dramatic as the first track the song is an absorbing melodic summer which heats and thrills evenly across the senses.

The darkly ambient instrumental India makes way for the immense Blind, a song which prowls with layers of rippling muscle and explosive sonic heat. It is a towering piece of vision and creativity, its heart a pulsating living passion driven with brooding rhythms, evolving flaming guitar juice from Dahl, and showers of golden vocal harmonies and feeling. It is irresistible, a sunspot of aural wonder veined with spires of intensity.

Pleroma just moves from one slice of majesty to another, every track a perfect combination of ingenuity, sounds, thought, and heart. The likes of the evocative Intuition with its hypnotic heartbeat, the smouldering 3.14, and See Through, a song which sways and glistens with crystalline delight within its firm breath, lead one down further diverse roads of sound and thought to the same result, total joy.

Closing on the magnetic lure of The Apple, a shifting storm of building emotion and energy, Pleroma is quite glorious. Its soundscape is a perpetual emotion generating journey of expression, reflection, and investigation. At times it is a shadowed meditation and in others a towering fire of spiritual might which flames with burning passion. It is extraordinary and wholly delicious. The last line of their bio states ‘Vajra’s music will leave you spellbound’. Hell Yeah!

http://www.thevajratemple.com/

RingMaster 17/09/2012

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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The Bone Orchard Show 34

The Reputation Radio Show has a well established recognition and notoriety for finding, championing and promoting the best of the independent artists and sounds around the globe. Unrelenting and tenacious the promotions company/radio show is acknowledged as the prime source for finding the best talent of all genres with the introduction of the same followed closely. The intense and heavier world of sound is discovered and unleashed through The Bone Orchard, a show where anything with muscle and a riotous tendency is eagerly presented. From all forms of metal and industrial/harsh electro through punk and psychobilly on to noise and psyche with all in between, The Bone Orchard bears their individual shadowed fruits eagerly.

This past week saw the latest episode bringing six of the most impressive and exciting bands around as well as bringing a debate on some aspects of music. Hosted by the blue hued Pete Ringmaster and Reputation Radio Show CEO and mastermind Johnny Summers, the show cleared the sinuses and lit up the ears of all those with urges to match and compliment the great sounds played.

Opening with the traditional opening intro provided by Mr Strange of The Shanklin Freak Show, a band the hosts would talk about at length within the show giving the audience the latest developments from their carnival, the show immediately treated the eager crowd to a track from the debut album Defaced from UK rock band The Self Titled to be released June 18th. Mr Nobody is a stunning track, a metal and rock fusion with stirring vocals from frontman Mark Campbell over a brew of inventive and powerful sounds. With an insatiable thirst for gigging and an equal demand wanting them for shows, The Self Titled are one of the best bands in the country right now, their sharing of stages with the likes of Forever Never and Sarah Jezebel Deva as well as acclaimed festival appearances, leaving nothing but devoted fans in their wake.

Next there was a burst of real punk rock from another band from the UK in the mischievous bruising shape of Dirt Box Disco. With self declared influences ranging from Kerbdog, The Damned  and the Ramones to The Bonzo Dog Doodah Band and Showaddywaddy, the quintet from Burton on Trent make music which is honest, feisty, and insatiably infectious. The contagious track played, I Am Rock n Roll, was an exclusive from Legend another album to be released June 18th. The song played and the album the song comes from is one which revives the true 1977 spirit of punk meshing it with rock sounds as anthemic and voracious as you could wish for.

Before a lively debate about bands including cover songs in their live sets which saw the hosts at opposing lecterns but ultimately ended in the blue man being right, so he claims, things became intensified with the devastating aggressive sound of Amongst Carrion. From South Wales the five piece metallers woke up the airwaves with their track The Fear In Her Eyes taken from their latest EP We That Should Not Be. With a melodic groove recalling In Flames and the brutal riffage of an August Burns Red, the track easily declares the band as an emerging force in UK extreme metal. They have definitely moved on fully from their early days as a cover band, the point which inspired the following discussion.

Continuing the UK theme Leeds band Ourfamous Dead provided the next outstanding track with their forth coming single Claws At The Door. A rampant brew of hardcore, punk, and electro the song is the latest step in the vision of band founder and song writer AJ Reeves. Fresh off a UK tour with another Bone Orchard favourite The Sun Explodes, the quintet are a band on an accelerated rise pulling in acclaim and fans with each show and release persistently. Having supported the likes of The Blackout, Funeral For a Friend and Gallows, the band is fast approaching the point where others are eager to share stages with them.

As the final featured band of the night, US melodic metal band Vajra stunned and thrilled the listeners with their epic masterpiece Inside The Flame. Taken from their forthcoming album Pleroma, to be released in July, the song is a hypnotic and powerful example of the darkly melodic progressive rock fused with Eastern Indian influences which they inventively create. Led by the glorious voice of founder/producer/keyboardist/songwriter Annamaria Pinna, the band is one with a craft and imagination which is sure to find a feverish demand over the months ahead.

Closing out with Irish metallers iBURN, a band which is frequently requested since the debut of their song Where It Begins taken from their new EP of the same name, and another band which leaves you wanting more, The Bone Orchard dished up another formidable dose of new and impressive music. If anyone tells you there is nothing good or new coming out, place them in front of the podcast of the show, and they will soon be put right by this group of bands alone.

With the show primed to unveil more outstanding artists and sounds across the weeks ahead you can catch this, previous and future shows over at The Bone Orchard page at The Reputation Radio Show site as well as watching a selection of videos from a host of the bands featured on the show.

Get in touch with the show via  boneorchard@reputationintroduces.com

RingMaster 16/06/2012

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