Interview Solara

I’d like to take the time to talk about the music of a band called Solara who have recently come to my attention. This band is the combination of Varun Sheel (lead singer & guitarist), Curtis Barnes (harmony vocalist & cellist) and Yotam Block (guitarist and vocalist) who together deliver a sound that they describe as electronic alternative rock. I find it hard to describe their overall sound as their two EP’s have a different feel about them. I will talk about the music of Solara later in the post as I wanted to learn a little more about the band. I reached out to the guys to see if they would like to get involved with an interview, Varun and Curtis were more than happy to do so. We talked about how the band got together, their influences and more, this is what they had to say:

How did Solara get together and is there a story behind the name?

Varun: I think the “core” of Solara really goes back to elementary school for Curtis and I. We’ve been playing music together since before we were 12 years old in various school orchestra programs. I remember distinctly, because I SUCKED at violin. I really couldn’t read sheet music and I would end up copying what the first violin section was playing by ear, so I hated going to these sessions. But having a friend like Curtis who dominated his cello section really made it a fun time.

Curtis: When we both went to middle school we both got to know each other better and became really good friends. I don’t remember who said it then but I think every set of friends at some point in their lives will say “we should start a band” and that was really that point. Since then we’ve been playing rock music together in various groups until college when we split at different schools for a year. Solara, came from this hiatus. We both missed playing music together especially with all the new experiences that come with first year so we found our friend Yotam and once again said “we should start a band”.

Varun: We wanted a name that was really something special. It had to carry it’s own amount of theatricality and had to demonstrate our unique sound and be powerful phonetically and we pretty quickly settled on Solara. It just fit.

Is there any musicians/bands who help influence your music and it’s sound?

Varun: It’s definitely different for all of us because each of us bring our own sound to the table. The combinations that work are what drive us to get into the studio and record. For me  at least, I’m definitely influenced by both Western and Eastern artists. Being an Indian American I grew up listening to both styles of music, if you look at my phone right now at one moment I’ll be listening to The Glitch Mob or 30 Seconds the Mars and the next I’ll be listening to Arijit Singh’s MTV Unplugged Session. When we started Solara however I was really inspired by a group called Explosions in the Sky. I was amazed at the layering of melodic guitar parts and how emotional and driving it could really be. Then I wondered, what if the bass dropped in this like it does in Glitch Mob tracks and what if we added the vocal intricacies of groups like As  Tall as Lions? The result was Solara. A group that we all agreed should demonstrate how beautiful, powerful, driving and moving music and the fusion of styles could really be.

Curtis: I completely agree, Solara’s a collaboration of everything that we bring to the table and music is so personalized that who you are as a person comes out when you play. In my case when I record or write material with Varun I would definitely say bands like Explosions in the Sky, City and Colour and Tall Heights impact what I do and set a standard for what I aspire to do.

When you write new music what is the important part to your process and what helps you get passed writers block?

Varun: As someone who gets writers block ALL the stinking time it’s a miserable feeling and I wish I could say I’ve figured out a foolproof way of getting past it but unfortunately I’m not so lucky. But what I can say definitely helps, is putting the music down and focusing on yourself as a person for a second. My writer’s block usually comes at really boring times in my life  because I have nothing to write about. What helps, is really going and living life. Going out with friends, traveling, and having new experiences – good or bad- with new people and old friends makes it so that I have new stories to tell in each of my songs and that feeling is truly magical.

Curtis: I would say focus on the music and not the final product. If you write material that is meaningful to you instead of focusing on how commercialized the final product could be, you get something that’s stronger and means more to you as a musician and I feel like that’s something listeners just subconsciously pick up on.

For new fans out there, what singles/EP’s/Albums has you released so far?

So this album, The Set List, is our second record release. The first was our debut EP which was released in spring of 2014.  While  two years is a while to record new music the time has really allowed our songwriting and sound to mature and become stronger. However in the meantime we’ve had a number of single releases including covers and original pieces, available on Soundcloud, Youtube and More, ranging from our cover of Avicii’s “The Nights” and our most recent hindi and english mashup with another friend “The Scientist x Jeena Jeena”.

From these releases which are your favourite songs and why?

Varun: Hands down The Set List is my favorite record we’ve released so far. Though it’s an acoustic album each recording on this record is so genuine. When each verse is sung or a solo is played the moods blend perfectly with each song and it just feels amazing that we had the opportunity to create something so special. Of all the songs on this record Heads Held High is stuck on repeat on my phone. It’s an absolute jam and our goal for this track was to accomplish what it sounded like playing it live and I think we succeeded. The driving crowd, the surge in energy and the overall togetherness that the we feel with the audience when we play this piece was captured perfectly. When I wrote this track with Curtis I certainly didn’t imagine  a large crowd singing along simply because I thought it would just be the three of that were keen on singing. My mind was blown in the best possible way when I heard that stadium sound coming from so many people and everytime I listen to the track it takes me back to that first feeling.

Curtis: I agree Set List all the way. Varun was a little nervous about doing an acoustic album at first but once we got going with it everything definitely just kind of followed organically. Varun would write a song, and he and I would sit down and just run through it and somehow those first run throughs were really perfect. Like the recordings you hear on it aren’t that different from what it sounded like when we first ran through it. That’s how genuine these performances are. Out of all the songs on the album Rescue Me and Limitless are absolutely my favorites.

What can people expect from your shows?

Varun: Haha, we wouldn’t want to spoil any surprises. We hinted at a few ideas earlier, but without giving too much away. Be ready to sing along, be ready for some surprises and be ready to just have a great time.

Is there any crazy facts about each other you care to share?

Varun: Curtis can’t take a bad photo. I don’t know what it is, or what sort of charm was placed on him when he was a baby but every time we’ve filmed a video or had a photoshoot he looks fine in every shot whereas the camera hates me. Upsetting? Yes…but we persevere.

Curtis: Varun and I have actually both taken a meditation and relaxation program together when we were younger.

Varun: I remember that! That was actually kinda cool!

Curtis: And Varun can’t be beaten in pool (billiards). If you’re winning he’s hustling you.

If you guys were headlining a world tour, which two musicians/bands would you choose and why?

Varun: That’s such a difficult question…there’s so many options! For me the most important part of a show is that the audience should have had an incredible time and as a result I’d want to pick groups that believe the same. 30 Seconds to Mars is one clear example of such a group. They want everyone at their shows to have a blast and so do we. The second group I’d personally pick is another group dedicated to an incredible show as well as a group that I completely idolize, Coldplay.

Curtis: I completely stand by what Varun said about the audience having a great time. There’s no worse feeling than going to see your favorite musician and walking away disappointed. Imagine Dragons definitely falls into the category of incredible performer just described because of the amount of fire and energy that they bring live shows in more ways than one. I would love to go on tour with Tall heights as well because of opposite reasons: they’re super laid back and funny guys and they love to get comfortable with their audiences. I saw them live at a small show and they were (similar to us) two guys (a guitarist and a cellist) who had been best friends since elementary school.

What are your future plans and goals for your music?

Varun: Though we are both university students pursuing different degrees, I think we can both agree that music is something that we’ll just always be drawn to. It’s in our blood and our souls. We want our sound to reach the world, so regardless of whatever we do next, I know for sure, you guys will keep getting new music till the end of time. Immediately I would say keep a look out for our full album While the World’s Asleep. It’s been a long time coming, but I think we’re finally at a place where we can make some real headway after what seems like forever.

Finally, is there anything you like to say to any new listeners out there or maybe to any of your fans who are ready this?

Varun: Thank you all so much for your support. It means the world to us and I could never have imagined that we could receive so much love from you all just for doing what we do. You guys are the best.

Curtis: For all you musicians out there as well, this took us a while to get and it’s something that I keep on having to say to Varun from time to time. The love of the music comes first, not the fame, not the money, not the social media. If you show that you love the music and you show your passion- the rest will all follow.

Varun: Absolutely. Just do what you do. I’ve been amazed time after time at how incredibly accepting and supportive the world (and you guys) can be when you do what you love. So once again, thank you all for blowing my mind time after time.

Now let’s talk about the music of Solara. Their debut release ‘Spring Break’ EP is a two track EP that to me, feels like the guys are finding their feet with the type of sound that they want to produce but it shows a lot of promise. Their overall alternative rock sound with an electronic twist impressed me, especially in the way they arrange their various layers within the songs. Listen to my favourite song from it called ‘This Fantasy’ to hear their talents at work.

Their latest releases ‘The Set List (Vol.1): Twilight’ shows a much stronger showing of what the guys of Solara can create. Again the arrangement of their music caught my attention when listening to each song. This acoustic infused EP differs from their debut release and I personally prefer this musical direction. I am a big fan of how they used the acoustic guitar and violin to set a great vibe throughout the EP that is perfectly shown on my favourite track ‘Some Ways Down the Road’. This stripped down song has a delicate tone that lets the lyrics shine (such a nice story within it) which are nicely delivered by Varun’s vocals. Overall, a solid release that should capture peoples attention.

To give both of Solara‘s releases a listen or if you want to add their music to your collection then head over to their Bandcamp page (click HERE).

What the band have created so far is good but I feel that they have only scratched the surface, so the prospect of their debut album has me excited to hear what they will create. If you want to find out more about their music or wish to learn about the band then this information can be found on their social media sites at Facebook and Twitter.

If you are listening to the music of Solara and have become a fan then don’t forget to help spread the word today! Together we can help independent music like this grow, so go support!