NIRVANA GOBERDHAN GREW UP IN DEER PARK, NEW YORK, ABOUT 45 MILES EAST OF MANHATTAN. HER PARENTS ARE FROM GUYANA, AT THE SOUTHERNMOST END OF THE CARIBBEAN. FROM EARLY ON, VANA WAS SURROUNDED BY SOCA, CALYPSO, DANCEHALL, REGGAE MUSIC. FOR CHRISTMAS OF 2014, HER MOM GAVE HER A UKULELE AND A FEW YEARS LATER, SHE BEGAN COVERING SONGS BY HER FAVORITE ARTISTS LIKE SUBLIME, SLIGHTLY STOOPID & PEPPER (JUST TO NAME A FEW). THE COMBINATION OF THE UKULELE AND HER SOFT VOICE PUT A UNIQUE TWIST ON SOME REGGAE-ROCK STAPLES.
IN APRIL OF 2018 SHE SIGNED WITH PEPPER’S LAW RECORDS AND RELEASED HER FIRST SINGLE “SHOW ME” WITH THE HELP OF MUSICIAN NICK GUDZAN AND PRODUCERS GREG SHIELDS & JOSH SALDATE. FOLLOW @VANALIYAMUSIC ON ALL PLATFORMS TO KEEP UP WITH THE LATEST!
Mark 360: Thanks so much for taking the time tonight to chat with us. We’ve been looking forward to it. It seems everything has been moving rapidly for you!
Vana Liya: Oh my god! I can’t tell you how quickly everything is moving! But it’s a good thing you know? Like I don’t know what’s coming next but that’s the best part!
Josh 360: We’ve been following you on social media now for a while and it’s so great to see you grow so much as a musician and seeing your fanbase grow. And now youre being booked to open up for some great bands like Badfish: a tribute to Sublime, and Ballyhoo! Which is totally awesome. You were also just signed to Law Records with a ton of great bands like Kash’d Out, Darenots, Tropidelic, Pepper obviously, Tunnel Vision, and Seranation. We saw a single right away which was beautifully written. And Lastly, we saw you just graduated college with a degree in health science! There’s a lot of big things happening in your life. So, I guess the question is, how does it feel to be you knowing so many big steps are happening in your life?
VL: Honestly, it’s kinda surreal because I just started taking music seriously. Like I used to take choir in high school but I was never given any solos or anything. So, I just didn’t think it was anything for me to pursue and honestly schools been a struggle for me too because I’m not the type of kid to sit still in a classroom you know? And it was very repetitive to me to go to class every day and do the same thing every day. I went to school for medicine because my parents wanted me too it’s a good a good paying job obviously, but it was never my cup of tea. I was going to school because that’s what they wanted me to do. And its only been about a year since the idea of Law signing me has popped up. It kinda of just started when I started doing videos, the first one I did was a cover of a Pepper song and Yesod saw it. And he said, “hey maybe we should throw something together” but he never really specified what. And then Greg and I got in contact and we started writing over the winter months I was finally able to take a trip down to Florida and record the single to be released on Law now there’s more things in the works and it’s just great because everything is happening so fast and every time something good happens I think “how can it get better than this?” and somehow it does and I just can’t take the smile off my face!
J360: That’s so awesome! That’s an amazing feeling. So now that you have your degree are you going to pursue that career or do you plan to stick with music?
VL: I wanna stick with music I have more passion for it and I have more drive to go out. With school I did it because that’s what society says you must do. You go to school, get a good job, and start a family. I kinda want to break out of the loop and do something I love. And I spoke to a few people after I signed with Law and they all ask, “are you gonna go to grad school?” and I could do grad school online, but the way I’m looking at it, if I divide my time between the two, I’m not going to be able to put my full effort into music. I’d like to see where this path takes me.
J360: That’s good to hear. As fans were excited for some more music. Was there any conflict with your mom when you said you wanted to pursue music full time? Or did she accept it and is happy for you?
VL: I was honestly really scared to tell her. Don’t get me wrong I love my mom and she supports me no matter what I just didn’t know what she was gonna say and of course everything happened so quickly so the agreement was I finish school and I can do whatever I want. And It’s cool because now she’s that proud mom at every show and she’s always up front telling everyone “that’s my kid!”
J360: There was a little bit of collaboration with some of the guys from Kash’d Out. You had Greg Shields producing, Joey Brohawn on the bass, and Nick Gudzan on keys and drums. It’s cool to see you work with those guys they’re super cool dudes. Is there specifically anyone else you would like to work with in the future?
VL: Honestly, I always thought it would be cool to do something with Tunnel Vision because I had been following them for a really long time, like I have a picture of them before either of us knew we were going to be signed to Law. I used to go find them after shows and tell them how great they were so working with them would be kind of a mini-dream come true for me. I really like their sound you don’t see too many newer bands coming out with the harder ska-punk style sound. It’s usually the older guys still doing it which is no problem but I don’t wanna see it die down as a genre.
J360: Hell ya, I love Tunnel Vision they put out some great music. Their newest album “Days Away” was a fuckin hit. I saw that you covered “Up All Night” on your Instagram I thought that was so cool to see you bring a softer more relaxed vibe to an upbeat song I loved it and it sounded amazing.
VL: Well most of the songs I cover are from guy singers, so I try and add a little softer feminine touch to it and make it my own because if you sound the same you’re gonna blend in with everyone else.
J360: We’re gonna switch gears a little bit. You have a ton of tattoos I am personally a big fan of your Everything Under the Sun half sleeve. I think it’s a super badass tattoo. Do you have any other band tattoos?
VL: Ya I have a couple pepper tattoos. On the girl’s waist in “No Shame” she has two skulls tattooed on her. That’s what I got in the same spot. That was how Yesod found me he thought it was cool. A couple years ago I hit a rough patch in life and Pepper’s music really pulled me out of it. So, I met them at a meet and greet on their “Nice Dreams” tour. I got to the meet and greet first and had them sign my ankle. I left for the tattoo shop across the street and got it done and was still back in time to be upfront for the show.
J360: That’s so cool. That shows dedication. Do you have any others besides Sublime and Pepper?
VL: I do. My first tattoo was a blink-182 smiley face on the back of my arm as well as the logo for their clothing line “Atticus” that I have on my forearm as well.
J360: I also saw that you have your own customized BangBox now which is amazing I think that’s so cool they designed it with a whole bunch of different bands that you cover. Did they approach you first? How did the idea come about?
VL: So, when I was in Florida right before Reggae Rise Up, Greg convinced me to stay and go to the festival, which is where Kash’d Out got their BangBox and I got to meet Joe Iacovelli and Kerry Shinn for the first time. I kept seeing them at all the shows I go to and one day they approached me and said, “hey we were thinking about doing a customized BangBox for you” and I told them “that would be really cool just let me know!” but that was as far as it got. And I got a Facebook message from Joe with the finished product. I had no idea it was happening! I got it in person at the New Jersey Kash’d Out show and I was just in awe because it had everything that represented me. It’s cool because I’m making that transition from a cover artist to my own artist. I also don’t want to be known only as a cover artist even though that’s how I got started I want people to like me for my creations.
J360: Its funny you mention about not wanting to be labeled as a cover artist because I just saw a post on Facebook from a singer from a local band down in the St. Pete/Tampa area, and he basically was saying how there’s nothing wrong with doing covers. It gets the crowd moving while also portraying the energy and style your band has. In my opinion, there’s no shame in doing covers, huge bands still do them to this day. It’s a way to pay tribute to artists you look up to.
VL: I agree thank you that makes me feel better!
J360: Your name Vana Liya is a very unique name. Can you tell us where it originated?
VL: So, my actual name is Nirvana and I obviously couldn’t go by that and I wanted to be known as just Vana but there was already somebody from the U.K. with that name. I wanted to find a name that was completely my own and I was having a pretty tough time to be honest. So, my grandparents have passed on both sides of my family and in the back of my head I wonder if my grandparents would approve of what I’m doing you know I was never just sure. My grandmother used to call me Aaliyah, which gave me the idea to put the two names together and I’ve always kind of taking it in a way of my grandparents approving of what I’m doing with my life.
M360: What got you started in making music?
VL: Making music has always been away to portray my feelings. I have a couple of acoustic songs on Youtube about self-love and confidence. Several people have reached out to me about it and have related to its which I thought was the most awesome thing ever. In my opinion the best thing you do with music is make music that others can identify with and can take into consideration. I think it was Dave Grohl who said, “we’re all at the same concert singing the same songs, but were all singing the same songs for a different reason.”
John 360: Was there a pivotal moment for you in your career where your eyes opened and you knew a dream was becoming a reality?
VL: I think I have two mini moments like that. When I first started making videos, I didn’t have a microphone, but I had a downstairs bathroom with good acoustics that I would make my videos in. when I started taking it seriously, Pepper reposted one of my videos and it got a lot of love online. It was one of the first times someone besides my mom or my friends liked what I was doing. After some time, I started getting reposted by some big names like 311, Rebelution, Long Beach Dub All-Stars, and these were bands I had been listening to for a long time once I saw that it wasn’t just pepper that liked my sound, I kinda realized that this was real. What I’ve seen a lot of the times with new artists is they already have a sample mix that is sent into a bunch of different labels, but Law and Pepper have been holding my hand through everything which is something I appreciate because they’re not only focused on the business aspect of things they understand how personal and special this is for me.
John 360: So, you released the new single which I love by the way, it’s such a prefect love song. So, I’m curious if you’re focused on live shows right now or is there an album in the works?
VL: My time isn’t divided to where something isn’t going to be half-assed. We’ve already finished my part in recording everything for music, we’re just waiting on the mixing and mastering part of everything. So right now, we’re more focused on booking shows and we’ve got some big announcements coming soon to look out for.
Josh 360: On the topic of shows, I saw you just performed in Corpus Christi, TX as well as a few upcoming shows, was that your first time going up performing as Vana Liya or did you play a lot of open mics?
VL: I started doing open mics every Wednesday until one of my friends who is a promoter in Long Island was booking shows for me. Over time people and friends have just been coming to me asking to open for them, but the Corpus show was my first one after I’ve been signed. The upcoming shows with Badfish and Ballyhoo! are going to feature a full band doing an acoustic set with me which I’m excited for because doing shows by yourself is kind of nerve wrecking because it’s literally just you up there.
Josh 360: As a fan, are there any shows or festivals you’re looking forward to? We got Garden Grove fest coming soon that’s got an awesome lineup as well as Surrounded by The Sound down in South Carolina.
VL: I want to try and go to Surrounded by The Sound because honestly Reggae Rise Up was my first music festival and I had such a good time I had no idea how I lived life without going to a music festival! I also wanna try and make Reggae Rise Up Utah because I have a few friends going that I might be able to tag along with. I’m taking my mom to the School’s Out for Summer tour because she’s a huge Slightly Stoopid fan. She’s also got this cute funny relationship with Yesod. They both get really excited about everything so they’re always talking. Sometimes when my mom hears a good song for the first-time ill record her reaction and send it to Yesod. So, I’m excited for them to actually meet in person, she’ll probably end up baking cookies or doing something really mom-like haha!
Josh 360: That’s so funny! You gotta record them meeting that sounds hilarious. Schools out for Summer is gonna be a great time I’m super stoked for that. It’s such an amazing line-up.
Keep your eyes open for big things coming from Vana Liya! We appreciate you Vana, much love!