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VRSTY Lead Vocalist Joey Varela Discusses Music, Books, and More!

VRSTY (pronounced Varsity) is a band out of Brooklyn, New York, whose music expertly combines several genres for a fun, catchy sound. The band is comprised of Joey Varela (lead vocalist), Javy Dorrejo (bass), Chris Cody (drums), and Paul Gregory (guitar). Their latest album, Levitate, is set to release on October 27th, 2023. Fans have already heard several songs of the new album, including "The Plug," "The Way it Is," and "F*ck You Forever."

Photo courtesy of Spine Farm Records

Hi, I’m Jennifer from Musaholic Magazine.

Joey: My name is Joey and I’m the singer of VRSTY (Varsity).

Alright, so my very first question for you is if someone has never listened to VRSTY before, what is one song you would recommend they listen to?

Joey: Rough. Maybe “Shameless” or “F*ck You Forever.”

Ahh, that is a good one.

Joey: That’s a good one.

Alright, so that “F*ck You Forever...” ”Forget You Forever?" Is that the same thing, just the PG version of it?

Joey: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s, like, the same version.

The radio version?

Joey: Yeah, pretty much?

So, we can expect to hear it on the radio?

Joey: It’s on it now, but I don’t really like the song too much. I don’t like the safe version of stuff; of anything.

A good “f*ck you.”

Joey: Yeah, so I don’t promote it much.

I know in previous interviews you’ve mentioned that you don’t really have a genre or anything. So, what are three words that you would use to describe VRSTY’s music?

Joey: Pop, maybe metal. I have two, that’s it. I can’t think of a third one.

Not like genres, just like words.

Joey: It’s fun, it’s energetic, it’s catchy.

There you go! Fun, energetic, and catchy! I love it!

Also, you just released “The Plug,” which you worked with producer JD (Justin Deblieck). He was from Ice Nine Kills, one of my favorite bands ever. In a previous interview I watched, you were talking about how you just kind of go in and you write the music, but JD has sort of different ways. What did you learn from working with him that you can take into future music?

Joey: So much. Honestly, I’m so new at this, I don’t actually know what I’m doing. JD took my songs and was literally like: “Oh, this works this way. If you do X, Y, and Z, it’s bigger.” He told me a lot of cool little tricks that I’ve already started using on songs for future records.

Nice! It’s always fun to learn something new!

Joey: I love it.

You’re never too old to learn something new.

Joey: I just love working with… I’ve been such a fan of JD for, like, years. When he took on my band, I almost cried, I wanted to cry: “Oh my god, I love you so much.” He’s a genius.

So that actually leads very nicely into my next question. Have you had a moment in the band where you’re like: “Oh, hell yeah, we’ve made it,” and if you haven’t, what does that look like?

Joey: That. Working with JD and George were like my moments. JD produced it and George Lever, who’s, like... Sleep Token and LoLo mixed it, and I’m, like, *insert chef’s kiss hands.*

And I heard you’re a big fan of Sleep Token.

Joey: I am THE biggest Sleep Token fan ever.

New album… Like it, or…?

Joey: Oh, I love it.

What’s your favorite song off of it?

Joey: Probably "Aqua Regio" or "Take Me Back to Eden."


Joey: Yep.


Joey: I like the slower stuff.

Okay. My personal favorite is "Granite."

Joey: "Granite" is good. "Granite" is a good song.

There’s not a bad song on there.

Joey: Not a bad song on that album. No, not one.

Photo by Jennifer Mullins

After you wrap up the tour with Dropout Kings, you’re going on tour with Monuments. Can fans expect anything different from this tour to the next one? And how do you figure out the setlist for each tour?

Joey: Oh, we don’t. We just play whatever we feel like it. I think for that one, we’re probably going to play more newer songs than on this tour, but that’s probably the only difference.

What can fans expect on the album that’s coming out?

Joey: It’s really toxic.

Really toxic.

Joey: Yeah.

Like Britney Spears' “Toxic?"

Joey: No, like, normally people write about the things they went through, which I do that on this record, but I also wrote about things I’ve done, 'cause I’m not a perfect human, you know? I’ve been wrong about people, I’ve done wrong, like... I’ve just put it all out there. Here are all of my mistakes, here are all my flaws, here are all the things I’ve been through in my life. It’s really toxic though, it’s a really toxic record. Sorry.

Don’t be sorry! Are you proud of what you’ve done?

Joey: I’m so proud of it.

Do you think it’s your best work?

Joey: Yeah.

I love it! I can’t wait! And it comes out when?

Joey: October 27th.

October 27th, just in time for Halloween.

So I don’t know if you’re on Twitter, -I’m never calling it X it will always be Twitter to me- there’s a lot of hot takes, from merch cuts...

Joey: I am, but I don’t... I don’t go on Twitter.

You don’t go on Twitter… Not a bad choice. There’s a lot of hot takes like merch cuts, fan etiquette, and everything. Do you have a hot take on the industry that you want to share?

Joey: Man, you said merch cuts and my PTSD went off. I hate merch cuts.

Fans hate merch cuts, too.

Joey: Whenever people ask me for merch cuts, I just run away. I’m like: “hold up, let me get our merch guy,” and then just leave.

Am I allowed to leave this in?

Joey: Yeah, I don’t care. If you ask me for a merch cut, I’m leavin’.

Noah Sebastian has some very strong opinions on merch cuts, too.

Joey: They are so dumb.

I don’t understand.

Joey: We play the show, we bring the crowd, we put people at the bar, and you take our merch. That’s our only money. We don’t, like... I don’t want to get into it. It’s so dumb.

Here’s a note: tip your merch person. Always, always, always tip the merch person.

Joey: Always. And if someone asks you for a merch cut, run away.

For real.

Alright, now I’m going to get into some fun questions. If you could be a Pokémon, what Pokémon would you be?

Joey: Cubone.


Joey: Cubone.


Joey: I love the story. It’s so tragic.

Okay. I know nothing about Pokémon.

Joey: Alright, so Cubone has a skull on his head.


Joey: The skull is its mother's head. So the mother passed away, and it wears the skull in remembrance of its mom.

That’s, uh, dark and twisted.

Joey: Yeah. I love it.

Okay. Let’s see. Favorite tour snack? Or food, or whatever.

Joey: Actually, cheese.

Anything with cheese.

Joey: Anything with cheese.

Any cheese, or do you like...

Joey: I like pepper jack, I like muenster, I like mozzarella.

Okay. No cheddar?

Joey: Cheddar’s alright, but it’s too sharp sometimes.

Got it. Pepper jack’s good though. Especially on a Subway sandwich.

Joey: You're making me hungry.

It’s so, so good. There’s a Subway right over there.

Joey: I think I’m gonna have to go with that.

If you could play any venue or city in the whole world, what would it be?

Joey: So, I don’t have a venue and I don’t have a city, but I do have a place. I’ve always told everyone I want to play Hawaii.

Anywhere in Hawaii?

Joey: Anywhere in Hawaii.

I mean, that’s a place.

Joey: Yeah, but it’s not, like, a city.

That’s okay.

Joey: I just, I want to go to Hawaii and I want to play in Hawaii. Really bad.

Hawaii’s fun.

Joey: I’ve never been.

It’s very expensive.

Joey: I want to go. I’ve never been.

I was in 3rd grade when I went, but I don’t really remember that because it was a really long time ago.

Joey: That’s alright, that’s okay. But you went, though.

I did. I went on a submarine too. It was like a tour thing, and I don’t know if they do that anymore. Like, I said this was... I’m not even saying how many years ago, but yeah, they had submarine rides and we went to Honolulu, Maui, Waikiki Beach, and they have, like, a pineapple factory that was there.

Joey: It’s all good.

So I was listening to your songs on the way here and I heard a song with Patient 67, “Bad Habits.” How was that, working with Tom?

Joey: I love Tom. He always sends me songs, like, every month. Like: “Hey, you want to do this, you want to do this...” and I’m, like, “yes.”

Oh my god!

Joey: He’s just such a good dude.

He is.

Joey: The whole band is just great, but he’s just such a nice dude. Anytime he hits me, it's like: “Oh, I have something” and I’m, like: “Yep. I’m on it.”

Do it. Let’s do this! I’m bassist number 666 in Patient 67.

Joey: Yep, this is true. This is true. It’s me. I am.

They have way too many bassists, and I don’t even know how to play bass, but whatever.

Photo by Jennifer Mullins

Alright. Is there anything else you want to tell your fans. Anything exciting?

Joey: We’re putting out a bunch of new music in the next couple of weeks, like, maybe four or five new songs.


Joey: Starting tomorrow (September 22).

Starting tomorrow?

Joey: Yep.

Because it’s Friday, and new music releases usually on Friday.

Joey: Yeah, but we have a song coming out on a Monday, but we don’t care about when we release music. Everyone has a set thing that they do, and we're just, like, “I don’t care.”

Like f*ck what everyone else does.

Joey: Yeah, just get it out there. Just get it out. I don’t care.

But it’s like an industry standard typically to put it out on Fridays.

Joey: Yep, Thursdays and Fridays.

Thursdays and Fridays. Books are on Tuesday. I’m a huge reader, and everything is released on Tuesdays.

Joey: I didn’t know that.

Yep. Except for Kindle books or indie authors, but for the big publishers, it’s typically on Tuesdays. Do you like to read?

Joey: I do.

What do you like to read?

Joey: My favorite book ever is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. That book is the reason I am a vocalist.

Really? Okay, so what was it about that book? I’ve never read that book, but I’m pretty sure it’s on my bookshelf somewhere.

Joey: It was teaching you to forget fear and just do what you want. That is one of the greatest books of all time.

The Alchemist.

Joey: Yep.

I’m gonna have to read that. Because being brave is doing things scared.

Joey: You have to. You have to be scared. Well, you have... If you’re not scared, you don’t really love it. You have to feel some type of fear and you have to know "I love this thing and you’re like afraid to f*ck it up."

That sparked some questions: Do you have a ritual or something that you do to get ready to go on stage?

Joey: I wish I did. I don’t.

You don’t?

Joey: I do not.

Do you warm up your vocals?

Joey: No. I drink tequila, and then, I go on stage.

Favorite tequila, then.

Joey: Casamigos and Espolon.

Okay. No Patrón.

Joey: Mmm, I don’t drink that sh*t.

Okay. Do they have that stuff here?

Joey: They do.

So, I’ll buy you a shot afterwards?

Joey: Fine.


Joey: I’ll so take it.

Do you have anything else you want to say, or any questions? Is this the most awkward interview you’ve ever had?

Joey: No. It’s fun, though. Most interviews aren’t like that. They’re all so planned.

They actually know what they’re doing.

Joey: You know what, most people, when I do interviews, they're really planned out and strategic, so they’re really boring. And I hate that sh*t. It’s the same questions over and over, and I’m just like *shakes head.*

I watched many interviews that you’ve done so that I could avoid the common questions or questions that you’ve already been asked. So I hope I did it justice.

Joey: No, you did great.

No one wants the same sh*t.

Joey: No one does, but everyone does it. Like: "Oh my god, tell me about blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah," and I’m like: "God damn it, I just answered this a hundred f*cking times."

All you got to do is google "VRSTY interviews" and you can see what’s already been asked.

Joey: But they don’t do that, so...

That’s a shame.

Joey: It’s the industry. What can you do?

I’m breaking all the rules here.

Joey: Breaking all the rules out here.

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