THE ROSIE VARELA PROJECT
“The song always tells us what it wants.”
This philosophy is at the core of The Rosie Varela Project. As a result, this El Paso, Texas-based Avant-pop band is always surprised and delighted during their creative process. In their songwriting and recording sessions, they collaborate with what they have that day and explore a wide range of production techniques that continues throughout the tracking, editing, and mixing of their songs.
Growing out of the El Paso-based shoegaze group, EEP (formed in 2019, The Rosie Varela Project is more a musical collective than simply a band. With Rosie Varela, Ross Ingram, Sebastian Estrada, Serge Carrasco, and Lawrence Brown III, the project includes all the members of EEP with the addition of Aldo Portillo on guitar and keys. They’re all multi-instrumentalists, and vocalists, performing different roles based on the needs of the song. For the Rosie Varela Project’s first release, Varela wrote a good portion of the songs, but also brought in unfinished songs for the group to collaborate on together.
These are songs that didn’t quite fit the shoegaze genre of EEP and in fact, they weren’t meant to be genre-specific at all. Varela considers it “very much a fusion project.” This is a fusion not just of musical influences, but of life experiences. At its core, The Project is about simplicity – simple song structures that leave room for free studio experimentation and innovation.
Despite multiple health and vision issues, Rosie Varela is also one of the most upbeat and optimistic people you’ll ever meet. She’s learning Pro Tools and thinking up inventions to increase accessibility and ability to play on stage. At 54 years old and having started her musical journey late in life, she has no intentions of stopping.
“Like the Ramones’ song ‘I Wanna Be Sedated,” Varela says, “Put me in a wheelchair and roll me
out to the studio until the day I die.”
As a kid in child of the ‘70s, Rosie Varela was influenced by her older brothers who had an impressive As a child of the ‘70s, Varela was influenced by her older brothers who had an impressive record collection ranging from 1920s jazz to early rock and psychedelia. She started writing songs at an early age. By the time Varela was 50, she had a few hundred demos and decided it was time to put together a band and begin recording them, which led to the genesis of EEP.
She wore many hats before that with jobs in management, administration, and film production. The wisdom and experience from those years, alongside the mentorship of her studio and label partner – producer Ross Ingram created something of a powerhouse of musical production. The Rosie Varela Project started as a one-off single called ‘Low‘, released in February 2021. Varela, Ingram, and her husband Justin Oser then decided in March 2021 to start their own record label, Hogar Records.
Their production methods are unconventional. Conscious of the time everyone has, they typically spend two days a month in the studio using time management planning tools (such as Agile) that Varela learned while working in the tech industry. They work in iterative, short sprints of tracking, editing, and mixing and Varela and Ingram have a retrospective at the end of every session to reflect on improvements for the next sprint.
The “paint with sound” iterative process on her latest album, ‘What Remains’ (out June 3, 20220), freed Varela to dive deeply into the emotional stories of her life. “Music helps expose the demons inside of us and helps us process and sometimes tame them.” Some of the music in this album explores pain and trauma. The title track ‘What Remains’, for example, is a song about the experience of childhood sexual abuse and its aftermath.
This album explores many moments and moods throughout a woman’s life through the lens of the experiences that Varela has lived. She shares her inspiration freely with her bandmates. “We become not only a better band by knowing each other’s stories, but more intuitive and compassionate musicians,” Varela says.
‘What Remains’ is the first of five albums The Rosie Varela Project plans to record. Varela reflects on this journey by saying, “With every record we make and the deeper we dive into our creativity, the more the music will evolve and hopefully create a connection with everyone who listens to it.”