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From Bassist to Singer-Songwriter: Interview with Pictoria Vark

Bassist and singer-songwriter Pictoria Vark just released her new album The Parts I Dread and spoiler alert, it will pull on your heart strings. Earlier this year, she put out a single off of it called “Wyoming” which set a good example of what to expect on the full project while taking you on an emotional journey of her past. Overall, what makes Pictoria Vark’s music special is her ability to transport the listeners inside her mind; just through her songwriting we get a sense of both the emotions that arise through various moments in her life as well as what the world looks like around her. The newest album is no exception to this. Pictoria Vark perfectly sums up the themes in this body of work saying:

“Eventually this album became less about this surface-level issue of ‘not wanting to move to Wyoming’ or not wanting to leave behind my band in New York, and more about why I felt so unready to go — which really came from a feeling like I didn’t have a sense of control in my life, It boiled down to not wanting things in my life to change — and eventually approaching a form of acceptance.”

We got a chance to interview Pictoria Vark in between her busy concert schedule, read on to hear what she had to say!

Photo by Meanz Ming Chan

Congrats on signing with Get Better Records last year! Was there anything in particular that stood out to you about the label when deciding to work with them?

Thank you so much! It’s been an absolute dream come true working with them. What stands out to me most is how much GBR puts their intention into action; it’s one thing for a label to “value” diversity and another to truly represent a wide range of queer, femme artists of color like myself. I never wanted to be a singular token or representative for any of these identities because I don’t think I alone, nor any one individual, should bear that responsibility and didn’t feel I would be working with Get Better.

We are so excited that you are currently on a US tour playing bass for Squirrel Flower. How’s it going so far?

It’s going well! As I write this today, we’re in the van driving from Indianapolis to Chicago for the last show of our February leg. It’s going to be a sold-out night full of friends and tricks, which feels so revitalizing as we reach the midpoint. I said this morning it feels like the season one finale of tour and it really feels like that! I’m ready to party tonight haha.

What influenced you to transition from just playing bass to writing music and singing?

I always think I wanted to write songs but never felt like I was a good enough singer to execute them. In high school, I was playing bass in a bunch of bands which was really fun, but I felt like I didn’t have creative control. Sometimes, it felt like I was just there to play bass and shut up, which felt especially bad as the only femme person in the room. So by the time I got to college, I wanted to be fully in charge of a project and have a say, which meant taking charge of both music and business, which is when I started Pictoria Vark. And the rest is history!

You just released your single “Wyoming”. Why is this an important track for you? What was it like creating the music video for it?

“Wyoming” was one of those rare, lightning-strike moments where the song just poured out from me. As I spent time hopping between Wyoming, Iowa, Paris, and New Jersey, these places that inform where (and what) is home started to bleed together. I felt like I was missing New Jersey in Wyoming, and missing Wyoming in Iowa. It didn’t make any sense to me and I’m so satisfied with how succinctly I capture that feeling in this song. It’s one of my favorite bass parts on the whole record hehe.

What is your most favorite memory from 2021? What are you looking forward to this year?

My favorite memory of 2021 was when we were on tour in September opening for Soccer Mommy and we had a day off in Burlington, VT. We got there super early and went to visit a farm, look at a bunch of animals, bask in the sun, and eat a bunch of very good cheese!

What artists are you currently inspired by?

I’ve currently been obsessed with “Mind Palace Music” by @, “GRACEFUL RAGE” by Harmony Woods, “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You” by Big Thief, and “happy accident” by Tomberlin.

You are going on tour this spring/summer where you’ll play bass for Pinkshift. What is a misconception people have about touring? What’s your favorite thing about touring?

I don’t know if this is a misconception per se, but the difference in experience between someone on tour versus an audience member is rather underestimated. As fun and rewarding as playing music is, it’s tough to be “on” all the time and I sometimes just do not have as much energy as I would like to socialize with people, even with people I would want to if I was off-tour. I’m horrendous at responding to casual texts, even if I’m posting online. And none of it is personal, but it can come across that way because going to one of these shows is leisure for most people and work for myself. But my favorite part about touring is getting to play music every night for people for a living. It’s such a blessing to be able to tour this much already, especially considering how relatively young I am and how early it is in my career. I’m truly so lucky and grateful and I’m trying my best to hold that close.

Watch the official music video for “Wyoming” here:

The Parts I Dread is a must listen album of 2022. What was the process of putting it together? What inspired it? What’s something you want listeners to take away from it?

I wrote the songs on this album from the start of my first year of college (late 2017) through the first semester of my senior year (late 2020). It came slowly and deliberately, first as individual songs, then slowly seeing the broader thematic connections and filling in the blanks as needed. It’s inspired from living everywhere and nowhere, being afraid of yourself and other people, and ultimately being able to release some of that tension. I hope listeners take what they wish from it and remember that even if you don’t live anywhere or home is a confusing place/concept, you can still make art that means something and can exist in a real place.

Your song “Out” is so powerful both in the melody and lyrics. What can you tell us about it?

Thank you so much! This was so fun to write because of how different it is from the rest of the songs on the record. It’s kind of written from a fictional perspective of someone who commits a murder and the few seconds or minutes after where they get away with it, if only briefly. It serves as a metaphor for feeling trapped and constrained by time and space, which is also reflected in how slowly the song drags and builds.

What advice do you have for musicians looking to start their career in the industry?

Focus on being a nice person first and finding enjoyment in where you are and what you’re doing right now. People can sniff out when you’re trying to clout chase or gain something from them pretty easily and it’s a bad way to live. Have fun and be nice!

Anything you want to promote/add that wasn’t mentioned in the previous questions?

Be sure to hit up Gavin Caine (gavincaine.com and Jason Ross (Moon Sand Land) for production and guitar respectively! They were instrumental (no pun intended) in making my music sound how it does.

Photo by Meanz Ming Chan

Thank you so much Pictoria Vark for chatting with us!

Make sure to stream her music and follow her socials:

Instagram | Twitter | Spotify | Merchandise

Stream The Parts I Dread on Spotify below.

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