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From Indie-Rock Drummer to House Music Maven, VNSSA Tells All [Interview]

WITH ONLY TWO YEARS OF PRODUCING UNDER HER BELT, VANESSA BARNES, A.K.A. VNSSA, IS ALREADY MAKING A NAME FOR HERSELF AMONG SOME OF HOUSE MUSIC’S BIGGEST ARTISTS.

Not only was she invited to play Coachella for the first time ever this year, she also was the first artist announced for Dirtybird Campout West Coast. With her ability to seamlessly mesh her indie-rock past with her love for House and Disco, we can guarantee that she is not one to miss.

River Beats was able to chat with VNSSA to find out more about her journey into the House Music scene. Read about what led her to produce, her reaction to being invited to DBCO and more below!


Where are you from originally?

“Newport Beach, Ca. Born and raised.”

Where do you currently live?

“Just moved to Los Angeles about two months ago. It was a big change for me because I’ve never lived outside of Newport Beach/Costa Mesa, but so far I love it, and I’m not too far away from home.”

When did you first start producing?

“I’m pretty new to producing. I started about two years ago. I used to play drums in an indie rock band and have played various instruments my whole life, so a lot of those skills definitely transfer over. It’s pretty challenging but everyday I’m learning and growing, and it’s super fun.”

What inspired you to pursue a career in music?

“I’ve always known I wanted a career in music, I just wasn’t sure what. I asked for turntables for Christmas when I was 12, but I guess my letter got lost on the way to the North Pole.

I tried the band thing and found it hard working with that many people. You butt heads, there’s all kinds of drama. It’s not easy. It’s a ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ situation sometimes.  Then once I started learning how to DJ, I was like… I can just be the whole band.”

How many years total have you been DJing/producing?

“I’ve been DJing for about five years and producing for about two. I first started DJing with my friend Carly. We went by ‘Best Thing.’ After that I went solo and went by the name ‘Bijoux.’ Then I heard of Bijou, and decided I better change my DJ name. So that is the short history behind ‘VNSSA.’”

You were the first artist confirmed for DBCO West Coast. I’m sure that was super exciting. Tell me more about that experience.

“Oh my god. It’s so weird how it happened. So Dirtybird (Best record label in the world, possibly the universe) does these online ‘ask me anything’s’ where you can ask the DJs random questions in this chat room kind of thing. Anyway, Claude VonStroke was answering questions. I asked who was on his ‘ones to watch list’ and he said VNSSA. I was kinda like… haha funny. Then he asked, ‘No, but really, do you wanna play campout?’ and my first thought was that someone was messing with me. Like it was his assistant answering the questions or something. A few weeks later I played this music festival in Croatia with him (Shipfam Island) and I straight up asked him, ‘Am I really playing Campout?’ and he was like ‘YES!’ but I told him I still didn’t believe him. And then I got the official offer email the next day. Weird things like that keep happening to me. A week before Coachella weekend two I got an email, ‘Surprise! You’re opening up the Mojave stage.’ And then my name was on the lineup. Like…. What? So weird. But hey, I’m not complaining!”

When did you first discover Dirtybird? (First track/artist?)

“I think my gateway to Dirtybird was ‘Don’t Go‘ by Justin Martin and ‘Femme Fatale‘ by Justin Jay. And then it kind of justspider-webbedd out from there.”

What are you looking forward to the most at DBCO WC?

‘I mean first, I’m super excited to play. It’s really a dream come true to get to play my favorite festival. Besides that, some of my favorite events are Dodgeball, the closing ceremonies (hilarious), and Late Night Bingo with The Great Bingo Revival. It’s a non-stop disco dance party. Another one of my favorite activities at Campout is icing people. It’s when you hide or give a Smirnoff Ice to a poor unsuspecting soul then they have to immediately get on one knee and chug it. I got about 10 people at East Coast Campout and hid a bunch in the disco bingo cooler. So…. attendees of West Coast Campout 2018, you’ve been warned.’

Tell me about The Sunday Club.

The Sunday Club is a project between me and my friend Eric Mark. Eric hit me up randomly on twitter wanting to remix one of my songs almost a year ago. We got together a few times and started making some edits and remixes and found that we worked really well together and have a lot of the same taste in music (We’re both huge metal heads). Eric is such a talented producer, he’s pretty much like my mentor. So far we have an EP out on Late Night Munchies, and single ‘Heavy Metal’ out on Strangelove Recordings. We also have some free downloads of remixes/edits on our Soundcloud as well. We’ve only played two shows together as The Sunday Club, but expect to see a lot more of The Sunday Club in the future.’


Check Out The Sunday Club’s Soundcloud Below:


As a successful woman in a field previously dominated by males, how does it feel to be a part of the musical revolution currently happening in dance music, specifically in the realms of House and Techno?

‘I think it’s great that woman are finally getting noticed and gaining recognition in the scene and it feels good to be part of that. Hopefully, I can help inspire other women to follow their dreams, whatever they may be, and never give up.

I feel like dance music, especially house and techno, is gaining a lot of new attention and it’s our job to welcome people, not shut them out. In the end it’s all about love, no matter the gender. That sounds corny, but it’s true.”

Tell me about any recent track releases that you would like featured in the article.

“‘Heavy Metal’ just came 6/1 on Strangelove Recordings. It’s a track I made with Eric Mark and our good friend Zendlo. When we first finished this track we sent it out to a lot of labels. We either got no response or got told it was ‘too hard.’ We almost gave up hope when Strangelove Recordings picked it up. Since then it’s been put on Beatport’s ‘Best New Funky/Groove/Jackin’ House’ June chart, and has also been put on Spotify’s ‘Housewerk’ playlist and has over 20k streams. It’s been really exciting to watch it kind of spread.


Listen to Heavy Metal Below:


What is something you would like your fans to know about you or your music?

“I feel like my style and taste are always changing. I definitely have an affinity towards the darker grittier stuff. But I’m also a sucker for disco.”

Any exciting releases/news coming in the near future?

“We have another Sunday Club EP coming out this summer on Tons & Tons Records, and a few more VNSSA tracks coming out in the near future as well. There’s a few collabs I’m really excited about and can’t wait for people to hear them.”

Do you have a favorite producer? If so, who is it and why?

“It’s hard to choose a favorite. Right now some of my favorites are Franklyn Watts, Steady Rock, Steve Darko, Morelia, Omnom, J.Worra, Walker & Royce, and of course Claude VonStroke.”

Who is one artist you’d love to collaborate with?

“If I could pick anyone? Chris Lake. Maybe one day!”

What is your favorite festival/venue you’ve ever played?

“As far as venues, my favorite are Sound in LA and The Wayfarer in Costa Mesa. Always a fun time under that disco shark! My favorite festival, hands down, Shipfam Island. Nothing beats playing on a private island in Croatia to a bunch of wild and beautiful people.”

If your life had a soundtrack, what would be the title?

“Misadventures and Happy Accidents”


Want to join VNSSA and the rest of the flock at Dirtybird Campout West Coast? You’re in luck! The first phase of the lineup and ticket sales go live tomorrow. Once live, you can purchase tickets here!


Connect with VNSSA:
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Soundcloud


📸: Artist Facebook Page

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