by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Vana

by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Vana

A sweet electro-pop tune that turns grimy with a dark edge – that’s so on brand for Vana, the project of Yvonne Winckel. TheTāmaki Makaurau artist’s new single Prettyboy! made it onto NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks compilation this August.

What’s your name/pronouns, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

My name is Yvonne Winckel, my pronouns are she/they and I play the guitar mainly, but I enjoy bass and drums too.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

The only instrument I’m officially trained in is the clarinet and it definitely isn’t my weapon of choice. I can play a mean Pink Panther on that thing though! I tried guitar lessons but I think from the start I’ve always thrived by teaching myself with songs I enjoyed.

What’s the background story of how Vana the artist came to be? 

My journey as a musician began with a deep love for music from a young age, as most do. I’ve always been a huge fan of rock and metal, so that led to me borrowing one of my Dad’s guitars until I could get my own. As a chronic over-sharer, I started posting my music and thoughts online, finding a supportive community that encouraged me to pursue my passion seriously. I’ve been posting music since I was 15, writing my own songs on a cheap Yamaha acoustic guitar and recording them using my laptop microphone until I started learning about production at 16. I’ve been building my own little studio since then.

How and when did you come up with the name?

My dad calls me ‘Yvonna’ ,so a shortened ’vonna turned into Vana.

How has your writing evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

My first songs started out on the acoustic guitar. Most of them are slower and have a singer-songwriter feel to them. I also have a couple that I wrote when I was in a band with a couple of my close girl mates when I was 16 – think Paramore/Falloutboy/ all emo music circa 2007! Since then I’ve really fallen in love with dark pop and love to incorporate electric guitar and darker sounds influenced by early emo and metal music into catchy pop tunes. Lyrically, I think my music is less angsty as I’m no longer 16 and living with my parents, hahahahaa.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date? 

I played my first headline show at Big Fan. That was a pretty huge moment for me because I performed with my band – we had been rehearsing for months on end so it really felt like a huge accomplishment. Doing this show was also an achievement because we did it independently from booking agents and PR companies. Goes to show that all you need is a supportive community and a couple of good homies! (Chequered Pattern$ and Shayden Rahiri – they’re the best!)

What makes Prettyboy! stand out for you as a single?

I really like how the song is heavy but still has pop elements. I love heavy music and really want to push those grittier sounds out to my audience, and it’s what made me fall in love with music in the first place. I also like how explicit the lyrics are without being too on the nose. It’s cheeky.

What is the story behind Prettyboy!?

Prettyboy! is a song about lust. Lyrically, Prettyboy! was written to an amalgamation of all the guys I had a crush on at the time, all of which were dudes who were on the feminine side. I essentially asked myself, ‘What would I say to this person if I was alone in a room with them and had ALL the confidence in the world,’ and thus Prettyboy! was born.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

I like the switch-up of the really pretty piano in the beginning to the heavy bass drop once the verse starts. I wrote that on purpose to symbolise how you feel when you first start liking someone like butterflies and giggles and twirling your hair, compared to how you feel when you start lusting over them.

Who did you record/produce the single with and where? 

I wrote the song over a year ago. I did most of the initial production, then sent it over to Glitchedout and Chequered Pattern$ to add their finishing touches. The production process started when I heard the initial bass synth. I immediately thought, ‘This is gonna be sexy’!

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

Women can embrace their own sexuality in a way that isn’t just to be seen as pleasing to someone else but for their own satisfaction. This song is all about taking back dominance and using it in a selfish way. Oftentimes a woman’s sexuality is portrayed as delicate but it can be abrasive, confronting and borderline manic. I want the girls who are a lil crazy to really embrace that side of themselves and for the guys who like to take the backseat sometimes to do just that.

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

I genuinely believe that any song can be a single, as long as you have a good story to support it. The single itself can tell the story, or you can as you release it. When your audience knows the reason behind the writing or the process, they’re gonna be more likely to connect with the song and remember it, maybe even have a giggle at some lyrics.

Who else is in your team?

My co-producer Glitchedout, manager Archie Hamilton, and my homies Chequered Pattern$ and Shayden Rahiri were all-rounders and have shown me so much support throughout the year.

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song. 

  • Ferby: Devil
  • Indy Skies: Off the Leash

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there?

I haven’t received NZOA funding yet, but I’ve been included in NewTracks twice now! The first song that got added was Foggy Windows. The best advice I could give other artists is to make yourself known to the NZ music community. Meet other creatives and introduce yourself to people you look up to. And not to sound cheesy, but be authentic! Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Authenticity can take you a long way.

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application?

Definitely live shows. The only way to solve that is to book some, or organise your own! Live performance is so exhilarating, and although it takes a lot of planning it always ends up worth it in the end.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

The Needle Drop is always a classic.