New York-based dark rock mavens Vajra originate and radiate outward from the sensual and multi-range vocals of composer and visionary Annamaria Pinna. Pinna and core bandmates, guitarist Dave Sussman (formerly of industrial metal pioneers Bile and the early New York incarnation of Criss Angel’s Angeldust) and drummer Jimmy DeMarco (Soultone Cymbals Artist) conjure music from a diverse panoply of threads.
XS ROCK: Tell me about the latest band news. Are there any new projects coming out, live shows, or announcements?
We set out on our Descent Tour with limited East Coast dates starting in Providence, RI on Thurs Oct 20. Guaranteed enlightenment in one evening.
Thurs 10/20 Providence, RI @Alchemy
Fri 10/21 Reading, PA @Reverb
Sat 10/22 Brooklyn, NY @The Kingsland
Sun 10/23 Hampton Beach, NH @Wallys
After tour, we hunker down and finish the next album, and travel somewhere warm to let the demons out.
XS ROCK: So how long has the band been together?
Annamaria Pinna: I started writing the music for Vajra on my self-imposed exile in India some years ago. Vajra was meant to be a studio project. Once I had demo versions of the songs, I reached out to Blake Fleming (ex Mars Volta) to see if he was interested in drumming on it. I then reached out to Will Dahl (ex Harleys War) and Doug Wright (Dolly Parton’s band) . We all decided we would play a few gigs. The moment we had our first rehearsal, we all felt there was magick.
The first show was thrilling and terrifying (as most shows are for me). We played to a
sold out audience at The Bowery Electric on 11-10-11 (but stayed around for 11-11-11. Blake Fleming was on drums, Will on Guitar and Doug on Bass (the original lineup). Our current lineup is amazing: Jimmy DeMarco on Drums & Percussion, Dave Sussman on Guitar and John Heaney on Bass. We haven’t performed the Irkalla songs live yet because of Covid. It’s been so crazy, but I am blessed to be creating and performing with these super talented guys.
XS ROCK: What was your main motivation for originally starting or being in a
Annamaria Pinna: I was living in India, in my self-imposed exile. I was exploring who I thought I was and was questioning my assumptions about myself and the world around me. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to create. So I dabbled. I did a feature film while I was there, and taught dance classes while modeling. I started writing Pleroma, our debut album, while I was there, and I enjoyed the process and how and what it fed me spiritually, so I decided that I really needed to focus on that craft. As I mentioned, the project was meant to be a studio project, but that quickly changed when we all got in the same room together.
XS ROCK: What is your music background?
Annamaria Pinna: Music has always been a part of my life. There is no separation. All of my experiences in life inform my music. And my music informs my life. I studied music theory at Juilliard, played violin from age 6-8 and flute from age 8 through high school. I taught myself some piano, guitar and bass and took some drum lessons. Also, I started dancing at age 3, so I was reacting to music from a very early age. I lived in India for 5 years, Italy, New Orleans, NYC and San Francisco, and all of that geography is imbued in the sound.
XS ROCK: What image do you think your music conveys?
Annamaria Pinna: That’s difficult to answer. The music conveys different things to each listener based on her or his experience.
XS ROCK: What are your current music career goals?
Annamaria Pinna: To travel the globe creating and playing our music to massive sold out audiences around the world, happy, healthy and enjoying every minute of our lives.
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a
Annamaria Pinna: I love all of those aspects. Each one gives me different joys and obstacles that help me to become a more enriched and enlightened being.
XS ROCK: What are your songs’ lyrics about?
Annamaria Pinna: The lyrics usually are about whatever is vexing or inspiring me at the time. I have no
limitations. I just try to get out of my own way to discover and articulate what to say in an entertaining and colorful manner.
XS ROCK: What is the single most important thing to you as a musician?
Annamaria Pinna: To let the creative forces flow through me, and to get out of my own way so that that
energy can be perceived by others.
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories from the road?
Annamaria Pinna: Oh yes. We were on tour in 2017, and one of the dates was in Las Vegas about a week after the shootings. We were playing the Beauty Bar, which has this really cool outdoor space. During soundcheck, I greeted the four directions and looked to the sky. I felt sorrow, confusion, and something unsettling, but given what had just happened, it all made sense. Dave went out to see his cousin who lives there, and the rest of us ate and prepped for the show. Finally, the show started, and we opened each show of that tour with this conjuring music. I started with the flute playing a chromatic descending scale. On cue, this woman sauntered up onto the stage and seemed like she was looking for something. I noticed her out of the corner of my eye and though-how rude that someone from one of the opening bands was up on the stage – maybe she forgot her phone or something, but still. Then, she lingered behind Dave, and as I started chanting a prayer of sorts, she lunged at me and grabbed my throat with one of her hands. I thought, hmm how odd, but she’s probably drunk or high or something, and I got this, so I kept singing.
Then, in an instant, she lunged at me with her second hand with my throat as the target.
That’s when I went into NYC self-defense mode , threw her off of me and pushed her
away all while I was singing. At that moment, about three large bouncers jumped on the stage and got her off. She was thrown outside in apparently some weird hysteria,
bleeding on the sidewalk, and was subsequently arrested. All of this was captured on video. When I look at it, I just think to myself, thankfully, she didn’t have a knife or a gun.
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your
Annamaria Pinna: To ship a coffin to Ohio.
XS ROCK: Are your friends and family supportive of your choice to play in a rock
Annamaria Pinna: Now, more so, but not initially. My parents are educators, and our family comes from
Italy. It was important for them to see that I was educated and had a stable job. Music is obviously not that.
XS ROCK: What advice do you have for new bands trying to get started?
Annamaria Pinna: Focus on the art, your creativity, and the divinity that flows through you when you write and perform.
XS ROCK: What are your favorite tracks to play live?
Annamaria Pinna: All of them.
XS ROCK: Which band or artist inspired you to perform? Why?
Annamaria Pinna: So many from Tool to Madonna to Prince to Duran Duran to Deftones to Lingua Ignotta.
XS ROCK: If you could design a dream tour for your band, who would be on the
Annamaria Pinna: Tool, Evanescence, Deftones, Zakir Hussein, Alice In Chains, Pink Floyd. OMG, I can’t stop adding bands….
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
Annamaria Pinna: Writing the music we have written and performing in the US, Canada and Europe on some pretty amazing stages has been pretty cool. “Crown or Crucify” reached Top 40 on the Mediabase chart, and receiving some cool write-ups in Rolling Stone Magazine, Revolver, Metal Injection, Huffington Post, AXS etc.
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think
you would have?
Annamaria Pinna: I think I’d like to study cuneiform and join Dr. Irving Finkel in translating the Sumerian
tablets at the British Museum or work outside in nature at a state park.
XS ROCK: What type of equipment do you use for live shows?
Annamaria Pinna: We are pretty traditional in that we use the Les Paul / Marshall combination inspired by Danzig and The Cult. For bass, John uses Dark Glass equipment, which gives such a luscious sound. I use a wireless Sennheiser Mic, which gives a cool EQ and versatility to my performance. We run our show through an X32.
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current music scene?
Annamaria Pinna: It’s a shit show.
XS ROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to
know about you?
Annamaria Pinna: I hold a Juris Doctorate.
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out
Annamaria Pinna: Come journey with us sometime.
XS ROCK: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us at XS ROCK!
Annamaria Pinna: Thank you for your time, and to the reader for her or his time.