Joey Varela | Javy Dorrejo | Chris Cody | Paul Gregory
Sure, it’s easy to believe everything has been done before. VRSTY (Var-Si-Ty) prove it hasn’t. The New York City quartet—Joey Varela [vocals], Javy Dorrejo [bass], Chris Cody [drums], and Paul Gregory [guitar]—layer R&B vocal styles over heavy metallic grooves and chugging riffage. If Justin Timberlake fronted Killswitch Engage, the result might sound something like this! After posting up over 2 million streams, the group has crafted a unique and unexpected hybrid on their 2020 debut EP for Spinefarm Records, Cloud City.
“When people ask me what we sound like, I say, ‘We’re whatever you want us to be’,” states Joey. “I can’t put a genre on us, because I’m a pop and R&B singer who loves metal. There are pop tracks, metal tracks, and R&B tracks. It’s super different heavy music with pop-inspired vocals. The genre has enough bands who sound similar. If you spend time trying to do what’s popular, you fall into a mode. That’s not something we’re interested in. The music has to be fun for us and the people listening to it.”
It’s certainly been just that since VRSTY first emerged with the Lights EP in 2015. Between steady touring, they popped off with 2019’s Blck and Blck Deluxe, igniting fan favorites such as “YOU & I” (412K Spotify streams), “Colorblind” (311K Spotify streams), “Nola” (278K Spotify streams), and more. Signing to Spinefarm in 2020, they recorded what would become the Cloud City EP with producer Andrew Baylis [Bad Omens, Sylar]. It marked the first time the musicians worked with a producer and represented a creative evolution.
“It was honestly the best decision we’ve ever made,” says Joey. “Andrew understood what we wanted, and it didn’t feel forced. We shared the same vision for what the songs should be. Normally, I write and record everything at home. This time, we sat down with someone who could help us better understand the structure. I never want to self-produce again,” he laughs.
Pushing and pulling between heavy and hypnotic, the first single “Shameless” details the thin line between giving into temptations and staying resolute. However, it turns into a “Back on My Bullshit Anthem,” as Joey puts it.
“I tried to write it from the perspective of a guy who’s falling in love with this girl,” he explains. “He’d do anything for her, but she doesn’t have the best intentions. It’s two people who aren’t good for each other trying to be in a relationship.”
Elsewhere, “Massive” directs a pliable bass line, thrash-y guitar gallop, and a pummeling stomp against “people in the industry who are busy trying to keep you down, so they can get ahead of you.” He sarcastically croons, “Put this on repeat, because I know you love it too.”
On the other end of the spectrum, airy electronics float through “Cloud City (Remix)” [feat. Gina Fritz]. Joey locks into a delicate duet with Gina as lyrical confessions pierce the ethereal keys.
“It’s about a relationship where all of the signs were wrong, but I didn’t listen because I thought I knew better,” he reveals. “It ended up backfiring super hard. It was cool to have Gina provide the female viewpoint, mirroring my story.”
In the end, VRSTY break all of the rules and ultimately break ground.
“I just want VRSTY to be something that helps not only me and my bandmates, but other people out there,” he leaves off. “The goal always is to do something different. We sound like us and nobody else.”