Vanessa Wheeler is the mastermind behind the guitar-centric genre-bending project. VAVÁ. Growing up in a Brazilian-American family, she gravitated toward Brazilian artists such as Egberto Gismonti, Yamundú Costa, Marissa Monte, who have continued to have an impact on her sound and technique (though she cites her guitarist/pianist mother as her biggest influence!). After learning classical guitar, Wheeler studied composition in college, where she became interested in avant-garde and contemporary styles, and eventually made the switch from acoustic to electric guitar only.
“Heavy,” comes from VAVÁ’s upcoming EP, “The Other Side” which blends Wheeler’s penchant for prog and pop, and nods to Brazilian music, soul, rock, and more. “I love pop music and good bare bones songwriting, but I’m also a music nerd and I have a restless nature,” she says. “I want to make music that makes you feel something, of course, but I also want it to make you wonder a bit about what’s going on without forcing you to think about it—unless of course you want to.”
While the EP pulls from Wheeler’s different musical interests “Heavy” draws from different phases of her life, juxtaposing lyrics and melodies she wrote at age 12, during her freshman year of college, and earlier this year. She describes her pre-teen self as “very melancholic, passionate, and hungry for the future,” while by 20 she became interested in the idea that one person can have two extremely disparate facets of their personality. “I became a bit obsessed with the idea of how the rational mind and the artistic mind can co-exist; I called them the Scientist and Artist. The second verse is about how to manipulate them to get through my creative blocks. It’s a bit of an extreme metaphor, because by college I had lived a lot of life in the relatively short span from 12 to 20,” she says.
The bridge of the song was written by present-day Vanessa, reflecting on all the changes in her life over time. “I look back at that 12 year old and I’m really proud of her ability to access that imagery; it’s also weirdly heartening to know that although those lyrics are initially pessimistic, they come around to mark the refrain of the song: “so, it’s better not to know how to tell the time, just don’t you waste it.”
While many people reminisce about the past, or may even unearth an old diary or notebook to get a closer look into their mind and different times, few people have the chance to bring their adolescent musical visions to fruition as an adult. When asked what her 12 and 20-year-old selves might think about “Heavy,” Wheeler said, “I think my former selves would love that I’m still pursuing music, but of course I’m sure they’d wonder what happened to keep me from total musical, world domination. We’d have a good chat about it, and I’d tell them that I’m still working on it.”
Listen to “Heavy” now, and get the full scoop on Wheeler’s upcoming EP here.