Photography by Kayte Demont
I first heard of Vanessa Barnes through Gavin of Walker & Royce. He and I had been friends through the music scene for a couple of years at that point and when Walker & Royce came to Denver to play last summer, VNSSA was opening for them. Gavin had introduced us on a personal level before the show started but once she began her set, it was clear that I had to learn more. Because I’ve been to so many shows over the years, it takes a little more to get me jazzed these days. I’m not joking when I say it was as if she was reading my mind and playing me every song I loved. Immediately, I knew she was someone to keep an eye on. Fast forward to several months later and VNSSA was back in Denver, this time with her own headlining show at Club Vinyl!
The morning following her show, Vanessa and I met up in RiNo to take photos and chat about life as well as her goals with music. She has been passionate about music for as long as she can remember. “When I was younger, I played the drums in a band.” Vanessa explained to me as we navigated the trash cans and street art, deep in the alleyways of Denver’s most central arts district, “those skills and all of that training definitely translate into my music now and how I create sounds.” She’s got the swag that goes along with her music style too. Her style is casual but packs a punch. You know those people who just have a look? You don’t necessarily know exactly what it is about them, but they’ve got it? That’s Vanessa. What I loved most though? Her laid back attitude and genuine energy. It’s a choice to be a good person and shooting with her proved that she’s the real deal.
It’s no surprise that people are starting to jump on the VNSSA train. Acclaimed labels such as Dirtybird Records, Dim Mak, Country Club Disco, and Insomniac have all featured her beats and that momentum isn’t stopping anytime soon. She’s only going to continue to get bigger so I took this opportunity to ask her some questions about her journey – make sure to bookmark this one to read again in a year and see how far she’s come!
In her own words:
If you could play in any country, where would it be and why?
That’s a tough question. I want to play in every country. I think I’m really looking forward to playing in Australia because from all the videos I’ve seen, it looks like it pops off over there.
Favorite shoes to DJ in
Adidas. Really into the neon Continental 80’s right now, so I’ll usually be in those.
What was your come up as a DJ like?
I started djing in Orange County about 6 years ago taking basically any gig I could get. A lot of times I wouldn’t get paid and sometimes I’d make $60. The better I got the bigger gigs I started getting. I had a lot of friends giving me tips and teaching me things here and there and that was a big help.
Did you start your music career in the electronic scene or did you grow up playing an instrument?
I grew up playing a bunch of different instruments. Cello, piano, clarinet, ukulele, guitar and drums. I started playing in bands and eventually decided I wanted to be the entire band and started djing.
Do Lab stage at Coachella – that’s huge. How did that feel and how did it compare to other festivals?
To me it was such a huge milestone. I’ve been going to Coachella for so long now, and always hit the DoLab stage, so getting to play was an unbelievable experience.
What’s your go-to genre for driving long distances?
To be honest a lot of times it’s podcasts. But if not I listen to a lot of post punk, disco, 2000’s indie rock, and of course house.
How did it feel when WORD blew up? Were you expecting it to pop off that much? How has the recognition affected how you view yourself as an artist?
I definitely was not expecting it to be so popular. The first time I played it was during my set at Dirtybird Campout 2018 and it didn’t get a crazy reaction or anything, but the more it got played, whether it was me, Walker & Royce, Justin Martin, Chris Lake, it started gathering a ton of buzz. By the time it dropped it was in high demand.
Want to catch VNSSA live? You’re in luck! Here are some of her upcoming shows:
Don’t forget to grab her new track with Astronomar!
Astronomar and VNSSA – “This My Shit” coming out on Country Club Disco Aug 9th
I’ll leave you with my favorite VNSSA mix