Benjamin Muñoz Varas is the self-taught producer, singer and songwriter that goes under the moniker Varas. The Swedish-Chilean rising star initially paved his own musical space through making hip-hop beats in Gothenburg, yet the evolution of his natural gifts as a producer led to his trademark almost-pop sound that doesn’t shy away from the influences of classic 70s rock, punk, hip-hop, jazz and soul. His songs jumble together emotions, with ‘New Light’ being an honest alt-pop slow-burner detailing the frustrations of timings in life being less than ideal and in turn forcing you to see yourself in a new light. Accordingly, we got the man himself to shed some of his own upon the single’s creation.
‘New Light’ marks your first release since you unveiled your ‘Set One’ EP back in 2020. What was life holding in store over the hiatus and how does it feel to be putting out music again?
I think the pandemic affected my music making more than I initially thought it would. Staying inside and not meeting people wasn’t the vacuum I needed to be able to create. For the most part I used to view “regular life” as a distraction and something that was in my way. But after these past two years I’ve completely lost that perception. I need crowds, eye-contact, weird smells and annoying kids on the bus to get the urge to isolate myself in the studio. Otherwise I’ll just indifferently go through my day and barely feel like I’m part of something that actually exists. To answer your actual questions:
Life was handing me a crisis
I feel alive again!
The single manifests as an ode to falling in love at the wrong time, yet it seems as though the lyrics deal with losing a sense of direction that you thought you were on for the long haul. What inspired the track itself?
”New Light” got created out of surprise and by getting to know new sides of myself. It was equally scary and relieving when I realized I’d always replace me with another me. I was convinced the person I identified as was a constant thing, a solid rock. I change each year and each day. It doesn’t matter if I’ve convinced myself into a certain direction, all it takes is romances, friendships, losing and getting jobs, letting go of dreams or creating new ones to lose the sense of it. It’s dumb. But don’t get me wrong, it’s a positive and vital ability. Although when I think about it, scratch what I said. It could also just be a song about falling in love in the wrong time. Ask me again tomorrow!
In the accompanying music video, you sing earnestly in front of a brightly lit orb with frames seeing you both front and center and off screen as the camera catches your silhouette in the background. It’s simplistic yet awe-inspiring at the same time. What led to the idea behind the visual?
I have to give credit to Josef Ingmår and Jonathan Swartling from Stommer Studios who came up with the idea. I admire all their work. We agreed on making something simple, a one take. Both the musical production and the visuals were supposed to make it simple for the viewer to focus their attention to the lyrics. The idea was straightforward, but a one take meant more pressure on me as a performer as well. I’m by no means a dancer, so I had to plan my movements in the best way I could. We made several takes and then went with the one we liked most overall. It was challenging in the best way possible.
Can we expect more of the same thematic fabric from your upcoming EP next year?
Lyrically speaking, yes. Soundwise, both yes and no. I like to be uncomfortable in the studio, as long as it feels like me and my personality. Therefore the soundscapes may vary a lot. I want to let my personality come through, and I’d be surprised if anyone’s personality is one-sided. I contradict myself all the time, so my music will do the same.
You really do have a mastery of dream-pop. How did you find yourself within the genre in the first place, and where did your musical journey begin?
That’s quite a compliment, I sincerely appreciate it.
I just think it’s what’s left when I filter down every artist and genre I’ve been inspired by. Regardless if it’s a ballad or a punk song. But to conclude the journey I’d like to think 70s rock and pop from the 2010s have made their biggest influence on me.
Having both Swedish and Chilean roots has obviously given you exposure to a multitude of sounds and cultural lenses. To what extent do you credit your upbringing for how your style and artistic approach has evolved over the years?
It’s not something that crosses my mind when I create. But if I allow myself to speak stereotypically I could say that I’ve gotten the urge to be playful in my music from cumbia and reggaeton, and my strict beliefs in creating tight arrangements and catchy choruses from swedish pop music. I find it thrilling to listen to songs that are dancing on a tightrope which is stretched between the inside and outside of the box. I guess that’s what brings me joy.
The EP is set to come in 2023. What’s in store leading up to its release and what can we expect in the future?
Another single is coming early next year. Followed up with a lot of live shows, both before and after the release of my EP. To play live music is almost its own art form and separate from producing music, so I’m excited to explore that part of the field as well. I’m also excited about finding new people to collaborate with, musically. To get out of my own head and see what can come out of it.