By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Sometimes, you just have to do it yourself.
Whether it’s self-production of their songs or self-booking their tours, the road to musical relevancy has been a short, but fruitful one for the quartet of Nick Rovello, Luca Canalungo, Andres Hernandez and Austin Burdi, lifelong best friends whom all came from respective backgrounds of alternative, indie and psychedelic rock.
2021 may almost be over, but this Tampa, Fla. act – collectively known as Rohna – sought to make a splash as much as possible, with the notable music video release of “Renew” – and have been back on their grind playing shows like it’s running out of style.
The Music Bugle had the chance to speak with the band about what they’ve been up to lately and more.
Music Bugle – How did you guys decide the band name?
Andres Hernandez – Back in 2018 when we were thinking of band names, we wanted something that didn’t have a specific meaning, so that our music could hold all the meaning behind the name. We stumbled across “rona” one day in the group chat as a joke name, but later decided to add the “h” to make it stand out more and have it be unique to our band.
Nick Rovello – We always wanted something that stood out and felt like a universal word, where it had multiple meanings and we could then make our own out of it. Other than “rona” ironically becoming slang for Covid, there isn’t much out there to specifically define it. I did eventually find out that it’s a Celtic name for a free-spirited and creative woman. To me, that can feel pretty fitting at times, considering that this band feels like another living being that we’re constantly nurturing and working at to help reach its full potential. Regardless, I find it fun to have it be something so open-ended. It keeps it up for interpretation and allows it to not be taken so seriously.
Luca Canalungo – There were a number of band names that we were considering in the beginning. Most of them were not very good. We were practicing the night before we left for Savannah, Georgia to record our first album and still hadn’t agreed on a name. This is the one we all thought worked the best and we agreed on it then.
Austin Burdi – Coming up with a band name is immensely difficult when you have no idea what it should be. You go back-and-forth with each other, saying the dumbest names until something clicks. For us, we randomly decided it should be called “Rohna” after “rona” was said in the group chat as a joke band name. Well, it stuck with us and we put an “H” in the name. However, the name Rohna has multiple meanings and not one specifically. It can mean many things, all while meaning nothing.
Music Bugle – What was your goal for your single “Renew”?
Andres Hernandez – The goal for “Renew” was to take a song that we had on the back burner for some time and give it a new life. We re-wrote some of the parts, completely re-recorded and mixed everything ourselves and transformed it into a fresh release. It served as a standalone single while we finished up recording our newest material.
Nick Rovello – As a band, we all wanted to push ourselves as recording artists and see what we could create with our own devices. It also served as one of many ways to work through the lockdown and brought some feeling of normalcy throughout it.
Luca Canalungo – We had planned on reworking this song at some point and it ended up being a good time to do that. It was a good way to see how far our production skills had come compared to other projects that we had done ourselves in recent years.
Austin Burdi – Our goal, simply, was to have it slap in the car.
Music Bugle – Did the “Renew” music video come out the way you wanted?
Andres Hernandez – It definitely did. We didn’t want a deep plot or narrative for the video. We just wanted it to be very colorful and energetic. With the excellent camera and directing work from our friend, Cameron Nunez, he really made the video come to life with all of the effects and edits that he made.
Luca Canalungo – Yes! The whole production process was enjoyable. I think that we were all on the same page about how things should look and Cameron’s editing/post-production capabilities brought everything together in a really cool way.
Nick Rovello – Oh, for sure! I was happy to keep things more minimalistic and just focus on creating an atmosphere for the song.
Austin Burdi – Cameron Nunez has a great ability of being able to see where the direction of a music video needs to go based on the song. His vision and ours were similar to what needed to be done for “Renew.” Overall, he did a great job with editing the music video and it turned out great.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Andres Hernandez – What excites me the most about our music is the fact that we just like to make a style of rock that blends all of our favorite influences. We are constantly switching it up from song to song, while still maintaining a general cohesiveness from different sub-genres of rock. It makes it really exciting for me, because we never really have to stick to one specific sound. We can constantly grow and try new things with our music.
Luca Canalungo – The energy we’ve been able to create in a live setting has been the most exciting thing to me. I feel like there’s something for everyone in the happy jumble of sounds that we make and it brings the room together in a unique way. We love having chill parts in our sets where we can be intimate and talk with everyone, but we also love going to 10 out of nowhere and surprising people.
Austin Burdi – It’s awesome being able to mix all of our individual styles and roots into one sound. It creates a unique soundscape that is always evolving into something different. We experiment with all types of sub-genres within rock, neo-soul and maybe a breakdown or two. Trying new things out is always fun to keep the momentum going for all of us. As we go on, we will continue to refine our sound in a way that is more cohesive, while still being experimental. That’s what we’re all about.
Nick Rovello – I love the fact that we can take our sound in any direction. We don’t really have to feel dedicated to play a certain style. It keeps things simple and lets us just appreciate music to the fullest.
Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?
Andres Hernandez – I think overall, it helps more than it hurts. It is a super useful tool that allows independent musicians to directly engage with and grow their own fanbases in a way that has never really been seen before. With the growth that some artists have seen on TikTok and other platforms, it really gives independent musicians more leverage over record labels and other entities in the music industry. The only negative side to social media for musicians is the fact that it can certainly put a lot of pressure on people to grow at a certain pace or compare themselves to other musician’s journeys.
Luca Canalungo – It’s definitely the best thing to happen for artists/bands looking to get to know and build their fan base. For any serious musician right now, it’s both inspiring and challenging to see the most talented players in your feed all day long. It can make you feel like you suck, even if you’re pretty darn good, but if you can maintain a balance of inspiration and healthy comparison, then it’s a great tool for learning from others.
Nick Rovello – There’s definitely an importance with it these days, but I feel like it’s gotta be kept simple, so you can just genuinely connect with people. Social cues and nuance easily gets lost over the internet, so the more straightforward forward and down-to-earth you can keep your platform, the better. I only ever find it harmful when artists make it the most important thing and music secondary. I find myself happier taking long breaks from it and just dropping in here and there. Thankfully, Andres is pretty good at keeping up with it, so I’m sure that helps!
Austin Burdi – There’s definitely pros and cons to social media in general, but overall, it helps bands out immensely. We’re in a new era that anyone with a phone can market themselves or a group online. This allows artists to be creative in new ways that hopefully grab people’s attention. It’s a new playing field that has been evolving for some time now, but it’s a lot different than it was even just 10 years ago.
Music Bugle – What is the biggest challenge in being a four-piece band?
Andres Hernandez – I would say the biggest challenge in being a four-piece band is performing vocal parts live while playing our instruments at the same time. With practice, it is something that we have gotten good at, but it was certainly a challenge at first. The other challenge is the fact that we often record more parts in the studio than what four people would be able to perform on their own in a live setting, so we sometimes use backing tracks to supplement certain parts that would otherwise need extra band members to perform.
Nick Rovello – Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s actually a problem, but I’d say settling on what new ideas need to be developed on when we’re going through the writing process. That’s where having a fifth ear for the band comes in and thankfully, we had our friend Austin Coupe producing the new material we’re writing. The open collaboration can be crazy and leave things really up in the air sometimes, but we always find a way to piece things together into something we all love.
Austin Burdi – Learning how to work with everyone in a way that is productive, but not taking the fun out of it. At the end of the day, we’re here to make music that we enjoy and have fun with it, all while putting it out there for people to potentially listen and enjoy. You got to learn how to make the best out of whatever you’re doing in life. Being in a band can be a learning experience, but in general, we all are friends and make it an enjoyable time.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Tampa, Florida to someone who has never been there before?
Andres Hernandez – I would say Tampa is a very diverse and growing city with a lot of opportunity. From downtown, to Ybor, to St. Pete, there are so many places to go and a lot of different things to keep people entertained. The music scene is also very diverse and supportive. With a bunch of bands and artists from different genres, there are different music scenes that often overlap. Only downside is our shortage of venues, but as places have opened up again, we will see more places for bands to play at.
Luca Canalungo – It is a cesspool in the most positive way possible.
Austin Burdi – It’s hot over here and humidity can get to you sometimes, but overall, it’s a pretty nice place to live. You got a lot of culture in Tampa and it’s awesome to see. There are a lot of activities happening and places to visit around Tampa. Riverwalk is a great place to chill and explore, especially at night, when everything is lit up.
Nick Rovello – To keep it simple, Tampa is a mixed bag. There’s a lot of different people and culture, which definitely has to do with the fact that the “Tampa Bay Area” is made up of four huge counties. So many people come to the various small downtown areas it’s home to and I think that tends to make it a unique place, because you can constantly meet new faces. My only complaint is how far apart everything can be!
Music Bugle – Of the shows you’ve played, which ones stand out the most?
Andres Hernandez – The most memorable one for me was our album release/hometown show for the tour that we did in January of 2020. We spent a lot of time booking the whole tour ourselves and we made the tour end in Tampa, so it was just really rewarding to be able to come home and celebrate with all our friends and families. On top of that, the show was really special because we got to play the album in full, our friends’ bands all played as well and the show was at Crowbar – our favorite venue in Tampa.
Luca Canalungo – The release show at Crowbar was definitely the most fulfilling. I also really enjoyed our show at the Orpheum with Last Dinosaurs and Born Ruffians.
Nick Rovello – I freaking loved Miami! It was the first show on our tour and also the day we released our album. We played at Space Mountain, which sadly isn’t around anymore, but the show there had a classic “DIY” feel to it. I really appreciate those intimate spaces and being so close to the audience and other bands playing the show.
Austin Burdi – Funny enough, the one show that stuck out to me the most was playing Battle Of The Bands at Jannus live. It was awesome to be on that stage and hear that sound system. The atmosphere is great at Jannus and hopefully one day, we’ll be able to play a show there. Also, the Crowbar is an amazing venue in Tampa that is very fun to play.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break?
Andres Hernandez – Whenever I need a break from anything, I usually either like to spend time outdoors or I like to float in the sensory deprivation tanks at my work.
Luca Canalungo – I normally go to the drums, but if I need a break from those, definitely outside in the sun. I’m also a huge fan of a sauna.
Austin Burdi – Being outside in some shape or form is relaxing for me. Because I also produce, getting away from technology for a little bit and soaking in some sun is straight vibes. Unlike Luca, I’ve never been in a sauna. Maybe one day…
Nick Rovello – I’m constantly working, so just some time in my room with time away from the world helps. When I really want to make an effort to escape though, I go out to Colorado and snowboard for some time. There’s nothing like the adrenaline rush you get from doing it and it’s nice to go somewhere the complete opposite of Florida’s environment.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Andres Hernandez – As a band, the only major negative impact we faced from the pandemic was not being able to play shows, which was a very important aspect to us. As a positive alternative, with the lack of shows, we were able to focus on writing and record a ton of music that we now have ready for the shows that are happening. Personally, I have been very blessed for my family and myself to have remained healthy throughout the whole pandemic.
Austin Burdi – Not being able to play shows. However, we got to write and record a bunch.
Nick Rovello – Well, I can’t help but to laugh a little bit when telling people our band name now! On a serious note though, we adapted pretty well by enjoying music for what it is, whether it’s been writing, recording, or just free-jamming. It was a great coping mechanism during the most stressful time and that’s what will stand out to me most, beyond the mess of what 2020 turned out to be.
Luca Canalungo – Being stuck inside for a long time gets to me, but I was able to practice a lot, which is good!