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Your backstage pass to Northeast Ohio's independent music scene.

Anya Van Rose leans into Canton’s music community to release first full-length album

Canton musician Anya Van Rose poses on the ground surrounded by roses
Megann Galehouse and Magan McLaughlin
Singer and guitarist Anya Antonavich fronts the bubble grunge project Anya Van Rose, a four-piece that released its debut album in July.

Much like Bon Jovi, Blondie and Dio are named for a specific musician but encompass an entire band, Canton’s Anya Van Rose is more than just an individual or one sound.

Canton band Anya Van Rose performs on a porch in Akron
Brittany Nader
Ideastream Public Media
Anya Van Rose performs at Akron's PorchROKR outdoor music festival in August.

Vocalist and rhythm guitarist Anya Antonavich, bassist Austin Wolfe, drummer Austin Popovich and lead guitarist Devin Johnson joined together to play a style of music they call “bubble grunge,” which is part sweet pop vocals and melodies juxtaposed with fuzzy, grimy guitar.

As Anya Van Rose, the group released its debut album, “Lucky Stars,” in July. The 11-track release was recorded at Realgrey Records in Canton, where Antonavich got her start as an artist.

Antonavich began writing songs about her late father, also a musician, who gifted Antonavich her first guitar.

She observed her father playing music at home privately without an audience, and it wasn’t until Antonavich found a tight-knit songwriting community in Canton that she was able to find her voice.

“I think I sat on the sidelines for a long time wondering if I could ever write another song, you know? And I think what changed for me was that I was able to relinquish some of the control and get friends involved and just have an open mind and know whatever happens, it's happening,” she said.

Finding a music community in Canton

Antonavich began writing her own songs at age 18 in the practice rooms at Kent State University.

She formed an indie-rock band called Queen Bee and the Keepers, where she began developing her skills as a musician.

Antonavich released her debut EP, “Golden Age,” in 2020 after teaming up with friends Austin Wolfe and John King. This is when she began using the Anya Van Rose moniker to represent her work with a full band.

Wolfe went to high school with Antonavich and frequently uploaded his music to MySpace, which was inspired by his influences Conor Oberst and Bob Dylan.

Antonavich wrote the track “So Much 4 That” on “Lucky Stars” about one of the first times she saw Wolfe perform at their school’s Battle of the Bands before she decided to start pursuing music seriously.

Antonavich now works as the studio manager at Realgrey Records, which has been vital in helping her promote and brand herself as an artist, as well as to nurture her creative ideas.

“It's been really wonderful watching people come through and do the same thing that I've done, like live their dream and record their music," she said. "That's what it's all about."

Realgrey is a recording studio that has worked with regional artists like Indre, Cory Grinder and the Playboy Scouts and the Got It Got It Need It.

"It was really helpful for me to be surrounded by other artists and have that creative energy exchange."
Anya Antonavich

The studio also hosts Bring Your Song events where artists can sign up and perform pieces they are workshopping for an audience of fellow songwriters, producers and music fans.

Antonavich started participating in these events, which were previously held in friend Ron Flack’s living room.

“We were giving each other feedback and having conversations around the creative process,” she said. “It was really helpful for me to be surrounded by other artists and have that creative energy exchange.”

Antonavich said the music community involved in the songwriting workshop outgrew the living room and now hosts the event every month at the Auricle, a Canton music venue and bar.

Crossing new creative lines with ‘Lucky Stars’

The band’s debut full-length album was a process of experimentation, self-discovery and learning to have fun.

Antonavich said she had the “bones” of the album written, and working with producer Jake Trombetta helped her shape the songs and encourage the musicians to push themselves and explore new sounds.

“I remember finding myself with a glass pepper shaker in my hand from the kitchen and sliding it up and down the neck, just trying to get something that felt right. Not necessarily like an acrobatic guitar lead, but it ended up being the lead part for the song ‘Apology’ on the record,” Antonavich said. “A pepper shaker!”

The album is a collection of contrasting sounds, from shiny pop layered with darker, sludgier guitar riffs and sentimental lyrics.

“There's like the gritty, more grunge-bent songs. There's, you know, the dream-pop stuff. And then just like the bubblegum, like happy love songs,” she said.

The first single, “Lucky Stars,” started as a sad song that reflected the time when Antonavich was grieving her father. She decided to experiment with the song and tweak it, and the result was something more uplifting.

She said the new album was "the line she wanted to cross," which is a question she asks the artists she works with at Realgrey.

“People crossing lines… that's what we talk about all the time,” she said. "What is a line that you haven't crossed yet that you dream about crossing, that maybe you're scared to cross?’ And that's what we keep in mind with people that come through. You know, we want to help you get there and just take that one next step.”

Anya Van Rose debuted “Lucky Stars” at an album release show at the Auricle last month, complete with backup dancers and bands Glenn Lazear and the Experiment on the bill.

Anya Van Rose as been gaining momentum, having also performed songs from the new record at Akron’s PorchROKR festival and Kenmore First Friday.

“I want to keep the creative vision alive," she said. "It keeps something alive in me doing this."

Expertise: Audio storytelling, journalism and production
Brittany Nader is the producer of "Shuffle" on Ideastream Public Media. She joins "All Things Considered" host Amanda Rabinowitz on Thursdays to chat about Northeast Ohio’s vibrant music scene.