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Varsity making waves with upcoming release

Rock-popband Varsity is gearing up for the realease of their upcoming album

Rock-popband Varsity is gearing up for the realease of their upcoming album "Parallel Person" as well as a live show at Empty Bottle of Friday, April 20. (Photo courtesy of Kristina Pedersen)

Rock-popband Varsity is gearing up for the realease of their upcoming album "Parallel Person" as well as a live show at Empty Bottle of Friday, April 20. (Photo courtesy of Kristina Pedersen)

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Rock pop four-piece band Varsity is headlining Empty Bottle Friday, April 20. With roots in Chicago’s DIY scene even as they move increasingly to more professional venues, Varsity has performed with breakthrough artists including Car Seat Headrest, Vundabar, Twin Peaks and Diet Cig. Incorporating visual artwork with their music stylings, the indie band has gained a steady following, leading to tour runs in the Midwest, East Coast and most recently SXSW.

While they broke through in Chicago’s garage rock scene, Varsity’s alt-pop paves a different road for them – attracting listeners of all ages and allowing them to fit on almost all music lineups. Comprised of close friends Stef Smith (vocals, synth), Jake Stolz (drums), Paul Stolz (bass), Pat Stanton (guitar) and Dylan Weschler (guitar) – The DePaulia sat down with the indie-rock band to learn how they came to be.

Varsity formed in 2013 when Smith, Weschler and Stanton decided to get serious about the band’s potential. After a few changes, the lineup was solidified in 2015 with its current members.

“We’re all connected by growing up in Oak Park, going to college together, or by being sent to each other by the universe,” Smith said.

While the band’s name was chosen for the sole reason of releasing a track, they always look forward to fan interpretations of the name.

When asked about the composition process behind their upcoming release “Parallel Person,” Varsity detailed that they wrote over the album over the course of a year, both during both jam sessions and individually. The songs came together during practice sessions live performances, so they could gauge the crowd’s reaction. In March 2017, Varsity headed to a studio in Chicago called Minbal to record and mixed for 8-10 days at Decade. The luxury of being able to devote so much time to recording and mixing at once was a miracle for them. Before that time, the band recorded over multiple weekends or only had time to work on 1-2 songs at a time.

Diving deeper into the composition process, the band writes songs in a variety of ways. For “Parallel Person,” many concepts derived from Weschler and were brought to the group, changed and refined. Some songs, like the single “Must Be Nice,” were created from jam sessions. One track off the album, “Discipline,” was written by Smith.

“Even though the kernel of a song comes from different places, everyone crafts their own part with input from all members – song structure and arrangements are very collaborative,” said Smith.

The last piece of the puzzle are the lyrics, written by vocalist and synth player Smith. Although she relies on the other members for a second opinion, Smith ultimately imbues her lyrics with meanings both personal and imaginative.

“I spend a lot of time thinking about what I say and how I want to say it. I think I have a pretty distinct point of view and narrative style,” she said. “For this album, I focused on my own personal stories, emotions and events as a starting point. Then, I let imagination lead the song in different directions, which often ended up further away from my own experiences.”

When asked if they want certain emotions to resonate with the audience, Smith explained that she encourages the audience to “feel whatever emotions and images come up for them while they’re listening.” With no intention of dictating how songs are interpreted, she further emphasizes that “the magic of connecting with an audience is that each person can relate and connect in their own way.”

Being faced with the question of what genre they would consider themselves to fall under, they jokingly stated “napkin rock.”

Varsity’s influences include a number of indie rock/pop guitar bands from the early-mid 2000s. From Spoon, Belle & Sebastian, Land of Talk, Rilo Kiley, Wilco, Women, Deerhunter, The Strokes and even the Eagles – the band agreed that it was at their “most susceptible age music-wise.”

Looking back at the experience of growing as a band in Chicago, Varsity said, “It’s great because it’s a major American city and there are so many opportunities to play and so many people who are doing the same thing. It’s very easy to find your favorite band just by playing shows, and you can even be friends with your favorite band.”

Looking to the future, the band says they want to play shows on the West Coast.

“We’ve never played a show farther west than Texas and we really want to make it happen,” they said.

Showcasing playfulness in each of their storytelling tracks, tying in outstanding artwork for albums and music videos, and infusing themes of love, identity, and empowerment across the board – Varsity is sure to keep turning heads with their music.

You can catch Varsity Friday, April 20 at Empty Bottle with dream pop band Divino Niño and surf pop locals Beach Bunny.

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Varsity making waves with upcoming release