Stef Smith, Dylan Weschler, Pat Stanton, Jake Stolz and Paul Stolz collaborate to create Varsity, an indie rock and pop band from Chicago, Illinois. Varsity strides with its blend of instruments and vocals, reminiscent of artists such as Alvvays and Best Coast. The band pairs lively instrumentals with calming pacing and simplistic, relatable lyrics. Smith’s magnificently high vocals add a brightness to Weschler’s, Stolz’s, Stanton’s and Stolz’s classic rock instrumentals. Through the members’ artistic choices, Varsity beautifully balances pop and rock, catering to a variety of music lovers.
Varsity recently excited Washington D.C.’s Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House with its soothing yet energetic beats. Beginning with some of the band’s most popular songs such as “A Friend Named Paul” and “So Sad, So Sad,” Varsity appeased the crowd right off the bat.
“So Sad, So Sad” is from Varsity’s most recent album, The Basement Takes (2015-2016), just released in November of 2019. The song focuses on the utter vulnerability and weakness someone may display when feeling unhealthily attached to someone. It can even be interpreted as a musical representation of codependency. The lyrics are heart-wrenching, but the song’s chorus is inevitably catchy and its repetitiveness mimics the redundancy of the undeserved self-critical thoughts following the end of a relationship. The performance of this song was enhanced with added harmonies from the musicians, complementing Smith’s traditionally solo vocals.
The Basement Takes (2015 – 2016) marks a great step in stylistic change for Varsity, presenting a more pop-oriented collection with softer vocals and playful beats. Specifically, when compared to “Thanks for Nothing,” a harder-rock EP released in 2014, listeners can hear clear differences in the band’s newest addition. Stanton explains, “There was never really a discussion about changing styles. As we grew as a band our sound seemed to evolve naturally. So any stylistic change was just the consequence of playing a lot together and growing as musicians.” Resurfacing songs from 2015 and 2016, the band pays an ode to its own growth over the years.
Varsity’s natural penchant for stylistic change may be due to the band members’ many avenues of inspiration. Smith explains, “We all have different sources of inspiration whether it’s music, art, books, comedy and we come together and try to take five points of view and make a new thing.” The band’s progression and growth combine the individual music and media interests of each of the band members. This helps explain Varsity’s likability among a wide range of listeners.
At Songbyrd, Varsity played plenty of new music, again stepping in a slightly different direction from the rest of the band’s music thus far. Varsity’s new music sustained a particular sharpness that was reminiscent of the band’s earliest music. The songs were high-spirited and upbeat with emotional lyrics, keeping a tie to Varisty’s more recent albums. In this way, the new songs performed proved that, despite the changes Varsity’s music has undergone throughout the years, its music still maintains great flow and recognizability.
Varsity, a band of members who share a genuine kindness and lovable goofiness with every crowd they meet, clearly has a grand love for media of all kinds, and they produce music that reflects that. Varsity’s growth shows the musical strengths and adaptability of the band, displaying the extent of the members’ abilities and talents. The band is optimistic for the upcoming year, “We’re currently working on our third full-length album that should be out next year and we’ll make music videos and go on tour and then we’ll hunker down and probably write another album that sounds a little bit different than this one. Until then, endless content on Instagram and Twitter. 2020 is gonna be fun,” Weschler says.