Press Play: VARSITY

VARSITY is a five-piece pop rock outfit that first started out as a mutual agreement at a party in Chicago. Two years after forming, VARSITY introduced their debut self-titled album. The record was a collage of the group’s core elements: slick lyrics, spritely guitar riffs, and sweet melodies. Right out of the gate, the band had a sophisticated and refined sound. Track “Hairpool” envelopes you in memories of the past, invoking a feeling of nostalgia for a simpler time. Vocalist and lyricist Stephanie Smith concocts lyrical brews that stray away from wallowing in the abstract, opting instead to create narratives that feel true and universal.

The lyrics have you ever noticed your days are all the same? open VARSITY’s sophomore album Parallel Person. This line foreshadows the album’s exploration of isolation, artistic frustration, and human relationships. The album is full of contrasting elements, interplaying major and minor, sweet and sour. It is also an experimental moment for VARSITY with shifting tempos and time signatures. Smith counters each song’s sweet, melodic instrumentals with biting and critical lyrics that are hard to catch if you’re casually listening. On “Settle Down” Smith sings, hate my tools forsake my craft / everything I touch is trash.

Last month, the group released a compilation of their various singles and recordings from 2015 to 2016 called The Basement Takes. One of the unreleased recordings “Second Act” is an undeniably catchy tune with chiming guitars, warm vocals, and shimmering keys. Fan favorite “So Sad, So Sad” features expert delivery from Smith, she paces syllables in tandem with the beat, creating a head-bobbing rhythm.  The Basement Takes provide insight into VARSITY’s sonic evolution and also allows a perfect entry point into the band’s already accomplished discography. Each track showcases their dynamic jangle pop, synth-textured ballads, and everything in between.