We caught up with the singer-keyboardist of Varsity, Steph Smith, as the band hit the road and began their trip to NYC. As they drove, we discussed the adventures of thrifting, Oh Snap! Peas, and fun nicknames.
RC: How long was the process of creating and releasing Parallel Person?
Steph Smith: We probably wrote songs for a year, and we were demoing them seriously and got serious about working them all out. We recorded for eight days and mixed for two weeks. This was our first time recording in a legit studio and really mixing in a different studio. It was probably a month of work, and we also did some overdub on the tracks. But we started recording the songs a year ago.
RC: Who or what are your influences?
Steph: Recently, we were labelled as psych-pop. We don’t really know where that’s coming from, and we don’t identify with a genre, and it feels nice that people have a trouble putting a label on our genre. We all do listen to classic rock, but in the car we listen to Weaves, Alex Cameron, Cate Le Bon or podcasts.
RC: How do you get your music out? Do you have a favorite method?
Steph: We’re still trying to figure that out, it’s been through YouTube, which was pretty surprising at first, and most international fans are listening on YouTube. The short answer is social media, but playing live is super beneficial.
We personally love so many bands and love playing at the venues at Chicago. We have a very beneficial and loving relationship with the Chicago music scene.
Varsity at Union Pool - photos by Paulette Arnold
Rare Candy: How long have you been on the road? What is it like to tour the East Coast?
Steph: This is probably our fourth or fifth east coast tour, but we’ve done smaller tours around the Midwest. All the cities are closer together, so it’s easier to get from big city to big city!
RC: What’s your dynamic on the road?
Steph: If it’s a long day on the road we all rest, and rotate who drives. We also play games! We either play “Bomber” which is a game where you name an actor, and then a movie, and then the other person names an actor and movie based on that. We made up a game called “Slogan” – you create a fake product, with one word with a sentence for a tagline, and then people guess what that product could be!
We also love listening to Dough Boys, and we just finished the episode about Olive Garden.
RC: What’re your thoughts on Olive Garden?
Steph: I’ve been there two times, with my family and my neighbors. The first time I went, I didn’t think the food was the best, but when I went with my neighbor, they thought it was so bad they cried.
I’d much rather go to Sbarro. Pat and I went to Indiana U, but we have different takes on Sbarro. I still like it, Pat hates it. So we had very different outcomes.
RC: What’s for lunch?
Steph: We don’t usually eat lunch on the road, instead we have breakfast and dinner, and snack on the road. We especially like Oh Snap! Peas.
RC: How do you choose what to bring on the road?
Steph: All the guys brought one pair of pants, and Pat brings two. I also like to thrift on the road, and we just went to an amazing thrift store in Cincinnati. We pack less and get more.
It’s fun to get stuff on the road, and then remember where you got it.
RC: What’s your favorite city to thrift in?
Steph: Chicago is pretty good, New York is great but more expensive, and Cincinnati was wholesale and really good, but nobody go there now! It’s our secret…
RC: How much do you explore the cities you tour in?
Steph: Normally we don’t get that much time if we stay for just one night, but for New York we had a few days, so we took the ferry from Williamsburg, and walked around Central Park the whole day. If we’re in college towns, we try to walk around the campuses and explore.
RC: How do you feel about horoscopes?
Steph: Well, I read horoscopes out loud. I love Susan Miller and Astrology Zone, and every month she’ll write out a full essay about what will happen. I got my tarot cards read once and the psychic told me that I’d be discovered by a man named Christopher in New York.
RC: And were you discovered by a man named Christopher in New York?
Steph: No, it hasn’t happened yet, but since I’m going to New York, maybe this time it will!
RC: Since you’re from Chicago, we have to ask: Do you prefer deep dish or New York style pizza?
Steph: The last time I ate deep dish was probably ten years ago, and it’s still very good. No one really is eating deep dish in Chicago, since you’ve gotta commit to eating it, and laying down for the rest of the night. Most of the pizza Chicagoans eat is thin crust. New York style pizza is very good, and we really like Joe’s Pizza.
We also recently watched Ugly Delicious, and now we really want to try Lucali’s in Brooklyn.
RC: Do you have any fun nicknames?
Steph: Dylan is Schler, the last half of last name, Paul is Wallet, since his Instagram handle is pwally, Jake is Jakey because he’s the youngest, Pat is Pat, and I’m Seth or Chef. I don’t know why I’m called Chef, my friend Drew started it, though it might have been me joking about making a blog called Steph Curry, playing on curry the food and Steph Curry the basketball player.
RC: How do you think you’ve been changing as a band?
Steph: We’re more ourselves on stage, and this new album shows that we’ve grown a lot with our mixing and our music.
Check out Varsity’s dope website: http://varsitytunes.com/
Stream Parallel Person here: https://varsity.bandcamp.com/