PLAYLIST: Varsity’s Songs From People They Miss

With their third LP Fine Forever out today, the Chicago rockers share songs from the folks they’re eager to hug post-quarantine.

It’s gotta be tough to devote so much time to writing and recording a record, anticipating its release date, and then being socially isolated once it’s finally out in the world. Rather than continuing to build a relationship with these songs and the people who helped you write them as you travel the country, you’re confined to your home where all you can do is watch the world respond to it in real time over the internet.

Varsity are one among countless bands suffering through this today, with Fine Forever hitting streaming services and record stores’ virtual shelves today, mid-pandemic. While the seasonal sunshine pop-rock we’ve come to expect from the Chicago quintet is a welcome respite from layers of hardly comprehensible news updates, I can imagine the band has nothing else in mind beyond an Empty Bottle release show sometime in the indefinite future where they can embrace everyone in their community who made the release possible.

In fact, the band recognized a few such people in the playlist they compiled, where each band member shouts out a pair of artists they miss, “whether it’s because of quarantine, the band broke up, or they remind us of better times,” per their explanation. From defunct cult groups like Cymbals Eat Guitars and NE-HI to active peers Cafe Racer and Burr Oak, you can stream the whole playlist below.

Fine Forever is out today on Run for Cover Records. You can order it here.

Paul Stolz (bass):

SALES, “Big Sis”

We were lucky enough to open for SALES on a part of their spring tour last year, and it was by far our favorite tour we’ve ever done. The whole crew welcomed us in and their fans were so kind and receptive to us. After a couple of tough tours, this one reminded us how fun it can be when you’re with the right people.

Cafe Racer, “Faces”

The new Cafe Racer record is amazing all the way through, but this song in particular makes me miss our Chicago scene in a profound way. The people in this band are all great musicians and they have a very enthralling live show. They’re really indicative of the growth of the music scene here and I can’t wait for quarantine to be over so I can see shows again.

Pat Stanton (guitar):

NE-HI, “Turncoat”

When I first moved to the city and started to get involved in the local scene, NE-HI was the band to see. They put on an awesome show and it was always such a good time. It was also inspiring to me to see a small-ish local band rile up a crowd like nobody’s business. This is my favorite song off their first LP. 

American Wrestlers, “Kelly”

The first support tour we ever did as a band was supporting American Wrestlers who have since broken up. I really loved this song and was so excited when we got the offer to tour with them. Getting to hear them play it every night was such a joy. This tour was a highlight for us as we were just getting our first taste of going on bigger tours around the country.

Dylan Weschler (guitar):

Daphne Tunes, “Always Been Hugh”

Santiago from DT always lets us stay at his house whenever we’re in Austin. I miss him and Austin. This song rules. Paul also had it as the first dance at his wedding. Lots of love here.

Discus, “Prodigal Son”

I debated whether to put this one on here since we got two boys from Discus in Varsity, and it feels like nepotism. But I don’t give a fuck—this song is so good and I really miss these guys. I also wish I wrote the guitar part.

Jake Stolz (drums):

Chris Cohen, “No Time to Say Goodbye”

I’ve made a habit of seeing Chris Cohen live, like, three times a year, and this song now serves as a reminder of the abrupt halting of live music for the time being. We’re all fans of Chris Cohen and hold his songwriting ability in high regard. Can’t wait to see him again when this is all over.

Purple Mountains, “Margaritas at the Mall”

This song, like many others from David Berman, is such a gut punch. His lyrics cut incredibly deep and are a pretty relatable depiction of what it’s like for so many people living through these times. The juxtaposition between the music and the lyrics is really striking. I miss David Berman!

Stef Smith (vocals/keyboards):

Cymbals Eat Guitars, “Chambers”

Damn this song is haunting! This was a song that I listened to a bunch before learning it was about Joe D’Augustino’s dog growing old, which adds a tenfold heartbreaking element. It’s basically a little time capsule in a song about what his life was like at twenty-five, which also happened to be the age I was when they released it. I’m grateful we got the chance to play with them before they quietly broke up in 2017.  

Burr Oak, “Rosemary”

I really miss going to shows and seeing my friends’ bands play. Burr Oak is my friend Savanna’s project, her songs are amazing and she’s super entrancing to see live! Seeing other people create beautiful music is something that pushes me to keep writing and creating. We were just beginning to collaborate right before everything shut down, so I’m missing working together.


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