Posted On 17 Jul 2017
On June 23rd, the alt-pop group, Varsity Week released their debut EP, “If You Only Knew” via on Another Century Records (Century Label Group/Sony).
As proven by their single “Anyways,” and its accompanying music video, the Los Angeles based quartet brings pop vibes and pure happiness to your headphones. The single has hit #1 on the Top 5 of KROQ’s Locals Only show— a weekly program on The World Famous KROQ which features some of the best local music coming out of Los Angeles, while the video is featured at fitness centers like Planet Fitness and Gold’s Gym nationwide.
To get to where they are today, the guys dropped their lives in Washington. They quit their jobs and said goodbye to everything they knew to pursue a music career in Los Angeles. Their leap of faith has quickly paid off, and their debut EP is here to introduce the world to their irresistible pop sound. Produced by Jim Kaufman [Atlas Genius, Night Riots, Anti-Flag] and Kenny Carkeet [Night Riots, Anti-Flag], each of the five songs will make you fall in love with music all over again.
Connect With Varsity Week Online Here:
Learn more about Varsity Week in the following All Access interview:
What are some words you would use to describe 2017 so far? How differently did you all approach this year?
Dave Orton: Oh Jesus, dopesick, hot, grindage, Seven11, Shawshank. With the move from Seattle to LA, putting everything on the line, sacrificing things I didn’t know you could sacrifice, and pushing our band harder than before… I’ve had no expectations this year.
Brandon Eisenbeis: Challenging, fulfilling, exciting, unpredictable—I’ve been living in the moment, just going for shit and not caring about the results.
Can you recall the moment you all met and decided you could start a band together? Can you elaborate on how you are all different and how that helps the band dynamics? How did you come up with your name? What other names were you considering?
BE: We all grew up together and knew each other from local bands in the scene. We all played different styles through the years, from hardcore to pop. Everyone’s style meshes well together.
DO: Justin is easily the best bass player on the West Coast, he’s a punk rock kid at heart and that shines through his playing. The more down strokes the better, and always in perfect time. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also the most energetic on stage, and usually has the best hair. Troy is a drummer, in every sense. He doesn’t dabble with any other instruments, and he’s constantly improving. I’ve never seen someone spend so much time honing it in, talking about gear, tapping their feet relentlessly. I’m like, the one note gun. I never play six when one will work, and I’m always making my best effort to play to the song.
BE: That’s another thing that’s cool about Varsity, everyone is super low ego. No one’s crowding parts or trying to overpower anything else—that speaks volumes about a band, and it’s something we strive for. We were starting over so fresh, and we poured over band names for what felt like months. In an effort to keep it sounding youthful, we landed on Varsity Week.
DO: I really liked ‘Vacations’ and there were a few others floating around, but if you’re trying to name a new band—odds are, someone else has already branded it.
I am always curious to know about a band’s sound and really their dynamics has been influenced by the city they all live and write their music. How do you think being from Tacoma, Washington has affected this group?
BE: Tacoma gave us an edge, we grew up in the center of the grunge movement and at one time or another we were all in love that sound. A lot of that carried over into our professional careers.
DO: Then moving to LA, we spread that over the poppy feels that you get from just kinda being down here in the moment.
What was it like moving to Los Angeles and quitting your jobs back home in Washington? What was it that convinced you all you could pursue this music career?
BE: It was a challenge to completely let go of our normal lives and just fully go for it. But it’s been interesting to work so hard for something and finally see it coming together as a team. It was almost as simple as jumping into the van and just making it happen. We spent two months selling everything we owned and crammed everything down to just our gear and couple of suitcases.
DO: Brandon and I came down to LA for a co-write, it was supposed to be a week long venture but turned into a month—my job was cool with it. We weren’t expecting approval for the record, but Another Century gave us the green light. Went back to Tacoma for less than two weeks, I put in a request for another month off, and they we’re like, “Yeah bud, not happening.” I worked nine more days and I never went back.
BE: Yeah, when AC told us our demos were good enough to start recording—that’s when I knew it was go time.
Let’s talk about your debut EP, “If You Only Knew”, that you recently released via Another Century Records. Did anything surprise you about the whole process of putting together a collection of music? What was it like working with producers Jim Kaufman and Kenny Carkeet on it?
BE: We had never done pre-production for a recording before, hahaha. Working with Jim and Kenny was awesome, they did a great job of taking each member’s style and making it cohesive. [It] really helped us round out our sound. Jarvis Anderson also stepped in and helped us write a ton of music, hopefully some more to be released in the future—he’s like the sassy fifth member, with his little mustache. He always has great ideas, he’s fun to work with, and always goes the distance. We’ve ground out some hard hours with that guy.
DO: I think it’s safe to say this is the most professional thing we’ve been a part of. Jim’s studio is mad rad, he has all the dope vintage gear and wasn’t afraid to let us use it. Using real amplification was important to us, we wanted rock vibes but with heavy pop influence—and you can’t bleed all that out of a Kemper. Although Kenny forced us to use it on some stuff, he’s pretty smart though, so you probably can’t tell it’s a Kemper.
What was the inspiration for the songs on “If You Only Knew”? How did you all go about writing the songs on the EP? What are some stand-out tracks on this debut collection of yours? What are each of your favorite songs on it?
BE: We all had to go through a lot of individual losses during the writing process of ‘If You Only Knew’. “Anyways” and “Chasing Waves” touch on either end of some of those losses. I think our favorite song overall is “Against the Wall”, it’s fun to play live and has the most relatable lyrics.
DO: “$$$$” is dope. We didn’t think it was gonna make it to the EP, but I’m glad it did. It’s the perfect summer party jam. Mount up, pull up to the party in our pink Corvette, have some caviar, ya know—normal stuff.
What are your plans for this summer? Will you be playing out live at all? Can you describe what one of your live shows is like? What makes for an ideal performance for Varsity Week?
BE: We’re writing all the time and dipping in and out of studios. Last week we a great session with Nick Bailey and Colin Dieden at Starz Studios, today we were having out with Max Collins and Kenny Carkeet listening to their new songs for their new band Fitness. Ya know, just soaking it all up.
DO: We have summer shows lined up—trying to break into Northern Cali this summer, a one-off in Vegas, just things here and there. We played with Night Riots to a sold out show at Strummers in Fresno, I mean, it doesn’t get any more ideal than that. The staff there is hella nice, and the sound is killer. The kids were going crazy over nothing and we feed off that like mad, probably our favorite show to date.
Who are some of your favorite artists? Who would you all love to work with in the future? What would be a dream collaboration for this band?
BE: I like Haim, that would be a cool collaboration—they have really great hair, and it’d be awesome to write a song with both bands present.
DO: I’m heavy into Dreamers right now, Coin has dope stuff coming out. I’m big into the Canadian punk moment, PUP, Single Mothers, The Dirty Nil—all bands that everyone should be listening to.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
BE: We don’t have a message, music for us is a personal outlet for us to express a lot of emotions that go along with a lot of things we experience just like everyone does with their lives.
DO: We don’t think about it in those terms at all, there isn’t a clear message. We wrote the songs, we had the best time doing that and the overall goal is that others connect with that on some level.
What advice would you give to a band just getting started on this music path? Or even to someone young that is thinking of becoming a musician one day?
DO: Stick with it. When it’s good, it’s great—but when it’s bad, it’s a fucking disaster. You cut your teeth early on, the hard part is finding people that are like minded enough to ditch their decent paying jobs to slum below the poverty level for a few years. Make some sacrifices, then get ready to sacrifice things you didn’t even know you had—you’ll find out if this is what you really want.