Tune in as WMSE talks to Chicago’s Varsity, who just released their latest on Babe City Records. The band is adept at creating the kind of pop that made Camera Obscura and the Essex Green “pop”-ular back in their heyday and inspired like-minded bands like Alvvays. The band plays Cactus Club on Wednesday night with Tallies (from Toronto) and Northern Haunts.
“Must Be Nice,” the first single from Chicago band Varsity’s forthcoming album Parallel Person, has a title that comprises a double meaning. The title phrase is habitually “bandied around sarcastically,” says singer and keyboardist Stephanie Smith. But she says it can also be an ultimatum, as in: “I must be nice in order to be liked/noticed/not be considered a b****.”
The song itself is a catchy slice of indie-pop, the punchiness of which is undercut by Smith’s self-conscious lyrics: “I know I can’t cry in front of them / But if I could,” she trails off anxiously. Smith says the song was conceived of more as “a mood and the idea of repetition rather than a narrative or a complicated structure.” Propulsive bass and drums give the song an urgent feel, while intertwined keyboard and guitar riffs lend a surfy, eerie charm.
The video for “Must Be Nice,” by animator Shane Beam, reflects the song’s mood and cyclical nature. Beam “totally honed in on the repetition, psychedelic imagery and playful tone of this tune,” Smith says. “The resulting video highlighted themes and images that we hadn’t noticed before,” she says, “plus it made us laugh, which is always good in this economy!”