Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Varsity” by Smith Westerns, from the 2013 album Soft Will on Mom + Pop.
Emerging out of Chicago when they were barely out of high school, Smith Westerns’ shifting take on melodic indie rock has taken the trio of Cullen Omori, Max Kakacek, and Cameron Omori from basements to headlining the Chicago clubs they couldn’t even drink in when starting out. Although their self-titled debut was heavily indebted to Nuggets-style garage rock and lo-fi, the group’s sophomore effort embraced (relatively) clearer production and more melodic influences, tempering the band’s youthful ambition with the sound of their timeless Britpop and power-pop influences. The band’s third album, the forthcoming Soft Will, finds the band reflecting on the experience and wisdom (or, perhaps, lack thereof) that comes with being in a band while the rest of your friends enter the “professional” worlds. Clocking in at just over four minutes (which means it’s the band’s fourth longest song to date), “Varsity” shows off the band’s more mature approach without sacrificing any of their youthful energy. With sharp synths accompanying their melodic guitar lines, Omari goes off on a (maybe) self-referential journey, delivering lines like “I thought I was a loner until I went out on my own” with a certain curiosity and earnestness that only comes with youth, and its appropriate enough: “Varsity” is more than a consolation for a group whose biggest talking point was once their age - it’s a crowning statement that continues their ascent into indie rock’s elite ranks.
The tour behind Soft Will starts this summer, and Smith Westerns play The Crocodile as part of the tour on August 16th. Get more tickets about that (all ages!) show here, and keep up with the band at their website and Facebook. Watch the video for “Varsity” below.