Philly’s Jen Pague and the rest of her band that makes up Vita And The Woolf has been pretty busy recently. For the past two years, they’ve been working on the followup to Fang Song, Vita’s first EP, recorded by Pague as a demo while she was studying at Temple University. Since then, the band has evolved from an 8 member band to a 3 piece that incorporates drummer Adam Shumski and guitarist Dane Galloway.
Since beginning their journey to TUNNELS — their debut LP out today, read our review here — the band has built a following not only in Philadelphia but also around the world. In the past 6 months, they’ve toured opening for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah across the United States and filmed a music video in Spain. Tomorrow, they play the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware, a major stepping stone for a band who has worked a lot for their accomplishments.
TUNNELS shows Pague and the rest of Vita And The Woolf at their finest. It’s an outstanding collection of not only modern synth-pop but also conducive songwriting. Pague channels her influences like a magician; sweet melodies blend with dark textures that bring not only a feeling of melancholy but also overwhelming joy.
I recently spoke with Pague over the phone about TUNNELS, read our conversation and watch the album teaser below.
The Key: Hey, how’s it going?
Jen Pague: Good, I’m driving back from Fairmount. We were doing a little music video thing for the record, my friend Kevin Boylan has been filming and riding along with me. We did some shots along the river and we have been filming all day. It’s a visual mash-up, like a 3 or 4 minute trailer of all the songs.
TK: So the record is out June 16th, are you excited?
JP: I am, I’m excited for it to be out and I’m ready for people to hear it and to see what happens. And I’m also ready to start putting out some new stuff too. I already have a bunch of other songs written so I’m ready to start working on those songs.
TK: This has been a long time coming for you hasn’t it?
JP: It has. They say it takes about two years to put out a record, and it took about a year to make it; it was hard but it was worth it. I started recording this two summers ago, and it was recorded at Spicehouse Sound. I had about 10 songs written but we decided on eight. We tracked the drums first, then bass, and then synth which took a while because we really worked out the parts. My thing with songwriting is I don’t really write bridges till last minute, so I had to finish up some of those. Then we did vocals and that took a long time because of the harmonies and we also did a bunch of takes. I started writing these songs about 8 months before we recorded them.
TK: There’s some older songs on here too, correct?
JP: That’s right, “Mary” is the oldest one. That was on Fang Song, but we are re-releasing it because I self recorded all those songs. They are more like demos, they had a lo-fi production style. But with the new record, it has several people working on it, we recorded it in a studio, so it’s a version that is more professional and polished. I self recorded “Feline”, which is the newest song, and that was last minute for me. My manager said, “I like that song and think it should be on the record”, and I thought, “Well now I have to record it.”
TK: Could you talk about some of your influences going into this? Influences that directly influenced the songwriting and tones you’re using on this record?
JP: So “Brett” was written as the synth pop song, I was influenced by Bats for Lashes and Natasha Khan, and they have this cool retro way of writing pop songs. I’ve always wanted to write a song like that. With “Sun Drop”, I was really interested in writing music like James Blake. He has this great artistic way of writing electronic music, with clashing layers of synthesizers. Also Johnny Greenwood, not just with Radiohead, but also the soundtrack to There Will Be Blood. I really love some of the soundscapes on that and how he creates crazy clashing noise with the orchestra.
TK: How bout some non-musical influences? Like lyrical or visual imagery things?
JP: Lyrically, I just try to write about stuff that angers me. Imagery? I would say that my music is more physical. For the “Feline” music video, I really wanted a lot of color. For the video, I was really interested in the ways people can get more into shit, or the concept of being overtaken. In the video, I’m in the car and in the carwash the water starts turning into paint. It’s like I’m going into a different universe, which I thought was pretty cool.
TK: That took place in Spain, correct?
JP: Yes, in Barcelona.
TK: How did that all come together?
JP: We asked a few filmmakers and creative people to submit treatments and this one seemed simple yet catchy and thought out. I didn’t know the person lived in Barcelona until after we picked it. Everyone who worked on it was amazing. I would go back to Barcelona anytime.
TK: How’s touring been recently?
JP: It’s been fun! We went on tour with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah which was the biggest honor because I’m a huge fan. For the most part of the past six months we’ve been touring. It’s nice to be home and have a break and not have to go somewhere for two weeks, so that’s been good.
TK: I feel like you guys have really locked into a live sound, which I’m sure comes from touring.
JP: When you’re on the road so much, you end up getting everything really tight and it’s great to have that. For about 2 or 3 years, the live setup of my band was very wishy-washy, not really sure what we were doing. But I think like with any art form, that takes a lot of time to figure out who you are or what genre you are.
TK: You used to be a 10 piece band right?
JP: It was more like 7 or 8 piece, that was the first year and I was like, “Let’s have everyone play in my band!” I had never had a band before and then realized how it all worked. After that, it was nice when I could focus on what I wanted and on one instrument at a time. It was just me, and then I added a drummer, and then a guitar player, and it’s been a slow building band from there. That makes it easier to tour as well.
TK: Would you want to get back to an 8 piece band at some point?
JP: No [laughs], unless I had the means for that. Eventually it would be nice to have that, to have backup singers and it would be amazing to work with an orchestra. But that doesn’t make sense for right now.
TK: The music you’re making right now is playable with 3 people.
TK: So, Firefly, are you excited for that?
JP: So excited! Were playing on Saturday, a day after the album comes out, so that’s pretty much our release show, so if anybody wants to come celebrate our soft release, that’s the place to do it (laughs). It’s going to be exciting, our record will be out, and we’re playing a major festival. I’m excited about all the other artists playing too. I’ve never been to Firefly either, so I think we are all going to camp and get the whole experience.
TK: So you put TUNNELS out, you play Firefly, what are your plans going forward from there?
JP: So we playing a bunch of other festivals this summer, August is our festival month. And then in September, I really want to get over to Europe. We’ve had some good press over there and we have a bunch of fans over there that I’d love to get to, and you know it’s Europe! So hopefully that happens. Those are our tentative plans for after the release.
TK: How about any Philly gigs?
JP: We’re going to have another release show, it’s just not announced yet.
Vita And The Woolf’s TUNNELS is out today, and can be purchased here. The band will be playing the Firefly Music Festival on Saturday, June 17th. Watch their Audiotree live session in full below.
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