Photo by Chris Sikich
Vita and the Woolf is the sound of operatic vocals meeting synth pop. Driven by the anthemic voice of front woman, Jennifer Pague and supported by the dynamic drumming of Adam Shumski, Vita and the Woolf has been melding cross-genre influences in their powerhouse electronic style since their first EP Fang Song came out in 2014. Their head-turning live show has since grown to reflect both the range of Pague’s vocals and the music’s shape shifting energy.
Originally inspired by the love relationship between novelists Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf, the name “Vita and the Woolf” was chosen while Pague was studying abroad in Europe in 2012. Upon returning to the states and going through a variety of lineup changes, the band has since solidified as a collaboration between Pague and Shumski. In the past year this configuration of Vita and the Woolf has been featured prominently in music media as the band gears up for their upcoming album release in 2017.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Pague to discuss their forthcoming LP, Tunnels, having M83 as a fan, being judged and making frenemies. This is what she said.
When did you first realize that you had an affinity for songwriting/composition?
Since I was around five or six years old I was always humming and making up songs in my head, but I didn’t really start writing songs until I was in middle school.
You were recently dubbed a “Band You Need To See” by Billboard? Was that a fun milestone for you?
It’s crazy to be featured in Billboard because I used to read their magazines as a kid. It’s really a great honor to have my project’s name on their radar. The funny thing is that our drummer Adam’s dad is the one who found that article and sent it to us.
What is your live performance like for you and what kinds of feelings are you hoping to conjure in those watching and listening to you?
Live performance is so different from creating a song or recording a song because you’re rather limited to what you can play on stage. I love re-arranging the songs for live performance because it breathes new life into them. Adding parts that aren’t in the recording to singing a part differently help keep the songs creative and different for us as we play them night after night. When people see us live, I hope they feel that wall of sound hit them and notice the various parts in the music. Overall though I just want people to have a good time and don’t feel too strained or exhausted watching the music.
You also seem to have a fan in M83? Do you know him personally?
I do not know Anthony personally, however I am a huge fan of M83 and it was a big honor to have them take some notice in us. I actually auditioned a couple years ago to be their backup vocalist/keyboardist but didn’t get the gig, which is totally okay with me. But it was crazy to even be considered for the part.
When did you begin writing the Tunnels LP and what were you hoping to accomplish with it? Were there themes that emerged at the forefront as the result of catalysts going on in your lives?
I began writing Tunnels about two and a half years ago. I was hoping to accomplish a new electronic sound which is sort of present in my first EP, Fang Song. However, I was really inspired to try and create a cohesive sound that was dark but also glittery. I think the theme of the record kind of started out being this new found independence after graduating college, moving out of my parent’s house, and getting out of shitty relationships with people. It was like a light at the end of the tunnel really.
What was the process of recording the LP like?
This was a tough record to make. I really had to start making creative decisions and roll with them. It was my first record I ever recorded in a professional studio and that in and of itself can be stressful. I learned a lot about making a record. I think I will go about my next record a lot differently.
You have already debuted a video for “Feline” and the song “Sun Drop”? What are those songs about?
“Feline” is about being judged or criticized as a woman for making decisions that other people do not agree with. It’s about ignoring shitty people and the unfair societal morals placed on women. I was going through some stuff while writing this song and the lyrics sort of just fell into place really.
“Sun Drop” is more about the instrumentation, really. I put a lot of work into figuring out how that song would work with the synth. The lyrics kind of fell into place as well. I would say the song is about a made up person who might be someone who was present in my subconscious during the time the song was written.
Were you involved with story boarding and coming up with the concept for the “Feline” video?
I cannot take any credit for coming up with the storyboard for the video of “Feline.” Malditos Produce which is based out of Barcelona, Spain took over that job. Albert Sala directed it and he is absolutely brilliant. Making that music video was such a beautiful experience.
You once described a character in one of your songs (“Brett”) as an imaginary friend. Do you have any imaginary frenemies?
Haha, I do but then again they aren’t necessarily imaginary. I think the enemies I make up in my head are characters who I’ve experienced in my lifetime. They just fuel my creativity.
Some of your songs have to do with your travels and adventures in Europe. Are you anxious to get back there?
I am! I miss Europe so much and it is such a beautiful place. I luckily had a chance to go to Barcelona when we filmed the music video for Feline, but I would love to get back to specifically Belgium as soon as possible.
How are your plans for a tour cycle in support of Tunnels shaping up?
Well, we have a bunch of festival dates coming up this summer including Firefly on June 17. Depending on how the release goes with the full record June 16 we are hoping to get to Europe in the fall maybe? We are also submitting to get on some support tours.
What are your ultimate or loftiest goals for Vita and the Woolf?
My goals for Vita are pretty big but I have fairly low expectations. If I could follow in the footsteps of someone like Annie Clark of St Vincent, I would be pretty darn content with my career. I don’t really wish for fame, mostly to have a job making music and performing it in front of people who really care.
(Visit Vita and the Woolf here: