Vita and The Woolf: “You Can Totally Lose Your Shit Over Some Stupid Music, But It’s Cool.”
Jennifer Pague wears a red Victory Brewing beanie and jokes about being sponsored by them. She counts the goals of 2016 for her band, Vita and the Woolf, on her fingers.
“Get a booking agent, go on tour a lot, get some publishing, get a lot more fans and get closer to traveling the world and getting paid to do it,” Pague says.
Pague has always been the mastermind of Vita and the Woolf. She started recording songs in her Kensington neighborhood and played her first show with friends in West Chester, Pennsylvania, when she was 21. The band has gone through several lineup changes because Pague says it was difficult to keep people together.
“Eventually, I was just scared from having so many people and trying to schedule rehearsals that I decided to keep it at two people,” she says.
Over the next two years, 24-year-old Pague had an ever-changing lineup of bassists and drummers. It wasn’t until she was introduced to Adam Shumski through a mutual friend that she found someone with the same work ethic as her. There is something about the two that has kept them together and led to their quick success in Philadelphia and beyond.
“I think that we are both really driven people at our core,” Shumski says. “We have the same goal, which is to be in a really good band, and I think that is what keeps us together.”
The way the two recent Temple graduates gaze at each other after their responses in comforting silence, it’s apparent they work off each other like balancing weights. Pague is the driving, passionate bullet and Shumski is her reinforcement and right-hand man along the way.
When Pague first started playing the synthesizer, she listened to Of Montreal, Bat For Lashes, James Blake and other artists that somehow fall under the large electronic music umbrella. She would watch live video performances to see the type of equipment they would use on stage.
“It’s so hard to translate electronic music into a live setting because you don’t want to come off as you just press the spacebar and then, ‘Here you go, that is my music,’” Pague says.
After Pague graduated from Temple with an audio production degree in 2013, she said it was time to take Vita and the Woolf to the next point.
Pague released her debut album, Fang Song, as a solo artist in September 2014, which was followed by her first tour with Shumski as her drummer. Shumski graduated from Temple in 2015 with a degree in music performance.
The electronic indie pop record features a long list of musicians, including a bassoonist and accordionist. The album, which was recorded in her family sitting room, feels like a large orchestral piece accompanied by an abundance of harmonization.
But Pague’s latest music venture, Tunnels, shows that she has grown, lyrically and musically. Pague says she isn’t as concerned with harmonies anymore.
“Now it is more about, ‘Does this work in the melody?’” Pague says, adding that she was more inspired by R&B music for the upcoming album. “I do a lot with octaves, so I’ll do a melody singing an octave low and then an octave higher and then you get that R&B type thing going.”
Shumski says that much of his inspiration as the Vita and the Woolf drummer comes from his educational focus in jazz music. The 22-year-old also often plays with a drum sample pad, which complements Pague’s synthesizer.
“It has been exciting for me being able to explore that side of percussion and electronic music in general, because I haven’t really experienced it prior because jazz music is all acoustic,” Shumski says.
Singer and guitarist Matt Holden of Legs Like Tree Trunks believes a lot of Vita and the Woolf’s success is their comfort in working together, along with their determination.
“They do tour a lot,” says Holden, who has played on the same bill as the duo. “They go out on a limb, meet people and hustle. That is why they are doing well.”
Pague says she is excited to release Tunnels – a more “cohesive sound” – as her next step in music after Fang Song. The production process has been long but Pague made it clear that this latest project was handled with care.
“It’s always difficult if you are working on something that is your thing that you care so much about it,” Pague says. “Anyone would be crazy about it. It is just intense and you can totally lose your shit over some stupid music, but it’s cool.”