Vita and the Woolf
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Vita and the Woolf

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2012
Duo Pop Alternative

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"Philly on the rise: Vita and the Woolf"

Jen Pague transforms into Vita and the Woolf with fluid intensity, her body rocking to the rhythmic patterns of her piano chords, her melodic wail rising and falling. - Philly.com


"Vita and the Woolf pack a unique punch"

Contemporary music has benefitted from the world’s all-encompassing interaction with technology. With an increased focus on production and a burgeoning obsession with the limitless manipulations available with audio engineering, more and more people have been able to get involved in the music industry in its ever-expanding territory. In terms of the actual musicians, a new definition of artistic skill has been developed aimed to accommodate this new musical terrain, where groups can be credited for interacting with production in addition to their vocals or instrumentation. While this inclusivity is great, there is something immutably and uniquely resonant about a powerful vocal performance. Vita and the Woolf, Downington, PA native Jen Pague’s glimmering electro-soul project, exemplifies this brand of mesmerizing sonority. Pague’s wistful lyricism and commanding vocals pack a unique punch - drawing obvious connections to foundational soul and rock elements. The pervasive use of an organ-esque electric piano, however, modernize and complicate her songs, bridging the gap between Janis Joplin and Florence Welch, between rock purism and Pague’s peers, layering the classic with the millennial age. - The Deli Magazine


"Vita and the Woolf"

Vita and the Woolf is the brainchild of Jennifer Pague. Their debut EP FANG SONG was released September 16th featuring eight upbeat, poppy and artful tracks.

Much of the music is vocal driven and includes a wide range of harmonies, many have compared Pague’s voice to that of Florence Welch.

The haunting harmonies and vocal layering combined with powerful instrumentation and simple drumming produce a sound that reflects R&B, soul, jazz, and strong choral ballads.

The rotating line up currently features a three-person live performance from Pague on lead vocals and keys, Bobby Cleveland on bass and keys and Adam Shumski on drums.

Most who witness Vita and the Woolf perform live leave the show stunned and in awe. It’s not just your typical guitar picking and banging on drums with heavy vocals on top. It is a mystified experience; an interactive show with clapping, sing alongs, and foot stomping. With an abundance of songs and anthems that capture the energy of a room and keep it going until the very end. - Loud and Proud Online


"In the Van with Vita and the Woolf: A SXSW photo story"

“I think we’re parked by that organic coffee shop up the street,” said Adam Shumski. We’re wandering alongside Interstate 35, the highway that divides east and west Austin, and the traffic is intense. During the annual SXSW music festival, the highway effectively becomes a parking lot that slowly trudges out of downtown Austin with vehicles and trailers jutting in at every angle.

Shumski’s band Vita and the Woolf didn’t take any chances. Rather than attempt to negotiate the fray of the downtown, their driver (and unofficial tour documentarian) Jay Miller left their van locked up on the east side of town, though the specific intersection eludes them at the moment.

Up ahead, Miller is jogging alongside Vita’s frontwoman Jennifer Pague; they’re hustling since it’s 1:45 and their gig at in.gredients – an independent grocery not unlike Weaver’s Way in Philly – is at 2:00. Time is of the essence, and it’s not till we get in the car, get the air conditioner cranked and get the GPS punched in with the proper coordinates that everybody breathes a sigh of relief.

Vita and the Woolf | Photo by John Vettese
Vita and the Woolf | Photo by John Vettese
The band is pretty much playing unofficial showcases on this SXSW run, and this particular showcase is seriously off-the-grid. There’s a modest crowd and a few leashed dogs in the open-air pop-up stage in front of in.gredients, but Pague and the band take the show no less seriously than they would for a packed house at Boot and Saddle. As soon as Miller pulls the van in the parking lot, Pague grabs her keyboard, stand and shoulder bag and makes a mad dash to meet the promoter. It’s 2:01 at this point, and she doesn’t want to look bad.

The decision is promptly made to, given the time crunch and stage constraints, make this set a bit more of a stripped down affair.

The crowd is into the set, which mixes older numbers from Fang Song with newer tunes from the EP the band is currently Kickstarting to record. To these listeners, though, they’re all new songs. Somebody asks for a CD afterwards. There is good beer inside and takeout tacos across the street. The small-batch salted caramel ice cream is delicious.

At around four, the van is loaded up again and we launch off to the next destination: Whisler’s, a quaint eatery / drinkery a little bit closer to downtown but still on the east side of Austin. I help the band load in and we stash their gear under the staircase and scan the courtyard; much bigger crowd for this show.

The perils of touring to SXSW as an independent artist without an official show are that you can very well travel hundreds of miles to play to no one. Or to just your friends. Pague, Shumski and Cleveland made the trek and, among their other shows, did their thing for this audience of daydrinking music fans who did not know Vita and the Woolf but dug what they heard. A few moments into the heavy soul of “Bury You,” I notice a dude next to me nod his head at Pague’s delivery say to a friend “Wow – she’s got pipes.”

Vita and the Woolf rocked a half hour set at Whisler’s as the Thursday sun began to set over Austin. After they wrapped, they again stuck around to mingle. This is important for any artist at any show, but especially at SXSW where forging an artist-audience connection needs to happen with more than just music.

Hayley Rosenblum from Kickstarter came out to the showcase; Vita and the Woolf’s campaign was given the spotlight treatment on the crowdfunding site not long before SXSW, so Pague was pretty psyched to meet her.

Later, she taked to new fans and old friends; download cards were swapped, email addresses were exchanged. Vague plans were made for a pop-up show later that night at a house party on the outer reaches of Austin.

After the van was packed up, we parted ways and Vita and the Woolf pulled off into the Austin evening. Two more days of showcases, then another week of tour but a whole lot of drive and optimism in the tank. - WXPN- The Key


"Vita And The Woolf Make Their Mark on the Path of a New Trail in Philly Music"

The seemingly inescapable name Vita And The Woolf has spent most of 2015 already on the radar of many in the Philly music scene, performing in WXPN sessions and Red Bull Sound Select performances. For Jennifer Pague and company, this has simply been the nature of their rising emergence. A walk in the park, albeit off the beaten path, the band seeks to make their way in pursuit of a creative direction and through the power of live performance. In anticipation of a stripped-down WXPN “Live At Lunch” performance in Dilworth Park this Wednesday at noon, Rock On Philly sat down with Jennifer to discuss this diverse act’s blossoming success.

Rock On Philly: It is often said that this band is your brain-child, as you have grown to a point of great local repute and curiosity among music fans for your music as well as for very engaging and interactive live performances, what does that mean for you? From what depth and mental process did this music spring from and what inspired the formation of Vita And The Woolf?

Jennifer Pague: It is such an honor to have people like my music. It’s actually more so surprising to me. When I first started recording my first songs I was really insecure and unsure of them. The music sprung from feeling rejected lots of times. Also, a lot of it comes from anger[, and] a lot of it comes from love and joy from people who I have been close with these past three or four years. Vita and the Woolf was inspired because I just felt a need to make music.

ROP: Your music has really caught on here in Philly and seems to be gaining popularity among audiences in the local scene, what do you attribute that to and what are some of the sounds behind your music?

JP: I attribute it to XPN firstly. They have been a huge help to my band and I can’t begin to show them how much I appreciate what they do. Also, to friends along the way. Another thing might be that I’m just trying to make something different, trying to test the boundaries in certain aspects.

ROP: As a Pennsylvania product, tell us a bit about your personal background, musical upbringing and development and personal journey that brought you to this point in your career?

JP: I am from West Chester PA. Pretty typical suburban white girl up-bringing. I was really, really bored as a child, no offense to my parents. They did an awesome job raising me. However, I wanted to travel and be in the middle of everything if that makes sense. My mom put me in School of Rock when I was 15 and I right away was doing really cool stuff with that. Played at Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, etc. It was sweet. I started playing piano in 2nd grade, saxophone in fourth, clarinet in fifth, and then switched to bass clarinet in sixth [grade]. Was always in choir. Decided really fast I wasn’t cut out for musical theatre.

ROP: What have been some of the highlights of breaking into the music scene for you?

JP: Highlights are being able to play a show every weekend almost. I love, love, love playing music. It’s so much fun. I would perform every night if I could. Playing on XPN and getting on XPN has been super crazy! Touring and seeing the country is a blessing.

ROP: What are some of the artists who have influenced your music the most and are there any musical directions not yet taken for you that you feel drawn to pursue?

JP: Artists include Radiohead, James Blake, Nirvana, Joni Mitchell, Caribou, Bat For Lashes, The Pixies, Alicia Keys. Musical directions I haven’t taken yet. Hip Hop. I really want to dive deeper into that “genre” and get to know more history about it.

ROP: Crowd-funding has become a very contemporary method by which artists produce their own music, tell us about your recent Kickstarter campaign and upcoming new music?

JP: People are so generous and amazing! We made our Kickstarter and as I am writing this interview I am about to go over to the studio and start recording keys for the next EP. It’s gonna’ be really exciting this next year to hear what people think of it. I think it’s going to be a much more cohesive EP and finally something I’m much more proud of. The last record was kind of something I just had to release to get my life together.

ROP: This Wednesday May 13th you will be on the WXPN “Live At Lunch” stage in Dilworth Park to perform at noon, then on Sunday June 28th you will be performing the Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park and at the WXPN Xponential Festival this July 24-26th. As a music and baseball fan I am interested to know, what do these great opportunities mean to you in terms of exposure as an artist?

JP: It’s crazy. It’s a Philadelphia honor really. I’m just stoked to get to sing in a stadium. I’ve never sung in a stadium and in front of all those Philadelphians. Gonna’ be amazing.



Be sure to check out more of Vita And The Woolf at https://vitaandthewoolf.bandcamp.com/ and come out to hear them perform this Wednesday May 13th (today!) in City Hall’s Dilworth Park at 12:00 noon for WXPN’s “Live At Lunch” concert in Center City, Philadelphia! - Rock on Philly


"Kicking back with Vita and the Woolf at Spice House Sound"

On one of the last warm days this summer, I ventured past my usual points of familiarity in Fishtown to the newly opened Spice House Sound on Wilt Street. Suddenly finding myself somewhat lost in a tiny alley next to St. Laurentius, I stare at the address on my phone again and frantically call Jen Pague, frontwoman of Vita and the Woolf, explaining I think I’m at the wrong place. She laughs and tells me to stay where I am.

Seconds later, Pague uses most of her body to push open a huge metal door and welcomes me in with a hug.

I follow her down a hallway into the recording studio, where we’re greeted by a gorgeous wooden floor buried beneath a jungle of wires. We sit down in the studio, Pague immediately folding her legs under herself on a chair. Her candid nature comes across right away—she starts explaining her recent headaches involved in finalizing her debut album as though I’m an old friend.

Despite her small presence sitting like a pretzel, it’s clear her visions and creativity reach far beyond the the eight songs on the EP. Fang Song, the debut album from Vita and the Woolf, is a soulful rendering of music Pague has been working on for most of the last two years—some are even older. She leads the band on keyboard and vocals, joined by Bobby Cleveland (keys, synths, and bass) and Adam Shumski (drums).

Pague maintains that she’s been advertising Vita and the Woolf as a solo project, but she’s grateful and excited about working with Cleveland and Shumski. Cleveland and Pague are actually high school classmates, both graduates of School of Rock in Downingtown. “Bobby and I actually have a long history playing music together—we started playing music together when we were fifteen or sixteen…he’s an awesome keyboard player, it’s an honor to have him in my band.”



Vita and the Woolf started as a seven-piece two years ago while Pague was still in college, but gradually dwindled down until she remained the only member. Fang Song was recorded entirely by Pague in her home recording set-up—the drums you hear on the album were actually recorded in her parents’ living room in Downingtown. Pague credits her best friend (also named Jen) with naming the band—lit nerds may realize the name comes from the relationship between writers Vita Sackville West and Virginia Woolf.

“There’s a couple different things I like about it… I wanted something a little feminist, a strong name. And I like that it’s the love relationship between the two authors, and Virginia Woolf’s name is ‘Woolf’ spelled with two o’s—I’ve always had kind of an obsession with wolves.”

While Pague’s biggest roles in Vita remain keyboard and vocals, she’s also got chops on the accordion too, which you can check out in this eerie video for “Mary,” recorded in her parents’ basement. “Mary” is consistently part of Vita’s live set, along with “MM Chka Mm” and “Springtime Foxes.”

“We actually just figured out a really cool live version of ‘Bible Lady,’” Pague explains. “My friend Kelcie [Hillard] helped me write that song. She’s an amazing bassoon player so we like did this thing where we recorded her playing bassoon with all these crazy bassoon parts and did a bunch of layering with the bassoon… but you can’t have like fifteen bassoons onstage. I need like an entire orchestra and choir,” Pague laughs.

Pague tells me she’s not sure whether or not she’ll keep the band Philly-based. She’s been in New York a lot recently between performances as Vita and the Woolf and another project of hers, Pink Murder (with Mike Romano of Stargazy and Greg Henits of Folding Legs). She lets on that she plans to record her next Vita album at Spice House, but plans to mix up her style. Never one to sit still, she’s already ten steps ahead with ideas for her next record.

“I’ve just been kind of steering away from synths, but I feel like I should get back into it. It’s a good way to make your shit cool…I think I’ll go a little bit more electronic, honestly. I’ll have more drum machines incorporated and do more synths on the next record. That’s the kind of album Alex [Santilli, Spice House Sound owner] and I have been talking about creating.”

However, Pague is still focused on Fang Song’s completion, with a mini tour through Delaware, DC, Virginia and New York in the works. She expresses excitement about wrapping Fang Song as laughter emits between nearly every sentence.

“I’m just really relieved that it’s done. I’m really proud of it, and I’m really glad that it’s a finished project that I did–it’s something that I did for the past two years of my life, my early twenties. It feels good to have it done and show people, and see how people respond to it. It’s amazing how many people have helped me out. It’s kind of like my child is hitting puberty, and I’m just like, ‘Gotta let it go! Go, live your life, album!’”

See Vita and the Woolf play with Canon Logic and Bondage and Discipline at Ortlieb’s Lounge for their record release show on Saturday, September 20. You can revisit their incredible Key Studio Session, and check out Pancakes and Whiskey’s chance to attend an exclusive acoustic session at Spice House Sound Friday, September 19th. Download Fang Song, out today. - WXPN- The Key


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio

Vita and the Woolf is the brain child of Jennifer Pague. It is an electronic soul pop musical group from Philadelphia. The band name was inspired by the love relationship between novelists Vita Sackville and Virginia Woolf. 

Pague has been writing songs under the Vita moniker since 2012. Much of the music is vocal driven and includes a wide range of harmonies. Many have compared Pague's voice to that of Florence Welch. Her romantically tragic and adventuresome lyrics tie into her European travels to Belgium and the Netherlands.

The haunting harmonies and vocal layering combined with crazy instrumentation and simple drumming produce a sound that reflects R&B, soul, jazz, and powerful choral ballads. The current lineup includes Jennifer Pague on vocals and synths and Adam Shumski on percussion.

They released their debut EP Fang Song in September 2014.

Band Members