When Mari Crisler and Reed Tiwald met as teenagers playing Joan Jett and U2 covers in Omaha’s Rock Academy music program, neither one could have predicted the musical marriage that’s lasted for almost a decade. In that span, they’ve followed each other through their first band, the emo-pop-leaning The Way Out (2015-2018), garage-punk band Death Cow (2016-present) and now indie-rock Hail Varsity, their first project as a songwriting team. The cast is rounded out by Colby Kresak on drums and Liv Baxter of Orca Welles on bass.
The band's debut EP, Keep Cool (March 2020), offers listeners a first glimpse into the songwriting duo's growth. Tonally, Keep Cool is like Mari and Reed’s hearts bursting and spraying in a thousand directions. Lead single “Knee Pads” is a springtime beach rock anthem with hints of midwest DIY contemporaries The Cavves and Orca Welles, while the title track is shoegaze-party-synth-rock culminating in a post-rock outro with crowd vocals. Reed’s “Ride Around” is modern dream pop with a touch of ‘50s pop schmaltz, and “Coat Pt. 2” is as close to Death Cow grunge as Keep Cool gets.