Since his debut album Closer to Home released in 2016, Vernon Noronha has made remarkable strides in the genre of indie music, and he’s back with his three-track EP, Winds and the Murky Seas. Although born in the gulf, Vernon shares strong ancestral roots with the land of siesta — Goa — and influences of the laid back environ seep into his music. Easy listening, surf and folk sounds envelop his style and lyrics, making his music soulful yet minimalistic. Having opened for artists like Lucy Rose, he has amazed audiences at many festivals, including NH7 Weekender in Pune.
With Winds and the Murky Seas, Vernon empathises with artists in every genre, trying to stay true to themselves as they struggle to survive. ‘The wind symbolises the uncertain change or sudden storm that one has to face, the aftermath being the grey, gloomy and murky overcast one has to tread under. This short collection of songs throws light on the vulnerable and uncertain nature of thriving and treading in the artscape,’ he says, sharing with us some ideas behind the EP, his musical journey and more.
What led you towards music?
I was born in Kuwait, in the midst of a gulf crisis, so I was quickly bundled out of there. I think I would be doing something else otherwise, if not for my influences here in Mumbai. I definitely picked up on music in school. There was a radio at home which was only used by me, I often recorded new music played on the radio onto useless old cassettes and made mixtapes out of it. Singing was always a part of me but the major change and learning came from college, where I learnt to play the guitar from friends and gradually expanded my horizon.
How would you describe your musical sensibility?
It has been ever changing, from listening to Enrique and Simon and Garfunkel in school.There has been quite a change now, but it’s not like I don’t go back to check what I used to hear before. Now I look for songs that talk to me in every way — lyrically, melodically and even through simple but sensible music arrangements. I long to hear non-pretentious music.
Your new EP Winds and Murky Seas, features three songs with acoustic and folk sounds. Did you intentionally keep the EP lyrically heavy?
I don’t really plan the writing. I write lyrics down as the thought process comes through and I stop when I’m done. I never sit down and plan when to write a song, hence I’ve never had a block. And along the way I’ve been writing as I feel — the songs I wrote back in 2012 are different from what I wrote yesterday. It’s difficult for me to emote a lot of things in person, so I’ll put them down in a song, as if I’m writing a diary. So even I don’t know how heavy or light it may come across to a listener in future.
What is your creative process like?
I always have many things to write about, so first, I’ll keep them aside. I usually get my melody ideas when I’m least thinking about music. I then record the melody in my head on my phone. Sometimes the melody comes through as I write the song. The one thing I work on last is the chord sensibility and arrangement.
Peak of Sunshine speaks of holding on to hope even when everything seems bleak, while Empty Teacups dives into the world of musicians struggling to stay afloat. Who Am I Writing These Songs For addresses more abstract and even existential questions. Can you deconstruct your inspiration and ideation behind each song for us?
As indie artists, we’ve always been struggling and constantly looking to move ahead, but we all need a small push when we’re right at the back. It’s like a bunch of plants that I had at my previous residence on the ground floor, none of them received any sunlight. As soon as I shifted base and started receiving more light, the plants started blooming too. Hence, I feel we artists are like plants, we can do so much more while our sunlight is at a peak. So the song is called Peak of Sunshine.
Empty Teacups is about financial struggle, what we all are still facing in this pandemic. Less work, unpaid dues, inflation and everything else that’s put a break on our dreams
Who Am I Writing These Songs For is a song I began writing out of frustration last July. Even though I received my fair share of applause for my previous releases, I constantly keep comparing myself with my peers and I always wonder what’s keeping me from moving ahead. This is a thought I always come across when I hit a low point in song writing. It just feels worthless. But then, one more encouraging comment and I’m back on track. It’s always been a see-saw.
Do you think the music scene, as it exists today in India, is conducive to independent sounds and musicians?
I feel really really good when other independent artists do well, that gives me hope as well. If Prateek Kuhad can fill a ground, I’m sure we all can. Sometimes, I just watch live performances to see all the love indie music has been receiving. One thing is for sure, you need to row your own boat in the scene, and someone will notice how far you’ve come and push you ahead. The scene is getting better and better each year. As I can see, there’s a lot of opportunity to grow.
What stories do you wish to tell through your music?
Everything I come across and experience, right from incidents in my parental home in Mahim, to my rental house in Andheri. My psychological states, empty wallets, college days, wounds from the past, stories from a relaxing mini vacation — anything and everything. I’m emptying my personal diary.
How has the pandemic changed the way you view music and your own personal works?
I’ve only worked and earned through music, and I definitely plan to continue to do the same unless something really drastic happens, forcing me to change my field. I’ve always had a slight scare about being in the music business. Yes, it’s art and everyone survives through art, but in the times of a dreadful pandemic, most will look for survival. Art will remain but the monies will flow elsewhere. It’s always going to be a scare in the future, but I love what I’m doing.
What's on your playlist right now?
Trouble by Jonathan Angami, Captain Of Your Heart by Vince Costa, Beyond What’s Here by Cinema of Excess, Shehron Ke Raaz by Prateek Kuhad, Wildfire by Bipul Chetri, Better Than It All by Raghav Meattle, Nowhere To Go by Short Round.
Lastly, what's next for you?
A few singles and then an album.
Text Devyani Verma