Vernon Noronha Turns to Folk Music on Sophomore EP ‘Winds and the Murky Seas’
The new release comes five years after the Mumbai singer-songwriter’s debut EP ‘Closer to Home’
Over the last few years, Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Vernon Noronha admits to writing fewer songs than he used to. However, he says, “I’m nailing those songs down and putting them out.” Noronha – who popped up on the country’s indie scene over a decade ago – released his five-track debut EP Closer To Home in 2016 and is now out with a batch of tracks he’s been fine-tuning in the shape of his sophomore effort, the three-track Winds and the Murky Seas.
While Closer to Home as well as Noronha’s collaboration with fellow singer-songwriter Raghav Meattle on “Dream Sandwich” (2019) featured the musician’s surf sound, he’s moved away from that on the new EP and into a more folk-oriented direction. “I’m really happy with the way it turned out to be. Rather than going acoustic, we put little elements of what indie folk is about,” he says.
Winds and the Murky Seas opens with the tranquil “Peak of Sunshine” and features Noronha’s skillful guitar plucking, delicate shakers and relaxing melodies. The upbeat “Empty Teacups” brings in the musician’s soulful harmonica playing as well as his jangly strumming while the song’s catchy chorus will get you singing along to it right from the first listen. The EP closer, the serene “Who Am I Writing These Songs For?” is pure magic and just goes to show that a minimalist approach to music often speaks volumes.
Initially, Noronha had only the EP’s opener and closer penned and felt he needed one more to complete this body of work. He says, “Then I wrote ‘Empty Teacups.’ I’ve never written like that before, just for the record.” The singer-songwriter’s lyrics across the EP are profound, poignant and mature. Ask him to break them down for us and he says, “’Peak of Sunshine’ is about my struggle as an indie musician.” On why he titled it so, Noronha recalls staying at a ground floor flat last year and how his plants weren’t able to get the sufficient sunlight needed to grow. He adds, “The same thing applies to all of us, we need that sort of love and that sort of exposure.”
Due to the dearth of gigs because of the pandemic that has affected plenty, including touring musicians, Noronha was one to feel the cash crunch. He says, “’Empty Teacups’ is about being broke in the pandemic. The lack of work happening, everything is upside down, everyone’s gone home because there’s no work and it’s a sad state of affairs for the arts industry in general.” On “Who Am I Writing These Songs For?” Noronha asks a rhetorical question. “There comes a point in every songwriter’s career where they ask themselves this question. You want to stop and pause and not write more. But this time when I had that thought, I put it into words,” he says.
To his luck, a friend of Noronha’s got him in touch with Mumbai’s Tribute Studios who were allowing musicians to record for free during the pandemic as the space wasn’t in use. The singer-songwriter says, “That’s one good thing that happened. I didn’t have to pay for the recording process, which is quite a chunk.” Once he tracked his guitar and vocal parts, Noronha took the files to his go-to producer Malay Vadalkar (from Pune pop-rock collective Easy Wanderlings), who added in a few embellishments to the songs. Noronha says, “One thing we didn’t put a lot of is drums, because we wanted to keep it very indie folkish.” Talking about the sound on the EP, Noronha jokes and says, “I should put my songs in a new genre called ‘post-siesta.’”
For someone like Noronha who has made the stage his home, how difficult has it been for him to not be able to perform live over the last year? He says, “Usually when I go for gigs and people are singing my songs, you want to write some more songs because you know there’s an audience listening.” The singer-songwriter adds, “Now I post on Instagram, although I don’t really look for likes, but at least some comments keep coming here and there. So that’s the only motivation right now.”
Next, Noronha is readying a music video with filmmaker/musician Leron D’Souza who also co-produced Closer to Home. Once the Winds and the Murky Seas cycle is done, Noronha plans on dropping a couple of fresh singles accompanied with music videos as well as two albums down the road. He says, “It’s going to be a really busy couple of years for me.” The musician is also hopeful he strikes a good recording deal too, as he admits that’s his biggest hindrance. “I find it very sad for other indie artists too who want to put an album or single out because finances come in the way. One song is usually ₹25,000 to ₹35,000, which they don’t even make probably in a month, so it’s a little difficult.”
Stream ‘Winds and the Murky Seas’ on Spotify below and on other platforms.