The vehicle for Tony Wright’s musical mastery for the last decade, VerseChorusVerse has taken all sorts of musical paths. Throwing albums and other releases out into the world as he sees fit, his latest emerged this month. What If We Won is another exercise in genre bending catharsis. Musically Wright brings in influence from hip hop, angular punk and blues rock, while nestled within are vulnerable quieter moments of reflection. One thing is for sure, Wright always swings for the fences.
What if We Won is the fourth VCV album, written in the wake of the loss of two close friends after time in Glasgow and an Italian village before returning to Belfast and lockdown. Wright himself says the album, his DIY project, is for anyone who has ever felt silenced. Below, Wright gives us a much deeper insight into the album’s nine diverse and wonderful tracks.
Algorithm & Blues
The last track to be written and the lead on the album. It deals with a few things, and I’m kinda loathe to go into them as that takes any mystery away. The album, as a whole is meant to represent a cycle of emotions and how our lives are informed and coloured by how we react to them. The album is essentially a philosophical loop meant to mirror intrigue, defiance, defeat, acceptance, success & the lifelong repeating cycle of these things.
Musically I wanted to do something that I’d never done before; like a tik-tok Bond theme with added tongue in cheek fury. Or something. VerseChorusVerse was always meant to be non genre specific vehicle. Hence the name.
Free to Decree
This was written as my way of dealing with the police murder of George Floyd and the resulting upheaval and contributing to the protest in some way. I was alone in Glasgow and viewing the world through the wasp nest of social media, and felt like I had to do or say something. That was this song. A manifesto of righteous defiance set to a big beat with even bigger stupid crunchy guitars.
there is a silence
During the lockdown I lost my voice. Simply from not using it for so long; I think this was reaction to having just recorded and edited my audiobook. I was sick as a dog from hearing my own voice. A few weeks passed at one point and I hadn’t spoken a word to another soul. Eventually, someone called me and as I answered the phone… no sound came out when I tried to speak. So I had to think differently about vocals for this record. This is a definite spoken word track as a result. I recorded the 1st verse completely off the cuff at about 4am, up close and personal on a shitty SM58 mic, and then scribbled the 3rd verse down. It’s honest, personal and not dressed up. Like an affable drunk in casual wear.
rock &/or roll recovery
The first vcv song with a naughty word. The first line is actually from Virgil’s Aeneid, so credit where credit is due. This is an angry, kinda funny song about the merits of hope and trying to forgive those who have wronged you, it’s not always easy. Very often the opposite. Having said that, these words are definitely not all delivered with a straight face. I’ll let the listener figure it out! This might sound weird but sonically I was going for a “Jump in the Fire” by Nilsson vibe but played really badly by…well…me…emulating my favourite long dead guitarists. Its a post-punk celebration, babez. It is also the 1st of only two songs on the record to have an actual chorus in the song’s structure.
i live with a monster
Since all meaning of time went out the window last year, recording this album became a wherever, whenever affair. Unfortunately, nothing to do with Shakira. During a particularly tough low I was going through, processing a lot of grim things that were out of my hand. All that silence…living alone in a pandemic in a strange new city…trying to stay alive…I lay awake in bed most nights until exhaustion eventually won me over; one night I just said out loud “i live with a monster”, knowing and trying to visualise that these thoughts are not who I am. There is something else that is not me that sometimes tries to wrestle the steering wheel from you. That’s not me. That’s something else. That’s a monster. We all have them, some people are better at pacifying it. There is no shame in it. Your thoughts do not define who you are.
what if we won
The title track of the record is a kind of Torch song, I guess. Its meant to be one of those songs that can pivot a thought process. At least, I hope it is. As I’ve gotten older, a lot of the wide eyed optimism that fuelled me for so long has been diluted with harsh reality. Too much “reality” and it can spiral into pessimism.
From our social media feeds, new and old media, to it just simply being seen as the “cool” way to interact with the world at large; negativity and cynicism are the societal currency. This makes more people click and stay outraged whilst the Twitters, Facebooks and Instagrams of this world sell on our generally choreographed outrage…making sure to keep us angry and connected to other angry users. Perpetuating a state of defeatism that very rarely translates to affirmative action. What if…just for a change…we translate all of that negative energy into affirmative action? Instead of narcissistic performative interactions fuelled by “likes”, “followers” and other quasi religious bullshit terms. I know I’ve been guilty of this crap too, and I’m not impressed by my behaviour! BUT… What if we won? Social Media giants are not our friends and I do not believe for a second that our best interests are at their heart unless they can monetise it. Our outrage lines their pockets and makes us ill. I know there is good uses for it, I just don’t see it used that way by the overwhelming majority of us. Maybe I should’ve called it “Old man yells at cloud”.
I dropped the question mark so it looked more like one of those laconic tweets you read from those too (I can only assume) time consumed to punctuate. This is the only song on the album to use to the verse, chorus, verse, chorus formula.
I was listening to a lot of Prince and Tribe Called Quest, then this happened. I’m still not quite sure how I managed the falsetto backing vocals, but here we are.
We all have that point (at least, I hope we do) when we have had enough and we actually spring into affirmative action, no matter if it’s a day by day thing or something life changing. That point when we have looked deep inside, and found that resilience to carry on in defiance and with hope. Its so important to remember that we are worthy of being proud of who we are, just because someone or something may have caused you to doubt that…if you have love and good intentions in your heart…you have way more reason to be proud than any one who tries to diminish your light. Fuck them. Be you. Be proud. You have come so far and have so much to offer.
YouCanDoAnythingSoWhyNotTry (i is for instrumental)
Which brings me on nicely to this track…(its almost like I planned it that way…)
Since its an instrumental there isn’t too much to say other than its an obvious nod to an instrumental band with long winded song names. (Yep, that’s right. “Godspeed! You Black Emperor”) It’s a lot of hooks, stuck together, rather than a “song”. The sentiment stands though. The lack of lyrics represents that moment when you have found your flow again; you’ve been through the ringer and now you are out the other end and there is nothing to distract you from what you know you can achieve. Plus it sounds really good loud, especially on a sunny day.
The last track was the second last recorded song. It’s meant to represent that peace that can descend when you have conquered something inside you. The weird way you can feel like you’re walking on air…but you’re walking on air because you are now empty from what has been holding you back. A kind of Stockholm syndrome can kick in…you grew accustomed to living such a way that probably wasn’t good for you, and you’re almost missing your captor as you deal with this new feeling of accomplishment…of perseverance…of winning your battle, the sometimes frightening scope of freedom when you have been denied it for so long. Enjoy the stillness and reflect on how far you have come. Do your best to learn from that fight; because you will be fighting another one again at some stage, and hopefully you’ve learnt enough to survive another round. And when that happens? Press play again.