When people heard that Tony Wright was leaving one of Northern Ireland’s most popular and successful bands they thought he was mad. Then again, Tony has never been one to shy away from the going against the grain. The red haired maverick of local music has finished his 40 days and 40 nights of reclusion and is now ready to spread his vision across the land. VerseChorusVerse is the name of his shiny new vehicle and we’d be lying if we said that we weren’t excited to climb aboard. What will his musical future sound like, and how did it all come together? We tracked down the man himself to find out.
► You originally rose to prominence as a member of And So I Watch You From Afar, but what did you do musically before that band?
Tony Wright : Well I moved to back to Northern Ireland after finishing Uni in Liverpool and getting my diploma. At the time I was in a band called Zombie Safari Park but I was really into instrumental rock. There came a time that due to a hernia which I had on stage I couldn’t sing that kind of hardcore style anymore. So, And So I Watch You From Afar was formed soon afterwards and then well…what happened, happened.
►How confident were you about moving into music?
In regards to riskiness of career? I didn’t even think about it. I was fearless at the time. But then again I’ve always been in bands. I was determined to spend my twenties making sure I was out there doing it. I would have left the band at the very beginning if everybody wasn’t 100% into it. It wasn’t a part time hobby, it was what I was going to do. I knew exactly what we were going to do to make sure we achieved our goals.
► Why do you think there was so many instrumental rock bands in Ireland at the time?
Because Adebisi Shank were so good! Honestly, I don’t think there was a better band out there. They blew every other instrumental rock band out of the water. They were the kings, nobody else came even close to being in their league. You’d see them live and be awestruck. You could either give up or try harder to be as good as them. I think that touched a nerve with other bands which spawned so many other instrumental rock bands. At the time it was nuts, it went from being Adebisi, Tracer, Us (ASIWYFA) and Red Neck Manifesto – to almost every band being instrumental. What did we start?! Haha. There was so many great ones, just look back at the old Richter Collective line-up! I think for a while Ireland was challenging Japan for the amount of quality instrumental bands, it was crazy!
► Lets fast forward to November 2011, you’re being crowd surfed off stage at the NIMA’s playing your final riffs in And So I Watch You From Afar. At that point how where you feeling? Did you know what you where going to do next?
I was fairly terrified at that point. I was leaving a successful band. But I felt totally free for the first time in a long time. I had a bit of a head start in what I was hoping to do next due to my past, but it wasn’t much. For all intensive circumstances I was starting from the bottom doing something completely different to what I was known for. A lot of people from the acoustic songwriting world treated me with suspicion as they were thinking “who is this rock guy coming into our world?”. I felt like an outsider, but I’d felt like that my whole life . All I knew was that I wanted to write songs, put together a new band, have fun and challenge myself. I wanted to go as far away stylistically from what I was known for. The whole instrumental thing had become really easy so I needed to try something new.
►How did that transition happen? What clicked in your mind to make you decide that this was the journey you wanted to take?
Well an acoustic singer-songwriter style was something I had been doing from the first day I started playing music, it was what I always wanted to do. In a way this is a return to what I originally planned to do. It’s like I’ve come full circle almost. I have always been a sucker for melody. A great melody can change your day, put a spring in your step! A good melody coupled with a great lyric can’t be beat, there is nothing more powerful – it can change your life! I needed to break away from the band to achieve that.
► How did you decide to move forward under the banner of “VerseChorusVerse”?
I started it while I was still in the band but it was more of a joke as the band didn’t have choruses or verses. That was honestly why I chose that name. The reason why I didn’t go for “Tony Wright” was because it’s such a common name. When I googled it I found Tony Wright the lead singer of Terrorvision, or Tony Wright the MP for Labour. There is a Tony Wright who holds the world record for insomnia and there is also an American football coach. So I decided to go with VerseChorusVerse as it would be easier in an internet search. But then foolishly after I did it I found out that there was band from London called “Verse Chorus Verse” that were an instrumental band! They have broken up now but I sent them an e-mail apologising for taking their name…they replied telling to not worry and that me they were big fans of And So I Watch You From Afar! Haha
►A bit of tongue in cheek moniker then?
Some people have asked me why did I call myself VCV. “Verse Chorus Verse? Why celebrate the most unoriginal form of song writing?”. They don’t get it, it’s not supposed to celebrating it! Most of my songs don’t even have choruses in them! Haha.
“There was a couple of song lyrics which made me feel a bit uncomfortable, I felt they were too honest – but he said that’s exactly why I should use them! I’ve got to tell my story.”
► What is “VerseChorusVerse” – are you a band, solo project, acoustic?
It is what it is. It’s anything and everything. We’re a band, but there is times some members will be off doing their own thing so I’ll go out by myself. In turn, I might play a show with only me and one other person. In an ideal world I’d be on tour 365 days of the year! Two months with the band, two months by myself – then repeat till fade.
► Who’s apart of the VCV band?
I have probably got the most kick ass band ever. It’s my crazy horse. Firstly you’ve got Johnny “The Licks” Black on lead guitar. On bass you’ve got Herb “Hulk Hogan” Magee who I believe is the best bassist in the country. On drums and backing it up is Alan fuckin’ Lynn! Is that not the most power house rhythm section in the country? Lafaro are probably my favourite band in Ireland, actually probably the world too and it’s incredible to have them on board. They can pull it back when they need to but also amp it up for the more rocky tunes. Then finally on rhythm guitar, accordion, etc. it’s Stu “The Most Talented Man In The Word” Bell – who can literally play anything! Give that boy a Hungarian nose flute and he’ll master it in an hour. He’s like Prince without the dance moves. Actually, maybe he does have the dance moves. All those guys are musicians who I respect so so much. Whenever I asked Johnny whether he’d be up for it I didn’t really think he’d be able to do it as he has his own band. But he asked me “Is it gonna be a Rock N Roll band?”… “And I don’t have to sing, just play lead guitar?”. I said to him yes and he was sold. VCV is a proper band which you can go out and dance to. It’s positive fun rock with a cheeky subversion message wise. It’s what I’ve always wanted.
► What’s the set up for the album then?
Well it’s all done. In fact it’s been completed for almost a year but the band has only been together for three months. We’ve just been rehearsing quietly in the background for while and didn’t tell anybody because I was so over the moon to have those players. The album is full band, all the instruments are played by myself and producer Iain Archer with a guy called Phil Wilkinson on drums. Iain is one of the best songwriters this country has produced so it was an honour to record the album with him. On top of that I was able to swing a favour and get guys from Miariachi El Bronx to play horns on the album!
► How did that come together?
Their manager asked me if I was going to have horns on the album and I said that I couldn’t afford the session costs. He turned to me and said “I manage the Bronx man and they owe you a favour! If you want horns, I’ll give you horns!”
► Why did The Bronx owe you a favour?
A few years ago I rescued one of their horns which they lost when they played in Dublin and I drove it back up to them at the airport before they flew home. So it was pretty cool of them to help out with my record. Nice guys.
► Where did you record the album?
I recorded most of it in London with Iain at his Bell Tower studio which is literally a bell tower of a church. You’d walk into the church where’s there a community centre then we’d climb up the bell tower to record each day and hide ourself away from the world. The final touches were then done in Belfast.
► You join a fine roster of artists working with Iain Archer. Jake Bugg has seen massive success lately.
Iain had just finished working with Jake when he started mine. I actually met Jake for the first time about a month ago. I know he’s been getting a bit of stick from some press outlets but meeting him he’s just shy. He’s a lovely kid, but really shy. He’s only just turned 19 and I kinda like that he’s not overly media savvy. He’s real! I remember one time he walked up to Iain complaining about his hair as it had gotten a bit long and was continually getting in his eyes. I jokingly said that he should wear an Alice band like Italian footballers do! Let’s just say he didn’t get the Irish humour, but he was lovely all the same. “Lightening Bolt” is one of the best singles of the year, it’s kind of like “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence and I love Creedence!
► How much of an influence did Iain have on your album?
I feel like Iain rebuilt me. After the whole And So I Watch You From Afar thing my confidence was pretty low. I gave him fifty songs to start off with and we whittled it down to the ten with the best narrative throughout. He encouraged me to push myself. There was a couple of song lyrics which made me feel a bit uncomfortable, I felt they were too honest – but he said that’s exactly why I should use them! I’ve got to tell my story. Looking back on it I’m glad I did it but at the time I was panicking. He told me that honesty is what shines through and I totally believe that now. I think when you hear the album you’ll know the song I mean.
► How is the record being published?
This album is going to be totally self published and I’m so happy about that. The best time I ever had in ASIWYFA was when we put out our first EP ourselves. That was the best time. Everything was in it’s right place and there was no pressure from outside influences. So it’s my manager and I putting it out on his management label which is Third Bar. It’ll be the first and probably only ever Third Bar release. It’s basically been me and Davy (Matchett) working our asses off in the background putting together a team of press people etc to make sure the album comes together. It’s been a lot of fun and more DIY than anything I’ve ever done since “This Is Our Machine And Nothing Can Stop It”. The whole experience has been very freeing.[separator]
► You’ve recently successfully used PledgeMusic to crowd fund the album. How is that money going to be used?
I am more proud of this album than anything I’ve ever done in my life. It represents a huge change and a huge gamble. I put myself out there and I want to give it the best shot I can – it’s kind of like releasing your child out to the world you know? The Pledge campaign was aimed trying to help drum up as much press as possible. There is only a certain amount you can do yourself. If you want to get an album into radio pluggers hands throughout Europe then you need an investment. It covers stuff like duplication costs too. Everything which goes into making sure an album is properly published is covered by the pledge campaign and I’m so grateful to everybody who helped me make it a reality. You’re the best!
► When can we expect the album to be released?
If you go to the Pledge campaign page right now you can pre-order a copy of the album which you’ll get before everybody else. The physical copies and everything else will be sent out within the next few weeks. The album will get a general release after the summer so keep your eyes out for that!
► Glasgowbury will soon be upon us! Are you all set for your slot up the mountain?
I am indeed and the band will be with me too! Last year was so much fun. I was glad that I was able to do it as for a lot of people that was the first time seeing VCV. Loads of people came up to me after the set saying “You’re actually good! We though you’d lost your mind leaving ASIWYFA.” Thanks for the faith guys, haha. That performance was stark and bare, this time round I’m very happy to change it up and have the band in tow.
► As a fan who are you looking forward to seeing?
Cannot wait to see Jetplane Landing again. The only thing I’m gutted about is that my set is conflicting with Little Bear and I love that band. I’m gutted as I haven’t got to see them live yet. Make sure to check out Music Promise as I mentored a few of the people playing there. I mentored Shannon from Vanilla Gloom a few years ago so the future of music will be on that stage. I’m so proud of all of them.
► Unfortunately this will be Glasgowbury’s last ever incarnation. Looking back, what has been your most memorable moment from the past few years?
Personally it was my set last year. There was a moment where I was able to get everybody to sing with me. I got off the stage, went into the middle of the crowd and roused them all to sing a song called “You Can’t Win Back Your Freedom If You’ve Never Been Free At All”. That communal feeling of everybody in it together is a glorious thing and at that point something clicked in me which made me realise that I made the best decision I could ever have made leaving the band. That will live long in the memory for me.
Pledge HERE to Pre-Order a copy of VerseChorusVerse’s album and get it before everybody else! Catch him live @ Glasgowbury on Friday, 9.15pm, Eagles Rock Stage.