One of the best moments in The Vernes‘ Key Studio Session this week — one that encapsulates them as a band, I think — happens at about a minute and 54 seconds into their performance of “H. Roark.”
It’s a midtempo, sorta breezy jangle-pop number, the kind The Vernes have done so well since moving to Philly from the Bay Area (following a NYC pitstop). After a buildup from gentle arpeggios to buoyant lead licks from guitarist Fabian Mera — who sways back and forth when he plays in a way that reminds me of Dr. Dog in the early days — we see singer-guitarist Matthew Gragg taking a solo when, while hitting a chord fervently, he gets the his guitar tangled in his headphone cord.
He keeps playing, the headphones get more tangled, and ultimately they topple forward, hanging off his neck until the end of the verse. We’re back in breezy midtempo territory at that point, but not really, since this sort of immersive playing from The Vernes can make even the quietest song electrifying.
Rounded out by bassist Cole Berggren and drummer Pat Degan, the band released a self-titled album back in March on cassette and on Bandcamp, and it documented their first year living and writing and recording in Philadelphia. “Summer’s Gone” is a quick standout — they close their Key Studio Session set with it — and can be superficially read as a bittersweet seasonal pop jam that slots perfectly in those September 21st playlists. But it’s actually a breakup tune where one of the characters is named Summer, and like The Vernes’ music at large, is totally relevant the whole year round.
On a song and style level, their intertwining guitar / sardonic delivery approach immediately reminds me the most of The Feelies; this interview they did with The Deli back in the winter also reveals their love for The Unicorns, Talking Heads and Shannon and the Clams. As a live band, they’re not to be missed, so catch them this Saturday, November 18th, opening for Church Girls at Johnny Brenda’s. Tickets and more information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Listen to The Vernes’ Key Studio Sessions performance in full below.