Combining rock, electronic and acoustic sound palettes with an approachable, unpretentious persona, Tom Verberne brings a fresh perspective to music. Taken from ‘Don’t Walk’, his third album, recent single Sit In The Back is a driving, energetic rock track that’s about lacking confidence in social situations. Nur Lajunen-Tal finds out more. Made with support from NZ On Air Music.
Tom Verberne began working on his own music in high school.
“I probably properly started writing music when I was 13 or 14, doing Smokefree Rockquest. Then when I got my first Mac I started recording and using Garageband and stuff. I was probably 14. I’ve just kind of been doing it ever since then. I dropped my first little album when I was 18. I kind of grew up playing guitar, and my dad’s big into music, so I just grew up with it in the family.”
His father Gary Verberne featured alongside Shona Laing on the cover of NZM’s June 1992 issue. An exceptional lead guitarist of the time, he recorded and performed with a number of great Kiwi acts in the ’80s and ’90s including Graham Brazier‘s Legionnaires, When The Cat’s Away, DD Smash and Boh Runga.
Learning his craft as a bedroom producer, the younger Verberne still self-produces the majority of his output. He happily says that ‘Don’t Walk’ is a level up from his previous work, including recording the drum tracks at Roundhead in Auckland.
“I feel like making music is a constant process of getting better. My first album was when I was 17 or 18, and my second album I was 19. I look back on those and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, they sucked!’ It’s a bit of a cycle. It kind of did get better, though, because I recorded properly for a few songs. I feel like my production levelled up quite a lot, and I got some songs mixed.
“I put quite a lot of effort into refining the songs on this album, whereas the last ones, if I was happy with how it was sounding, I would just leave it like that. But with this one, I was banging my head against the wall trying to get a snare sound better for a month! I just put a lot more effort into it, I guess.”
There’s evidence in that the genesis of his new single began a few years before its eventual release. The song, he says, is just about a lack of confidence, just sitting in the back of the room rather than putting yourself out there.
“I made the first version of Sit In The Back back in 2020. It started out as an electronic song with an almost garage drum beat sitting underneath some distorted guitars. I wrote the melodies and lyrics to that instrumental but wasn’t sold on the direction. I did like the bones of the song though, so I made a few more different versions before settling on one and jamming it out with the band to finalise the parts. We then went to Roundhead to record some drums and I produced the rest from there!”
Directed by Angus Fraser the single’s music video, features Verberne performing the song with his band, which consists of (brother) Charlie Verberne, Robby Hekkers and Lucian Rice. The video has a fast-paced, frenetic quality which is consistent across all of the visualisations for ‘Don’t Walk.’
“I just wanted to capture the vibe and energy of the song!” Verberne explains. “I love making videos with the band ’cause although I make the music alone, some of it is pretty live-oriented. I feel like a music video with the band helps translate that. Also, it kind’a captures the vibe of us playing at a show for people that haven’t been able to see us yet! I’ve made a few videos with Angus now – he’s amazing to work with.
The Deftones’ Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away) video provided the inspiration and the filming happened at Silo Park by Auckland’s waterfront.
“Once we had the spot we locked in a time and went down to shoot some stuff for a few hours. We had to make it quick though ’cause we ended up making a lot of noise in a public space around a fair amount of people and we didn’t want to get kicked out, haha!”
His new album is a mix of conventional, radio-friendly songs and more experimental material, Verberne saying he enjoys the experimental songs the most.
“The songs that tend to do the best of mine are the songs that I like better but are a bit weirder. They have weirder structures and just sound a bit weirder. It’s good for me cause it’s kind of validating since I like those ones the most. With the new stuff I’m making at the moment I’m just doing whatever I want, and seeing what happens.”
When we talk he is spending a month in the US, starting in Los Angeles before relocating to New York.
“I came here in 2019 as well, but I was a lot more shy back then, so I didn’t really get as much done. I was more reclusive. I’ve been here for a couple of weeks, which has been pretty fun. There’s quite a lot of my friends here at the moment, which has been real cool, to just be able to link up with them and do some stuff for them over here.
“I’ve been in LA for 13 days, and I’m leaving in a couple of days to go to New York for two weeks, and then back to NZ, which will be nice. Honestly, I kind of miss having my own bed and my setup and stuff. I’m just doing sessions, meeting up with industry people, and hanging out with friends I’ve made over the internet, like music friends and stuff. But also sneaking a little bit of fun stuff in there as well.
“I’d say most of my music friends are in America. If I had to fit into any sort of scene, it would be an internet scene, so it’s cool to be able to see everyone and collaborate with them.”