The Deli Philly's Featured Artist(s) Poll Winner: The Vernes

By: Alexis V.

December 19, 2016

The Vernes came together because its members lacked “anything else going on.” So guitarist Fabian Mera and bassist Robert Sesma took what sounds like a ridiculously long trip on a Greyhound bus, from Oakland to New York City, to come stay in frontman Matthew Gragg’s apartment. NYC didn’t turn out to be the “right fit” for them, which is lucky for us. Together, with Pat Degan on drums, the garage-pop foursome is part of the welcomed migration of talented, young artists continuing to flow into our City of Brotherly Love. Take a listen to The Vernes, and get to know our new Featured Artist(s) Poll Winner a little better below! (Photo by Cara Stefchak)


The Deli: How did you start making music?

Matt: I always remember having this like Fender knockoff sitting in my room collecting dust, but I never played it. When I was a teenager, I got into some trouble with my friends for smoking pot or something dumb like that, and wasn’t allowed to leave my room for a bit. I decided to pick it up. Fell in love immediately.

Fabian: As The Vernes though, it just kinda happened because none of us had anything else going on.

Matt: Yeah, I was living in New York City last winter where I recorded that first batch of songs. Fab and Robert were still in California, but I told them if they wanted to come out and start a band, they’d have a place to stay with me.

Fabian: We had all been in other bands that would play with each other around the Bay Area, but had never made music together. Then one day, we told Matt we were coming, and bought Greyhound tickets from Oakland to New York. NYC wasn’t really the right fit for us at the time though so not long after we all moved down to Philly together.

TD: Where did the name The Vernes come from?

Matt: Well, we were having a tough time coming up with a name. One night, we were sitting at this bar, and there was this mural of Jules Verne on the wall.

Fabian: Yeah, I think we were at that point where you just name things around you and see if it sounds good. At the time, none of us had read anything by him. I actually just finished Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea two weeks ago. It was ok.

TD: What are your biggest musical influences?

Matt: I’ve always gravitated towards singers with less than perfect voices. I think it helps me deal with dissatisfaction about my own voice. I’d have to say number 1 probably has to go to Bob Dylan, but I don’t know. Sometimes I get sad that The Unicorns aren’t around anymore, I think they made the best record in the past 20 years. I wish we were weirder like them.

Fabian: I find myself drawn to bands who give really dynamic live performances. Artists like Foxy Shazam, Janelle Monae, and Mac Demarco all shaped my idea of how music should be experienced. But also classics: The Talking Heads, The Stones, Bruce Springsteen.


Robert: Shannon and the Clams, The Clash, The Smiths.


Pat: I think my influences change here and there, but I find myself always drawn back to classic rock: The Beatles, Hendrix, the Doors etc.

TD: What artists (local, national, and/or international) are you currently listening to?

Matt: I saw Big Thief play with Frankie Cosmos at the church a few months ago, and can’t get over how good that band is. I don’t think I’ve been able to write a song since without it just sounding like a rip off of Masterpiece.

Fabian: I have always had an obsession with any project Chris Farren is involved in. That guy is so much fun. I love his new solo album, and he killed it at Union Transfer last month. I saw Twin Peaks there too a few months before that, and they also brought so much energy, and are such rad guys.

TD: What’s the first concert that you ever attended and first album that you ever bought?

Matt: My mom took me to ZZ Top when she was like eight-months pregnant with me. Does that count?

Fabian: I saw the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s at LIVE 105’s BFD. I think my first album was Eiffel 65’s Europop when it came out in 1999.

Robert: My sister’s battle of the bands and Van Halen’s Greatest Hits.

Pat: I think my first concert was The Cranberries with my family. Still love that song “Dreams”. The first album I bought with my own money was for sure No Way Out by Puff Daddy and the Family.

TD: What do you love about Philly?

Matt: The music!

Fabian: The hoagies!

Robert: The wheelies!


Pat: The people!

TD: What do you hate about Philly?

Matt: I don’t know, SEPTA?

Fabian: Getting hit by cars on my bike.

Robert: Expensive weed. Broken glass everywhere.

TD: What are your plans for 2017?

Fabian: Just to work hard and have fun really. It’ll be our first full year together as a band, and we just want to release music and play as many shows as we possibly can.

Matt: I used to be much better at chess, but I stopped studying. I think I want to get back into that.

Pat: Just play as much as possible.

TD: What was your most memorable live show?

Matt: For me, it has to be the first one at Ortlieb’s in September. A bunch of our friends came out, and it was a blast. We took a disposable with us, and got some nice pictures of everyone too.

Fabian: We’ve played some really neat basement shows recently too. New Planet, The Blink - those were really cool. Basements don’t really exist in the Bay Area so now I’m all about them.

TD: What’s your favorite thing to get at The Deli?

Fabian and Pat: Chicken salad, baby!

Robert: Egg salad!

Matt: Tuna salad!