By Denise FalzonCertain bands are blessed with the ability to get substantially better with each consecutive release, and Miami's Torche are one of them. Harmonicraft is the group's full-length follow-up to 2008's acclaimed Meanderthal, and they've once again surpassed expectations, while distancing themselves from the realm of stoner and sludge metal to more of a spacey doom-pop sound. Self-produced and mixed by Converge's Kurt Ballou, Harmonicraft is filled with catchy hooks and pop melodies, as well as progressive, atmospheric rhythms. While Torche are a difficult band to categorize ― call them doom-pop, melodic hard rock or what have you ― they create innovative, skilful and intelligent music that's ahead of its time, yet somehow also nostalgic and instantly addictive.
How are you feeling about the Corrosion of Conformity tour? Singer/guitarist Steve Brooks: It was good; we had a blast on it. It was kind of short, but we're heading out again on the next part of the CoC tour soon. They're a legendary band; it's kind of wild to be on tour with a band that you listened to when you were young. I was looking at a picture and I had a collage back when I was a teenager in the '80s and CoC were on it on the wall and everything [laughs]. I would never have thought that I would be touring with them; it's kind of crazy. We're doing a festival in L.A. with Suicidal Tendencies and T.S.O.L.; it's kind of mind-blowing. I guess it's more mind-blowing for the teen in me [laughs].
Was there a specific musical direction you wanted to go in for Harmonicraft? We just wrote a bunch of songs and we used what we thought were the best ones. We wrote 20 songs and decided to complete the 13 songs that ended up on the record [laughs]. But we didn't have any direction in mind; we just wrote what we'd like to play for the next, I don't know, how many years. So, no specific direction or anything like that; we're just doing what we do.
What was the writing and recording process like for this album? We just got into a room and wrote together, pretty much. And when we started demoing all the music, I came in with vocal ideas, melodies and stuff like that. We'd all collaborate and see what worked and what didn't and then a couple weeks later, we started recording. As far as the writing goes, it's all collaborative; we do it all together. That way, everybody's happy [laughs].
Why did you decide to go the route of self-producing? Budget reasons, really. Jon [Jonathan Nuñez, bass] has done all of our records in the past; he has a studio. If we were to go with Kurt [Ballou, Converge], like half of our budget would have gone to basically hotels and all of that stuff. Just working with Jon is a little more laidback; we have a place to stay. Jon's really good at what he does; I think he does a great job. It's just easier that way, as far as self-recording, but it's basically just financial reasons.
Lyrically, is there a theme or concept behind the record? There are a few things that have meaning to it. The other things are filler, just to go with the melody of the songs, because I end up running out of things to say [laughs]. But there's no specific theme to the record; you can make up your own theme.
What is the meaning of the title? It was just a song title that our friend Joe [McLaughlin], who plays in Part Chimp, who we've toured with, came up with. He was talking to Andrew [Elstner, guitar], I believe, and I don't know what they were talking about, I don't know the whole story, but he just kind of came up with this, "It's like a harmonicraft" or something like that and we were like, "Oh, man, can we use that as a song title?" And he was like, "Yeah, sure," but he was just farting out words, you know [laughs]. When the music and everything came together and we saw the artwork, we just felt that the title would go well with the record; it seemed like a good title for it.
Where do you find inspiration for both your music and lyrics? The lyrics are inspired by different things; I guess I just kind of ramble different words for things that are happening in my life or what's happening around me [laughs]. That's pretty much the whole story of the lyrics; I don't really write lyrics, I kind of just write melodies and then I have to come up with words to those melodies, so that's why some of the lyrics go off into weird tangents. The music is always first and musical inspiration? There are a lot of things that inspire that. I mean, we all listen to a lot of different things, from stuff like Kraftwerk or early U2 to bands like Cheap Trick. Cars have inspired some riffs on the new record, [Black] Sabbath, of course ― a bunch of different things and different bands.