Published Apr 25, 2012Certain 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.
How do you feel about this record in comparison to Meanderthal?
I think it's our best record. I like Meanderthal, but there were things about it that I wasn't really happy with that could've been better. I think, for this record, we were really prepared. There are things here and there that I wish we could've done with this record, but that's just me being picky ― everybody else is really happy. But I think the songs are just getting better, but that also depends on your taste. I think we're still growing as a band, as writers; we just keep progressing with each record and it gets better. We learn from what we've done in the past, but this is our most inspired record. We were just really, really excited to be writing and doing it; it was kind of a rebirth and having Andrew in the band added to that. We're just really happy, to be honest; we already want to start writing the next record [laughs].
Did you feel any pressure going into the writing process for Harmonicraft, because Meanderthal was so well received?
Not really. I think of it this way: no matter what you do, people are going to be happy or unhappy with it. You have to make yourself happy first. If you're happy with the product, then hopefully other people will like it. But I can't be pressured like that because sometimes you feel like, "Wow, this is such a great song" and then someone comes around and shits all over it, like, "Oh, that's crap." Or if you think a song is really crappy and people are all like, "Man, that changed my life." You never know what people are going to expect, so we just have to do what makes us happy and hopefully everybody else will like it. I think, personally, this is our best record, but it really depends on what the taste is of other people. Hopefully with this one, everybody will see that we're still growing and we just keep getting better.
People like to categorize music by different genres and sub-genres. How would you categorize Torche?
Just hard rock, because we're kind of all over the place. If you're going to categorize us as something, you're going to be really disappointed because if there's a sub-genre that we're lumped in with, we're going to do something that's going to be right outside of that box at some point and it's going to confuse you. I think that's why we've always confused people. We just have a hybrid rock sound; we do what we want. I mean, there are elements of metal, there are elements of classic rock, pop and all kinds of stuff. There are a lot of '80s pop influences ― that's just what we do. I just call it hard rock; it doesn't limit us. And there's only one real stoner in the band, so we've kept some stoner rock in there too.
You would disagree with Torche being called a metal band?
I would disagree, yeah; we're not a metal band. I mean, we have parts that are metal influenced, but we also have a lot of power-pop and punk influences, which would piss off a lot of metal fans. I can't really consider us metal; it's just hard, loud rock.
How has the band's sound progressed over the years?
We've just all grown. We know our sound well; we know what works and what doesn't. I think the first record we did, we were only a band three months before we recorded it, so there are all these different things ― like, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I wanted it to be a fun band. I'm actually shocked that we're still a band; I never expected it to last this long. It was fun for the time, but you never know how long things will last. I never expected as many people to get into it as they did. We all live in different cities now and we make it work, which is great. But I just think our writing ― we've all developed it. I mean, Rick [Smith, drums] was 19 years old when we first started and he's 26 or 27 now, so he's become a beast of a drummer. Everybody's just grown into what they do. If you were to hear me sing when we first started and here me sing now, it's a huge improvement [laughs]. Pretty much practice makes perfect. You just keep doing it until you develop the skill, that's part of the progression as well; we just all got a lot better at what we do.
How has the addition of Andrew had an impact on Torche's sound?
Oh, in a big way. I mean, it still sounds like us, but it's a lot easier to work with Andrew. He comes in with ideas. It's funny because if you heard his other bands, they're not like Torche, but he comes in and he's the right guy for the job. He writes great stuff and it goes well with what we do, so I think we got the perfect guy. He's got a great singing voice and we do these harmonies live that I've always wanted to do. He's a super-cool dude; he's a few years younger than me, but I think we both grew up on the same stuff musically. It's nice to be able to relate to somebody in that way; it's inspiring. Andrew's a great addition to the band; I think it's given us new life and it's also nice to have somebody that's from the outside coming into the situation because you end up doing your own thing for so long that it's nice to have an outside source say, "Uh, I don't know if that's going to work. I don't know if that's really working." And that was one of the things that we needed sometimes. In the end, we're doing what pleases us, but sometimes you get into your own little world and you want to put out records that other people like too.
Torche have had a habit of releasing multiple EPs between albums. Is that something you planned on or has it been more of a "this is just what we want to do right now" type of thing?
Well, the thing with that is, since we all live in different cities as well, getting together is kind of a mission and since we're all really broke, we have to tour a lot [laughs]. The amount of time it took between the last record and this record was basically too long and by doing the EPs we would get together and write a bunch of songs. Instead of waiting however long it was going to take to even start recording a record, we just put something out there just so we could play some new songs. But then again, it's also nice to do splits with other bands that you're really into. Doing things like that is fun to keep yourself busy as well. We did Meanderthal, which was recorded in 2007, and if we didn't do anything in between that and this record, who knows where we'd be now and what the new record would've sounded like. We record other songs to keep ourselves inspired and working, so we're going to continue to do EPs and stuff. It's always fun to write a couple of jams and then release it rather than spending however much time writing a slew of songs. I mean, LPs are necessary, but it's not something we really rush into or you're going to have a couple of good songs and the rest you're not going to be happy with.
Will we see another Torche EP before another Torche album?
Hopefully we'll do something soon; we don't want there to be a big gap between this record and the next record. We're kind of hoping that we have the time that we can start writing the next record this year, then hopefully it'll be out either next summer or next fall or something like that, so there's not as much of a gap. It really depends now on are we going to concentrate on writing and putting out a couple of songs or are we going to try to write as many songs as we can and put out a full-length? Or maybe we might put out an EP of stuff that we didn't finish that we had written a while back. Only time will tell [laughs].
Read a review of Harmonicraft here.