Responsible almost entirely on their own for blending extreme metal and melodic pop that resulted in the rocket ship success of 2008’s Meanderthal album (which topped many of that year’s all-important “Best Of” lists), Floridian trio Torche have put in the hours to back their acclaim, and though in the unforgiving metallic underground any hint of accessibility leads to catcalls of selling out, one listen to Torche’s new EP, Songs For Singles (Hydra Head) should be enough to clear that issue up. They’re uncompromising, they’re unbelievably heavy, and gosh, they can write a pop song.
Songs For Singles follows a couple split releases with Japanese avant rockers Boris, and as guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks reveals in the interview to follow, will serve as a lead-in for Torche’s next full-length, to be recorded in the Spring. In the meantime, to support the EP, Torche has joined forces with High On Fire and Kylesa for one of the year’s coolest tours. They’ll be hitting Webster Hall in NYC this Sunday, Oct. 24, and I just couldn’t resist putting them on the cover for it. Seriously, it’s a show you don’t want to miss.
Below, Brooks discusses Torche’s original intentions for Songs For Singles, his reunion with his previous band (the perpetually-underrated doom outfit Floor), and gives an honest answer to the prospect of touring in Wintertime. Enjoy.
First thing I notice in listening to the EP is the opener is startling, and Torche did the same thing with “Triumph Of Venus” opening Meanderthal. Is there something particular about that that appeals to you?
Yeah, it hits you in the face. I like that. I like that on records I listen to, too. I just want them to get to the point.
How do you know when a song like “Lay Low” is done? Is there the drive to not add extra parts to it?
I don’t know. I guess we when we’re writing it we’re like, “Alright, that’s it,” and we just all decide that’s the end of it. I like it like that. Guided By Voices, or a band like that, they just get to the best part and then they end it. I like that.
Do you find you take parts out of songs to make them shorter?
No, we usually just add things, and then, when we all decide, that’s the end of it. That’s how it works with us.
Did you demo this material before you recorded it? I know you released the Meanderthal demos.
No, we didn’t demo. It was a lesson for us. We normally demo before we record, and we didn’t demo these, and we weren’t entirely happy with some of the other songs we recorded that should have been demoed and rewritten, probably. We just put the best of all the songs on this EP, and the other ones we might rework in the future. We ended up recording 12 songs instead of the eight, but four songs didn’t make it.
Was the plan to do Songs For Singles as a full-length?
Yeah, that was the plan, then we just decided some of these songs aren’t cutting it for us, so let’s just put out an EP. We can either rework the older songs or just start over, maybe put those other songs on something in the future, I don’t know. I’d rather put out a solid EP than put out an album with a bunch of filler tracks.
When was the recording for Songs For Singles done in relation to the Floor reunion?
We recorded it December of last year.
How was the Floor reunion for you?
It was great. The best Floor shows I ever played. Actually, when the band existed, we weren’t nearly as tight or as together as we are now, and it was nice for all of us to get together and play again. I haven’t played with Betty or Jeff in well over 15 years, so that was a treat. Then playing some of these songs—some of these songs we never even played live—it was pretty awesome. The Floor shows were the best Floor shows we ever played, and there was an audience. Normally, back then, we’d just be playing in front of the other bands or friends. The biggest audience Floor ever played for, too.
I was at the Brooklyn show, and it was amazed to see people singing along and jumping around. I imagine it was cool to play for.
Yeah, it was pretty mindblowing. We’re like, “What? Huh?” (Laughs)
Do you feel like Torche has taken what Floor started and brought it to fruition?
It’s a different beast. Floor was only going to go so far, I think. I played in that band for over a decade and it was just time to move forward. I learned a lot of lessons in that band, and Torche is the first band where I was able to do a lot more, able to do different things I wasn’t able to do in Floor, just because of the sort of people I was playing with, or the ideas and everything. And then I went full-force with this one, where Floor, we didn’t really go full-force as far as touring and everything, until 2001. We did one little tour in ’96, but none of us had the confidence. We thought it was pretty much a project, and some of us relocated and stuff like that, but we didn’t really tour where we should have back then. It probably would have been a lot different for us. But Torche, yeah. This is also a learning experience as we went along, but I’ve gone further with this band than I have with any other band, and I’m 36 years old. I’m still doing it. It’s pretty awesome.
What lessons have you learned at this point?
What not to do (laughs). I’ve learned a lot of what not to do, and then just tried not to repeat it. Just keep moving forward.
In terms of recording and momentum, you said you guys wanted to get something out. Has waiting the nine months for Songs For Singles to materialize been frustrating for you?
Yeah, it is, but I’m used to it. That’s one of the reasons I like to record things as soon as possible. We went into the studio to record these songs, because we were like, “Damn man, it’s been a while since we put out something,” but we also know it’s going to be a year before anything’s actually released. Or at least a good five months. That’s why I’m hoping to get into the studio Spring of next year with a full-length, so it can be out by this time next year. Things have to get done in order for records to come out. I’m happier with things taking a little bit longer just so we can all be prepared for it. The label and everything. They have to be ready with publicity and all that stuff as well, and then having the manufacturers release it. There’s a reason why it takes a certain amount of time to get records out. I’m alright with it, to be honest. We’re starting to play newer songs, and it gives us a little more time to really get them ready.
How much new material do you have now, writing-wise, for the next release?
We haven’t even begun. We’re hoping to start writing maybe in January.
It seems like there’s less focus live on bringing out the melody in the songs. Are the two sides of the band, the recorded and the live, separate for you?
I don’t really think about that. It’s just how it sounds. That’s how it sounds before we go in the studio too. When you’re isolating all the tracks and everything and not getting that full volume impact in the studio, ever—it’s never been like that—live, it’s gonna be a lot more abrasive. As far as all the vocal harmonies, we just haven’t added the right person yet to pull off all the harmonies live with us. I’ve got somebody in mind. Hopefully it’ll work out. But yeah, that’s the problem why a lot of the melodies don’t come off too well live. Because it’s just me (laughs).
Are you going to be doing anything else between this tour and writing in January?
We’re doing this tour, then we go to Europe for a month, then we’ll be back home in December. We don’t have anything planned after that. It’s kind of rough to tour in January and February anyway. That’s a good time, since we’re down South, to start writing and maybe play a few shows in the South. But it’s pretty brutal up North. Especially last year, with all the snow. We’ve done the Winter touring, and we’re like, “Ah, fuck this” (laughs).
Torche will be at Webster Hall in NYC on Oct. 24 with High On Fire and Kylesa. Songs For Singles is available now on Hydra Head. More info at myspace.com/torche.