For the better part of the past decade, Miami, Florida’s Torche have emerged as a triumphant and powerful quartet responsible for pioneering their own brand of groovy, melodic metal that some have dubbed, “stoner pop.” Whether it carries that title, other fun monikers like “thunder rock” and “doom pop,” Torche are undisputed frontrunners of a new sound that carries the Sabbath banner, while also nodding to rockers like Nirvana, The Melvins, and even Dayton’s Guided By Voices.
Ghettoblaster caught up with Torche bassist Jonathan Nuñez as the band prepared to bring their sludge-filled, pop-tinged rock to the Taft Theatre. This is what he told us about the band’s love for GBV, their forthcoming vinyl release for Volcom, and touring …
So, being from Dayton I have to ask: Steve Brooks told Pitchfork that his dream collaboration was with Bob Pollard and we heard three Guided By Voices covers on the Part Chimp split. What was it like doing that and has Bob reached out with any feedback?
We were all longtime GBV fans and we were hoping that we’d be able to do those songs some justice. It is hard to cover a band that you really love and make them your own versions. We figured we’d give it a shot and hope it turned out cool. Truth be told, we were pressed for time when it came to recording that split. (Writer’s note: Call was dropped.)
One of your bandmates outed you as a big grunge fan in an interview for another publication. Is there another band you would like to do a handful of covers of?
A grunge fan? (laughter). I like a lot of ‘90s stuff, but not grunge specifically. That’s pretty funny. (laughter) I like Chavez, GBV, Sebadoh, Dinosaur Jr., a lot of English stuff, but grunge? We spend so much time writing originals and it is really difficult to cover someone else’s material. It is cool when you hear different versions of a certain song with a different sound or through a different filter. I’m not terribly into doing covers to tell you the truth. We had to do the GBV stuff because we love them, and we were running a little low on studio time. Bob reached out and said he liked what we did so there’s nothing cooler than that.
I was also stoked to see Columbus’ Lo Pan on the bill for your current run. What was it about them that made them a good fit for this tour?
We have known those guys for a while now, especially Jesse. They were talking about coming down to record in my studio, and mentioned some interest in coming on the road with us if we were ever wanting to take them as an opener. It just kind of lined up and they were willing to do it. They are really nice guys and they’ve been on the road and touring with High on Fire, so it should be good.
And I imagine by now you guys are well acquainted with KEN mode having been out with them on the Converge tour. Are you sick of those dudes yet or are you besties?
They bring their own flavor of Canadian humor. They are funny dudes. We are almost a week in to the tour now and I’m looking forward to continuing to hang out and clown around with those guys. The two brothers are very unique and dynamic.
Are they twins?
Shit, I’m not sure. They can’t be that far apart.
I remember the metal neck that I woke up with after seeing you on tour in support of Meanderthal, so I was surprised when Harmonicraft sounded more melodic and groovy. Have you gotten any push back from the fans about the maturation of your sound or is everyone digging it?
There are always people who are going to be hesitant as a band progresses or develops their sound in other directions, but you can’t write the same record over and over. Some bands do I guess, but we can’t. We are not that type of band. There are going to be people who liked Torche better when we were extra heavy or whatever. But we are the kind of band who is going to play what comes to us, and as long as we are having fun doing it, we will continue to do it.
Do you feel like you’ve matured in your style of play over the course of Torche? I imagine you are able to make advancements by leaps and bounds when you are touring as rigorously and getting as much practice as you do?
Absolutely. Everyone in the band has. We have more experience, creativity, and control. People have expanded their playing abilities and writing abilities. We’ve explored different ideas. So yeah, I feel like when you are touring, writing and making records with a group of guys all these years, naturally you will progress. We want to explore new territories and get better as musicians.
Do you ever worry about getting complacent? It is easy to do a job, but hard to progress as a musician…
Personally, I value progressing at songwriting. I value increasing my ability to do different things and explore dynamics. I know plenty of people and have seen bands play who are incredible musicians, but when it comes down to writing a song, they spend too much time and effort trying to jump into the spotlight and have it be all about them. It is more of a flashy, tacky scenario. I’m more interested in writing a song with the help of a few other guys, and I think we write some damn good songs!
Did Kurt Ballou offer any production advice while you were doing Harmonicraft?
The reason we had him mix the record was because it was so easy to communicate with him. He knew what we wanted to do and could see our vision when we worked with him on Meanderthal. So with this record, we knew what we wanted to do, and we did it ourselves, and then we approached him about mixing it. That allowed us to step away from it, let him start a mix, and level things out, and then we went back and forth until we were happy with it and felt like our “vision” was met. In the end, we felt like the correct vibe was there.
How do you communicate a vision like that?
For us, we were happy with our sound…he’d seen us, he’d seen us play live, we’d done a record. So it was more along the lines of talking volumes and tones and certain effects that needed to be added. It was a pretty blunt communication. We’d call him on the phone or e-mail and he respects what a band wants to do, so it went over really well and was a really easy process.
You guys announced your participation in the Volcom vinyl club this week. What have responses to that been like?
So far they have been rad. We’re stoked. People seem eager to get their hands on it. We had a lot of fun writing those songs. When we got together to write those songs, we actually got a head starts so we have a few other songs prepared for the next record and out of the way. So it was a very productive few days. It is always cool to see our efforts transfer over to something people are interested in and want to hear.
How close are we to another Torche full-length?
I’m very confident we’ll have something out in 2014.
Are you going to self-produce that again?
My guess is yeah. I’d be fine with doing the same deal we did last time. It felt very productive. Now that we have experience doing it, I’d be into that. In that kind of situation, time is on our side for once.
You guys have had the opportunity to do some pretty major support gigs, but I imagine those are way different experiences than playing a headlining show. Do you prefer the challenge or winning over and audience to the challenge of delivering for an audience of fans who already have expectations?
I’m down for both. One thing that we’ve learned in the past is which tour will work and which one won’t. In the past there have been times when we’ve been lucky to tour with a great group of guys and the money is good, but the audience is not necessarily open to what we were doing, or just not feeling it or understanding it. Sometimes that is not necessarily a crowd you want to obtain either. So we are down for support tours and all that, but we need to know what we are getting into as a band and pick the right one, you know?
The Converge tour with KEN mode and Kvelertak had to be pretty sweet though, right?
We had a great tour. That was probably one of our most fun tours. We are friends with Converge and made friends with the Kvelertak dudes, which was great. That tour was awesome.
(Catch Torche on tour at one of the following dates:
May 28 – Salt Lake City, UT (US) Burts Tiki Lounge
May 29 – Denver, CO (US) Larimer Lounge
May 30 – Kansas City, MO (US) Czar Bar
May 31 – Chicago (US) Empty Bottle
June 01 Milwaukee, WI (US) The Cactus Club
June 02 – St. Louis, MO (US) The Firebird
June 03 – Cincinnati, OH (US) The Ballroom
June 04 – Columbus, OH (US) Ace of Cups
June 05 – Cleveland, OH (US) The Grog Shop
June 06 – Detroit, MI (US) The Majestic Lounge
June 07 – Grand Rapids, MI (US) The Pyramid Scheme
June 08 – Toronto, ON (CA) Lee’s Palace
June 09 – Syracuse, NY (US) Lost Horizon
June 10 – Cambridge, MA (US) The Sinclair
June 12 – Providence, RI (US) AS220
June 13 – West Chester, PA (US) The Note
June 14 – Brooklyn, NY (US) 285 Kent – Northside Festival
June 15 – Washington, DC (US) Rock and Roll Hotel)