huge thanks to Matt Kiser and the entire CMJ.com staff!
TORCHE: Light A Fuse, Watch Them Burn
May 2, 2008
By Matt Kiser
The scalding hot, light-blue flame of a welder's torch has nothing on the Miami band of the same name (including that final letter "e"). Torche, the unruly pseudo-stoner rock band, has been making a name for itself since 2005 as a physical, pummeling live group that relentlessly barrels forward both on record and in the club. Despite the limitations of capturing this deafening sound on tape, the quartet still manages to assure that same prevailing essence on wax, a feat singer and guitarist Steve Brooks downplayed in his recent chat with CMJ. It's been a few weeks since the band unleashed their mammoth sophomore LP, Meanderthal (Hydra Head), an album with a tongue-in-cheek name that lures listeners in, then whacks them over the head with chunky distortion and indie rock melodic sensibilities. They're set to embark on a month-long tour with the Sword in May in support of the record, and all eyes are on the band with the hottest name in metal.
CMJ: How's the response been so far to the new album?
Steve Brooks: So far, the response for the new album has been incredible. A little too good to be true. I think the bar might be set a little higher for us because of our history with artwork and production, too. We like to have the members of this band do more than just the music. Rick [Smith, drummer] and I did the [self-titled album's] cover and [bassist] Jon Nunez recorded most of it, as well as the In Return EP. [Baroness'] John Baizley did an amazing job with the artwork for In Return. This time around, we decided to have another band member contribute to the cover. [Guitarist] Juan Montoya did all the characters for the new record. Juan's art has really made a theme to Meanderthal. I think it's unique and fun. We're touring for the next six months straight. It's a little exhausting, but we're trying to cover as much ground as we can.
CMJ: You're a notoriously loud and abrasive live band. How did you try to capture that same essence on tape when working on the album?
SB: It's really hard to replicate the live sound, so we don't try too hard to do so. It's different, ya know? The pressure of writing and recording a full-length in two weeks was intense. I ended up recording a lot of Juan's rhythm guitar tracks for certain songs, and he did mine as well for others. We spent most of the first week doing drum and guitar tracks. The second week was spent on vocals and bass. Mixing took a couple days, and we left Kurt [Ballou of Converge] alone. He knows what he's doing. I think due to the time we had, we weren't given the option of analyzing every little thing. That might've been a blessing.
CMJ:I read that you made limited-edition cassette tapes of the first album. Why re-release your old album, and why on cassette?
SB: We did a limited [run of] 100 tapes of the self-titled record for our last tour. Those are sold out. We're going to do the same for our In Return EP and possibly the Meanderthal LP. Some people still love tapes. Unbelievable, but true.
CMJ: The band always has a boatload of vinyl editions, colors and packaging options. What's the attraction of releasing records this way?
SB: Some people don't buy music anymore because the packaging is dog shit. Why not put out some incredibly ridiculous packaging with the music? I grew up on cool-looking records, and if we have a label that's willing to do some dumb, expensive stuff, why not? We're having fun with it. In all honesty, I still buy music. I haven't figured out how to download and burn CDs myself. I've done that on purpose, because I'm lazy and stuck in my ways. Although, I have friends that burn me stuff, I'd just rather not do it myself. If I began downloading and burning CDs, it would become a bad habit. I don't have a problem with getting free music, especially since I'm guilty of it, occasionally. But, if you like a band, support them by going to shows, buying merch and records. It's fucking expensive to be a musician, and we all have bills to pay when we get home. I'm a little on the wire about the whole limited-edition merch/records, I guess because I don't care about that stuff. But if it sells and helps our band pay off debts, then I'm all for it. Some of the crazy colored vinyl looks cool as shit, too, even if black vinyl sounds better. Hee hee.