Wed, 01 Apr 2015 11:08:18
Torche concocted a juggernaut of an album with Restarter [iTunes link]. Bassist Jonathan Nuñez tells us all about it in this exclusive interview too! Restarter combines the riffs galore of previous albums fans love so much, but it also expands the subtle spacey tendencies the group has possessed since early on. You’ll hear synths, violins, and other musical punctuation marks and flourishes that really augment the experience, making it just that—an experience.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Jonathan Nuñez of Torche talks Restarter and so much more.
Did you approach Restarter with one vibe in mind?
Sonically, what I set out to do was make the album sound as close as possible to how we had been sounding like a year-and-a-half prior to recording it. We recorded it last year at winter time. I feel like, halfway to Harmonicraft, our tones and sounds started changing. You start to hear that on the seven-inch we self-released called Harmonslaught. There are two songs on it, and you can really hear the shift from where we were at when we did Harmonicraft and when we did that seven-inch. From that point until the time we finished writing all of the Restarter songs, everyone was dialing in their equipment a little differently. The actual songwriting was a bit heavier. I think it might have a lot to do with that seven-inch and playing those songs live. We never set out to make some sort of record that sounds or flows a certain way, but everyone has certain ideas in the back of their minds of how they want songs they’re trying to write to sound and come off. I think the record does flow a certain way. It was a record we did without second-guessing much. It was written quickly and recorded quickly. We’re happy with the result.
Every element really converges from the music to the lyrics. What’s the actual writing process like?
The riffs definitely come before. All of the music is written beforehand. Steve [Brooks] will have ideas come to him right away. As we work on the song and demo it live all together, he’ll take that home and work with it. The next day he comes in, we might change some parts. Eventually we lay down a demo vocal. “Loose Men” was a one-take thing. Other songs might be a little more challenging. The vocals always come afterwards. The vocal melody and vocal placement can just come right away for some songs, while we have to work on it much harder for other songs. We’ll set a mic for the scratch vocal, and he might even do three or four completely different ideas for the song. Other times, like in the case of “Loose Men,” it’s like, “Holy shit, there it is!”
What’s the story behind “Restarter?”
That’s the song Andrew Elstner wrote for the record. He had the riff. We’re definitely fans of Krautrock. It’s like a sci-fi, cyber Krautrock song with this synth feel. We make something a little bit different than just guitar and bass sounds. “Restarter” came together very easily. The vocal idea is very simple much like the song is very simple and direct. I think it ties together. Someone threw in “Restarter” for another song title, and I was like, “Damn, we could switch that song title with this other song title and call the record Restarter.” Calling the sci-fi-sounding track “Restarter” felt right with the vibe it gives off. Everyone was like, “That’s fine!”
Is it particularly enjoyable for you and the band to expand the sonic palette with synths and violins, so it’s not entirely riff-driven?
To me, that’s where every record becomes fun and interesting. Since the beginning, we’ve always had songs with synths or effects. We’ll have guitars going through certain effects that don’t even sound like guitars. I just moved. On the next record, everyone will officially live in a different city. Steve is in San Francisco. Andrew is in Atlanta. Rick and I were in South Florida. When everyone comes down to South Florida, we’ll have that 12-day window. On this album, it was like 10 or 12 days. All of the music was recorded. It was close to about a week for small touches of extra things, but mostly vocals. When everybody goes home, they’re happy to sign off on what’s there, but I’ll continue to listen to it. Sometimes, people will have vague or specific suggestions afterwards, but I’m always ready to do address them. On this record, I added guitars, certain solos, and on “Restarter” actually, I did some Moog and added Korg MS-20. This record is comprised of more of the straightforward and stripped-down powerful aspects of our sound—closer to what we do live—plus the extra instruments. To me, that’s a blast, and I’ve been able to do it on multiple records. It’s fun to fuck around with different instruments, pedals, and things like that.
What artists shaped you?
I might not listen to it all the time, but the music that never gets old for me personally is Led Zeppelin, The Misfits, and Kraftwerk. Jimi Hendrix was huge too. Production-wise, it was much more saturated and going for it. I don’t think anybody plays like him. He’s an incredibly unique player, and the recordings have so much vibe. That’s better than having some super polished recording to me. It’s more about a record being a collection of songs that have a great flow and capture a certain vibe and continuity while the songs aren’t the same thing over and over. They’re different. That’s what I was trying to go for with our record—as close as possible to the live sound.
If Restarter were a movie or a combination of movies, what would it be?
It would be Blade Runner mixed with, since we have some fun songs, maybe a little action from the first Star Wars movie, and let’s see, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Lastly, maybe one of the earlier Godzilla movies because of the destructive nature of it.