If the baby blue unicorns chomping sweets and exhaling rainbows on the cover of Torche’s 2012 album Harmonicraft didn’t quite give it away, the Miami-based quartet prefers to explore moods that don’t fit the stereotypes one would expect from the band’s often pummeling metallic sound. That said, “Admission,” the title track off the band’s fifth album (July 12, Relapse Records), is far and away the most openly personal song of Torche’s career.
In the past, frontman-guitarist Steve Brooks favored elliptical wordplay that certainly got listeners thinking but didn’t necessarily reveal much about his own feelings or even where he stood on whatever subject he was addressing. With “Admission,” though, Brooks drops his guard and lets the audience behind the curtain on his need to keep his guard up in the first place: “The fence is up for reasons/I cannot share/Yes, I will pretend/I don’t need to love again,” he sings alongside a mournful lead guitar wail that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Smiths tune or ’80s pop radio, even as it soars above a swirl of thick guitars and a galloping rhythm.
As it turns out, Torche bassist turned lead guitarist Jonathan Nunez — who doubles as the band’s in-house producer-engineer — also was experiencing a difficult time when he wrote the song. Having relocated to Los Angeles for two years, Nunez found himself cut off from his circle of musician peers after he got off the road with Torche, and all his recording gear was back in his native Miami (where he has since returned). Feeling glum, isolated and unable to throw himself into studio work, Nunez came up with “Admission” as a way to keep himself occupied — which, he says, accounts for the music’s undercurrent sense of motivation and drive.
“We had just finished an Eastern European tour,” recalls Nunez. “I was extremely under the weather and really out of it. I definitely had the flu or something, and it always feels so bizarre when you’re just engulfed by an illness. It was like 100 degrees outside, and I was far from friends and anything that I would consider my comfort things, like working in the studio or writing music. I was like, ‘Man, I need to do something,’ so I downloaded a little drum machine app. I found all these dance beats that I thought were interesting. None of them were what we would consider a Torche beat, but I wanted to do something different. I wrote around these leads, which ended up being reflective of not being in the most positive state but still optimistic. It’s sad and uplifting. When I hear it back, it was definitely written in a delirious state.”
Apparently, the mood Nunez had captured struck a chord with Books. “This is a song where the music and the lyrics are a perfect match,” continues Nunez. “It’s as if they were meant to go together. What I was going through at the time really came through in the song, and the music I gave Steve definitely brought out some rather painful emotions for him [regarding] losing loved ones and the process you go through after. [Prior to founding Torche in 2004, Brooks’ romantic partner was killed in an automobile accident.] Me and Rick [Smith, Torche’s drummer/co-producer] got a really low voice message with an early demo of Steve’s lead vocal. You could even hear a quiver in Steve’s voice, and it was like, ‘Wow, this is something we haven’t done before.’ Steve tends to be really secretive with his lyrics. He needed a little bit of a push, but I think deep down inside he wanted to get this off his chest.”
Billboard is premiering “Admission” today. Listen to it below:
With “Admission,” Torche once again constructs layers of guitar riffs that are somehow as airy as they are dense. Often referred to as a sludge band, it has turned the unlikely marriage of brute force, pop instincts and shoegaze atmospheres into a trademark. With the new album, however, Nunez says fans should anticipate even more range than they have come to expect from the band.
“There’s a variation on the new record,” offers Nunez. “It probably [best represents] what our live sets have been for a while, where it’s like, ‘That feels complete — we went through the more melodic stuff, the heavier stuff, the noisy stuff and the uptempo stuff.’ This new record touches on all of that.”