At the time of this interview, Torche’s drummer, Rick Smith, is in the process of moving and essentially becoming homeless. “I’m trying to float as long as I can,” he says. “I’m hoping to not have to find another place until closer to the holiday season, when I’m less busy.” Smith currently resides in Gainesville, Florida, and the rest of the band is somewhat scattered—guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks and guitarist/vocalist Andrew Elstner both reside in Atlanta, Georgia, and bassist Jonathan Nuñez still resides in Miami, where the band was formed in 2004. Torche begins a three-and-a-half week jaunt with Corrosion of Conformity on June 1 to promote their latest full-length release, Harmonicraft, followed by Metallica’s Orion Music Festival in New Jersey, alongside such bands as Arctic Monkeys, Best Coast, Modest Mouse and Metallica. Following that is the 305 Fest in Miami with an insane lineup of bands that includes The Bastard Noise, Dropdead, Noothgrush, Iron Lung and many others, and there is also a European tour in the works. As if the band’s summer schedule wasn’t crazy enough already, Smith is also in the bands Post Teens and Shitstorm (with fellow Torche member Nuñez), so it seems that this is the perfect time for him to forego traditional living in favor of the nomadic lifestyle that is seemingly essential to a band that tours almost ceaselessly.
Torche’s music has definitely evolved since the band’s self-titled album back in 2005. That release seemed to be somewhat of a logical extension of the bands that members of Torche had previously been in, such as the absolutely amazing Cavity and Floor. Beginning with 2008’s Meanderthal and continuing with the band’s newest release, Harmonicraft, which was self produced by the band and mixed by Kurt Ballou (of Converge fame) at GodCity Studios in Massachusetts, Torche has steadily written material that has more in common with Led Zeppelin than with Black Sabbath.
“We get a lot of shit for not being as ‘heavy’ as we used to be,” says Smith, “but the funny thing is that Harmonicraft has more songs tuned to drop-A than Meanderthal did.” He goes on to explain that he feels like the age demographic—younger kids, specifically—and some people’s fickle musical tastes cause the band’s fans to not be as appreciative as they could be of the band’s entire catalog. “It seems like a lot of young kids are told by older folks to listen to specific albums,” Smith explains. In his estimation, kids are being told things like, “You should listen to this album because it kicks ass, but don’t listen to those other albums because they aren’t as heavy.” Torche played to an almost strictly metal crowd for so long that some people aren’t as accepting of the maturation of the band, specifically regarding song structure, melodies and presentation. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but Smith sees closed-mindedness as being a direct hindrance to people discovering and enjoying Torche’s releases. He concedes that this isn’t meant as a blanket statement or an indictment of closed-mindedness directed at any specific crowd—he explains his standpoint almost as a lament as opposed to an accusation aimed at any group of people.
“I think the idea of playing slower was easier than actually doing it,” Smith says about his transition from playing in metal/grindcore bands, such as Shitstorm, to playing in Torche. “You can listen to the last track on the first [self-titled] Torche record, and you can hear how stiff the drumming is.” Smith is nothing if not his own worst critic, but he revels in being what he calls a “rock drummer” as opposed to a “metal drummer” these days. “Playing with good musicians—dudes who know how to play really well—it really makes me step up my game, and it’s taught me to play more tastefully,” he says. Smith goes on to further praise his bandmates, and explains that Torche is a “live band,” stating that the band’s full-length releases are written and recorded very quickly, so more time can be spent touring.