Torche - Just Kicking It
By: David E. Gehlke
Blistering.com: Harmonicraft is your first album with the band, so as a unit, what was the approach? It has some elements of Meanderthal, but it adds a lot of new twists too.
Elstner: I know as a huge fan of Torche, you want to dump in all of the stuff that’s like throwing red meat to wolves…you want to do bomb strings on every song. Those guys being a band for as long as they have, you want to try new stuff. In their own minds, they were ready to try some fresh things. I don’t think there are any total curveballs on the record like, “Holy shit, they did a rap metal song!” It was never a conscious, outspoken thing, like we’re doing this or we’re not going to write an album like this. I think even having someone new in the band, freed up a vibe. Does that make sense?
Blistering.com: I would think, definitely.
Elstner: It gives license to try ideas that you couldn’t try in the past or things that didn’t work as well. It was definitely open and easy. Those guys are extremely easy to work with; they work extremely hard and extremely fast. If it’s not working, it’s not working. It’s really efficient, I guess.
Blistering.com: “Kicking” gets stuck in my head constantly, so I think you succeeded there.
Elstner: Oh, rad! That song was the first we wrote together. I met them in Gainesville, went back to their practice space and I had learned all of their old material, but they were like, “We’re not going to do any of that. Do you have any songs you’ve been working on?” I had some riffs and other little bits. I kinda had something, but I didn’t want to feel like an idiot, so I shat [the first riff on “Kicking”] out and they thought it was neat. I’ve been lucky with musicians I’ve played with…within 30 seconds, [Joe] Nunez had the bass-line down, which was just awesome. And then Steve comes with a heavy riff and we spat it out in 20 minutes [laughs]. It remained as-is from that point on. People seemed to pretty stoked about that song, so it’s a good feeling knowing I was able to kick the album off like that.
Blistering.com: I’ve been in bands before and we call that “Pulling a riff out of your ass.” Aside from “Kicking” and “Letting Go,” there are some metal moments like on “Reverse Inverted.” Do you have any preference between the heavier and poppier stuff?
Elstner: It doesn’t matter to me. It’s not a particular sound for me, and it works so well for me, that it’s hard to explain. It’s not like I was some bizarro fan of Torche…I didn’t get into them until after Meanderthal and it was until I saw them live that it really clicked. I grew up in a musical family; everyone played something in way or the other. Music was always around, but I grew up listening to metal from 6th grade one with hard rock and metal. It makes sense to me…playing heavy, loud guitar is satisfying. It makes it even more awesome if you can combine it with something memorable. I’m doing a really horrible job of describing this [laughs]. It’s tricky to come up with something that sounds cool without being corny and overwrought.
Blistering.com: It’s very tough in metal because all of the riffs have been used and you can’t do anything without someone saying it sounds like someone else.
Elstner: Everybody in the band is a fan of popular stuff. If it’s not power-pop, it’s something in the indie rock world. It was more a surprise to me that so many people were surprised we covered Guided By Voices. To me, I can hear it already. The melodic stuff, I’d ask Steve what he’s listening to…where there’s a drone underneath and major melody on top, so it transcends a lot of styles.
Blistering.com: What was it like working with Kurt Ballou from Converge? He seems to do a pretty good job with a wide variety of bands.
Elstner: He was awesome. I hadn’t met in him person, but if I did, I’m sorry Kurt [laughs]. We tracked the record in Miami, so John was the engineer and our friend Brian Hass was the co-engineer. We sent the tracks up to Kurt and he has an awesome team around him with guys who aren’t judgment and Kurt is a total machine. He grinds out mixes so fast and he’s very responsive to the ideas we had.
Blistering.com: There’s been an ongoing debate on which side of the fence Torche is, if you’re metal or not. What’s your take on the matter?
Elstner: The guys in the band, I don’t want to speak for them – they would say we’re not a metal band, we’re a rock band. I don’t take that route, I think if people want to think that, that’s fine. When I grew up, my first guitar riffs were Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin, then you hear Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and whatever else. I still…I don’t know [laughs]. The bigger bummer is when people go, “You aren’t a metal band” and they’re pissed about it. Like what you like, but if people are bummed…especially with the new record since we didn’t write the first album all over again, people would say we were treading water if we did re-write the first album. If we tried something different, they would say the new shit sucks. You can’t please everybody, so you might as well please yourself.