“We’re DIY as fuck!” There’s a mischievous giddiness to that statement that tamps down any sliver of irony. Steve Brooks is talking about the new Nuñez amplifier line; christened and tinkered into the world by his bandmate Jonathan Nuñez. But it’s not just that, the Torche musical universe stretches from the print shop to production to the hallucinatory album covers. All are made in house or by friends. “I’m just waiting on Eric [Hernandez] to make his own drums,” Brooks says, laughing.
And that singular vision is the only way Torche could exist. To certain delirious citizens of metal, they’re providers of Sludge-Pop, a ridiculous but apt description of the cotton-candy-colored destruction they wreck. Brooks would label Torche as a rock band, which is fair enough. The towering solos take inspiration from Van Halen, there are twin guitar duels to make Thin Lizzy envious and, of course, there’s Brooks’ Adonis-plus vocal delivery that soars like a bird, no a plane, no superman! When asked if he’s ever taken vocal training, he says his only teacher has been the road. “You can hear the change over 26 years. In Floor I was…not great.”
Brooks, for over a quarter of a century, has fronted two Miami legends. The first is the aforementioned doom merchants Floor and then the sharp zag into the nitro-boosted speed of Torche. The weaving influences of Cheap Trick and Nirvana have been on full display since Torche’s breakthrough Meanderthal. But those pop-savy sounds are blown up to hedonistic proportions. Everything more, all the time seemed to be the MO.
This decade, the quartet has released three estatic slabs of rock, Harmonicraft, Restarter and the recently unleashed Admission. We here at the 2010s are known for our detours into hyperbole (we’re a collection of the best music of the decade, what do you want), but it’s no stretch to say the opening album of this trio is perhaps the finest rock/metal/sludge-pop/whatever-the-hell record of the entire decade. From the thunderous opening drums of “Letting Go” to the bashing weight of closer “Looking On,” Harmonicraft is a thrill a minute rock album that scoffs at the idea of downtime. It wouldn’t be surprising to hear “Kicking” on a modern rock station, if the speakers could handle the grandeur. And a part of that monumental energy is the positivity flowing through.
“We feed off each other. We were in good places,” says Brooks, explaining the ebullient vibe radiating off of each solo. The face melting guitar work of “Sky Trials” is liable to burst the synapses, but get past the destruction and there’s an undeniable smile etched on the chord spasms. Outside of mixing from Converge’s Kurt Ballou, Harmonicraft was molded only by Torche, meaning every crunch, thump and fist-pump is homemade. It is a self-contained mosh pit, even down to the microscopic run time of half the album.
“When it’s done, it’s done,” says Brooks. There’s a firmness to his voice, like the songs themselves have avatars in the room, nodding approvingly once the final notes ring out. No more, no less. Of course, the “no less” just means runtime, not notes, textures or colors. “Walk it Off” is skate-punk reimagined for hover boards, and, on the opposite end, is “Solitary Traveler,” a get your lighters out anthem that’ll have you throwing elbows one second and shedding a single, perfect tear the next. All of that in under three minutes, joining Ween’s “Buckingham Green” as one of the finest mini-epics of all time.
Brooks has been open about his distaste for writing lyrics. “I’m more interested in melodies,” he says, and in someways it shows. His soaring pipes are always there to egg the guitars along to greater heights. “Snakes Are Charmed” bursts with a technicolor guitar lead and Brook’s conviction, his voice rising and rising into the chorus, adds an appropriate “thwack!” to it all. But the lyrics do come to the forefront, even changing the metal lexicon. “Kiss Me Dudely,” which is built on at least three weapons grade hooks, is the first use of “Dudely” we could think of.
“I was singing something like ‘kiss me deadly’ then someone said ‘kiss me dudely’ and I was like ‘that’s the title!’” says Brooks, laughing.
And making out with the cute guy in the Red Fang muscle shirt next to you in the pit is absolutely on the table during a Torche show. You wanna mosh? Fall in love? Smack God upside the head? With Torche urging you on, anything is possible. Outside of “Dudely” romance, images of castles, cities in the sky and freedom flutter through. Triumph is the emotion of choice.