Q&A: Jonathan Nunez from Torche, Playing Respectable Street Saturday

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photo by Justina Villanueva
Torche really deserves all the credit it gets. Purveyors of sludge thicker than BP's footprint, the underground powergroup has consistently turned out its memorable brand of stonerific pop metal since its debut in 2005. The foursome boasted a pedigree with its original lineup that included members from Floor, Cavity, and Tyranny of Shaw. But in the interest of not introducing South Florida readers to Torche for, well, the gazillionest time, what follows is a bio reduced to a 140-character tweet: sludgy, pop, loosely tuned bass strings. Thunder! Think Melvins, Jawbox, Sabbath. In a word: heavy. D'oh, violence! Quartet becomes trio.


The band's latest, the eight-song EP Songs for Singles, is their first since parting with guitarist Juan Montoya - following Montoya's exhaustively documented punch to lead singer/guitarist Steve Brooks' face. However, the now-trio recently released a split with psych-noise rockers Boris, called Chapter Ahead Being Fake, (released stateside July 13), which includes the already ubiquitous, ever-doomy Torche single "King Beef" - fingers crossed they'll have it available at their Respectable Street show on Saturday.

Songs for Singles, due out in September, maintains the band's evolution that's occurred from record to record, and even from band to band. It's a poppier, even happier departure from their own brand of heavy, happy, melodic doom. "It's like we took Prozac or Red Bull or something," bassist Jonathan Nunez recently told New Times via phone. He had just left the vet after his puppy suffered some tongue-twisting ailment, but remained enthused to discuss the new EP, being on tour with Coheed and Cambria, and potential new Torche members.

New Times: Songs for Singles is your first EP as a trio. How did you adjust to working as a three-piece? Any unexpected hurdles creatively, or was it much easier?

It's the first EP, but it's the second release. We did a split with Boris [that is] coming out this month. And it was definitely much easier. We always wrote as a group even with Juan in the band... But when we became a three-piece, it was a really productive process. With Me, Rick, and Steve, I think we work fairly quickly, we know what we want, and we know how to get it, and we know when it's right. We definitely work faster without Juan. Juan definitely added stuff, and it was great to have that second guitar... [but] now we have [Howard Johnston] touring with us doing his version of what we were going for.

Will the split with Boris be available at the show?

We hope so, the show's on the 17th. It might be cutting it close, but we might have it. That would be great, though.

So Howard is slowly ingratiating himself into your band?

Yea, he did the Coheed and Cambria tour we just did. He's on for all the upcoming tours. If everything goes well, we'll jump him in.

[Laughs] Assuming he doesn't survive the beatings, where did you find him? For posterity's sake, that is.

Me and Rick have known him for years, he was in this experimental math-rock indie band called Pygmy. He was the rock element of that band. The result was always quick rock parts in these long songs, but not a rock band. In our band, he finally gets to shred and lay back and play rhythm. He gets to be in the rock band he's always wanted to be in.

Is the jokey version of "U.F.O." from Songs, that Hydra Head released, going to be a hidden/bonus track anywhere?

Actually I haven't even heard that. I've had friends tell me about it, but I've been recording and working so much that I haven't even heard it. I hear he fills it with David Lee Roth vocals?

It's pretty hilarious. Almost as funny as the original Diamond Dave.

Yea I haven't heard it yet [laughs], but I guess that's just an internet spoof. That's what [record label] Hydra Head does.

Steve [Brooks] resides permanently in Atlanta?

Yea he goes back and forth while recording. We're all spread out but everyone makes the trip to record.

How does the writing process work that way? Do you guys write together, or do you brainstorm separately?

I think everyone has ideas separately, but I think once we get there, we're a much more on-the-spot type of band. When we get together, we're dedicated to writing songs: on top of it. Everyone criticizing everyone else's stuff. But we pretty much do everything on the spot. For this, we got together a couple times down here in Miami, then a few times in Gainsville, and wrote 13 songs, no problem. And we recorded 13 songs, but we're only releasing eight. We ran into a wall with vocals. The music's busier so we're not really used to putting vocals over it. So Steve was having a really hard time. We just released these eight. The other ones may end up on the next record, but these were the ones that were done, so we were like, "Let's just keep moving."

I heard that Steve was having trouble writing vocals for Songs for Singles. What do you attribute it to?

It would be two things. A. It's so much busier than our other stuff, so it was like, "Whoa, how do I approach this?" And then B. "I have to be careful when I approach this because I have to play this shit live." So the end result was: let's just stick to what we're used to... Because musically, everyone is doing a little more than usual. As a whole, it feels like the old stuff, but it's like we took Prozac or a Red Bull or something.

Your equipment was stolen while on tour with Coheed and Cambria. Aside from that, how was the tour?

The tour was good. Coheed and Cambria and Circa Survive are awesome people. Their crews are incredible. It was a good tour, we definitely made friends, but in the end -- we say it was a good tour, we were taken care of -- it wasn't our crowd. We went outside of our genre. We were playing for different people, mostly younger kids. [Hydra Head's] Mark Thompson always said, "It will increase visibility," That's his line: "I think it'll be good."

But the crowd wasn't completely there for us. I would say there were 15 to 30 people max at certain shows that were into us. There were younger kids that were like, "I've never heard anything like you guys" and we were like, "Cool. This is good." But merch sales weren't cutting it. And patches of people were just waiting like "when is this going to be over."
But I think I speak for all of us that we definitely enjoyed unleashing the sonic assault on these kids. Especially with people who were like "What the hell is this?"

[Another highlight] is that the Circa Survive sound guy Chris hooked us up. He said he'd take care of us. He definitely helped us a lot. That's a huge improvement we saw on that tour. For a lot of bands that can't afford a sound guy for an entire tour, we're at the mercy of the house guy, which sometimes is good because he knows the room. But with Chris, [Torche merch guy] Tony, who's been on tour with us for a while, was giddy. He was like, "Dude you have no idea, Chris nailed it." That's part of it.

We became really good friends with the bands and the crew. Great people. But I think we're going to stick to our demographic.

Did you at least break even for the stolen gear?

Not really, just because so much was taken. Luckily Hydra Head was helpful in setting up a donations account. I believe we might have gotten close to half of what was taken. We instantly had to go out and buy a bunch of stuff just to be able to play and continue the tour... There were a lot of people who helped us out. A lot of companies that worked with us. Can't thank all the people that donated enough. It was incredible.

What did you do after [getting your gear stolen in] Chicago?

We couldn't continue the tour into Canada because our passports were stolen, so we had to fill in a bunch of days we would've had off. Rick set up seven to ten shows, which was refreshing because we played to people who were excited to see us. Just a regular Torche show. It was just like a party. 

Torche will play with Kill Now?!, Furious Dudes, and Belt Buckle Death Sentence. 8 p.m. Saturday, July 17, at Respectable Street, 518 Clematis St. West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $7.50 in advance, $10 at the door. Call 800-594-8499, or visit respectablestreet.com.
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