With a slew of modern bands gripping to their synths and chaos pads, many music publications are claiming that guitar based music is dead. That's exactly what Torches, a five-piece from London, want them to think. They are ready to showcase the new heights they can reach with just the guitars on their backs. We had the chance to sit down and speak with them about their singles, touring, and what's in store for them in the future.
The Peel: Not much is out there about you guys. Can you tell us a bit about how the band formed?
Charlie: Me, Alex, Nick and Ed have played in previous projects before. About this time last year, we had an opportunity to live together again and none of us were playing. The previous band that Alex and I were in had disbanded, so we had the chance to start working on stuff together. We all felt the collective need to be creative again. We started demoing in our basement, and we took it from there really. We put a few songs online and the response was really positive. Then we had to start going out and showing it to the real world. That's where Steph came in. She answered a call from us for a drummer. Steph had been playing in previous stuff before. We just took it from there. Steph you've been with us for what now?
Steph: Since December.
Charlie: So everything slid into place nice and quickly.
P: What's the significance, if any, behind your name?
Charlie: We wanted something short and punchy. The name Torches, it kind of conjures a dark imagery.
Nick: I think it reflects the music that we're into.
Alex: I think we wanted something quite opaque, it's direct, but it's nothing too direct.
Charlie: Visually as well, We're quite visual. I think it's a word that looks good written down. I wouldn't say it's got huge amounts of relevance, but I suppose many [band's names] don't.
Nick: There's a certain thing here, I'm not sure if you've got it in the US at the moment, a lot of bands deliberately shroud themselves in mystery. We never intentionally set out to do that. But it's a neat safety net, it gives you time as a band to develop. purposefully, when we put our stuff on the internet, there wasn't much information about us. I think maybe people were looking more at visual clues and literate references as to what we were about instead of just, here's 5 people in a band. I think we wanted to play around with those ideas.
P: Can you describe for us your live performances? You've got three songs online, 'Silent Film', 'Sky Blue & Ivory', and 'Twenty & Two Zeros'. What else is on your setlist?
Steph: We're sitting on a lot of material.
Charlie: I'd say our shows, personally, is where we really---
Steph: We're definitely a live band.
Charlie: I think we're quite distinct in terms of our recorded output and our live output, and they sit hand-in-hand with each other, certainly. The set is about 7 songs. It's quite a visceral set, there's not any stopping or chatting. We start with a bang and just go for it really.
Alex: Charlie's performance as a front man is quite frantic and a dramatic release. Quite theatrical.
Charlie: Not staged, I wouldn't say staged.
Alex: As a guitarist I have to watch out for limbs coming my way.
Charlie: We played yesterday and I was quite confrontational with the audience. Which I think is something you have to play with. It's not in an angry way or anything like that, but you're on a platform for a half-an-hour--or whatever it is--and you have the attention of 10 people or 100 people. You have that direct line of communication, so if you're walking out or talking, I'm gonna say something to you. We're up there doing something, it's not like you can't leave the gig, but I think sometimes too many bands are almost too pristine in respects to how they act, who they respond to, and who they expect responses from. I think we like to play with that, certainly.
Steph: It leaves an impression. If you're going to remember a band, you're going to remember them because they had an interaction with the audience rather than putting up a wall in between the stage and the audience. Charlie leans off the stage, and I think at one point you were off the stage--
Charlie: It's not completely insane.
Alex: It's nothing rehearsed.
Charlie: That's my job as being the singer. That's when my work kicks in. You can tell when a band goes on stage and does the same thing every single day, and every single time they play. Who's gaining from that?
Alex: I think some bands just have too much confidence in their own music--
Charlie: --to let it be something else when you're performing it. It's not the same as when you put it on record, it's never going to be the same and I think that's why we treat those two processes as being quite distinct.
P: You have a big sound, it certainly comes through on 'Silent Film'. Can you explain your writing process? What are you trying to convey through your songs?
Charlie: We're aiming for a big sound.
Nick: We've been compared to a lot of bands. being compared to other bands at your inception is inevitable. It's flattering more than anything.
Alex: I personally quite enjoy the fact that a lot of journalists haven't quite nailed our sound. Or there hasn't been any consistency with how our sound has been described. No journalist has ever hit the nail on the head.
Steph: It's nice in a way.
Charlie: I think being a guitar based band in the 21st century, especially in England, there's a lot of stuff being written in the press about guitar music being dead. [There was] that whole 2007-2009 period of Indie Landfill, where you've got hundreds of bands trying to sound like The Libertines. I think for that reason, it's useful that they're claiming guitar music is dead. Post-modernism happened in art, and I don't think it's really had that moment in music, in many respects. I think people expect this original thing, and you play with the ideas of what bands have done before. I don't want to escape from our references. It's about taking those references and creating something that is yours.
Alex: I think, in respects to guitar music, at the moment there are slightly lower expectations as to what guitar music can achieve, in terms of say, how electronic music is pushing the boundaries. We have an electronic drummer in the band, and it just forces us to reassess what the guitar is doing.
Charlie: I agree with alex. In the current crop of indie releases, especially in the UK, it's all quite knowing and quite like, "This is the last hurrah." It's almost like a preemptive, "We know." It almost answers the question and it lays it out to not much critical response before it's gone.
Alex: It's a clever piece of marketing.
Charlie: It is a clever piece of marketing, it's cynical. I think we're often called a cynical band because we don't necessarily write about going out and partying.
Steph: Yeah, and there's not a lot of love songs.
Charlie: I'd say more than anything, we're actually quite hopeful as a band.
Steph: It's something that everyone can relate to, from the lyrics to the music. You can take something from it which you can apply to the everyday.
Alex: In a lot of our songs we have imbued personal histories and local histories of London. There's a richness in subject matter that, I think, we enjoy writing about.
Steph: It's personal, what we write about, but it's not so personal where people are like, "Oh my god, I don't really want to know that."
Nick: I think that's where our music lies, somewhere between the personal and the universal.
We dove into what makes the band tick. What were some bands that have had an impact on their music or what bands to they fall back on. Their answers were quite diverse, but names like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Depeche Mode, and The Knife made it into conversation. We eventually moved on to what the band was listening to at the moment.
Charlie: The New Twin Shadow album is not bad.
P: Talk about Nostalgia
Charlie: Yeah exactly. some of it is a bit Bryan-Adams-like.
Steph: Wild Beasts for me.
Charlie: Wild Beasts, that's a good [band]. And I kind of got back into These New Puritans' second album again recently, Hidden. Its one of those albums--
Steph: Slightly more orchestral.
Charlie: Yeah, at first listen you're almost not quite comfortable with it. But it's one of those ones that takes a while, which is quite nice. Have you been listening to anything Alex or Nick?
Alex: No, not really, I don't really like music very much.
Steph: Oh we've been listening to AlunaGeorge.
Charlie: Oh yeah, I don't know if [AlunaGeorge is well known in the States] but it's quite indicative of kind of the stuff that's being produced in London.
Steph: Kind of a cross between R&B and electronic sound.
P: So where do you go from here? What are the next steps for your band?
Charlie: We're in the process of working on our next single and hopefully we can release that before the end of the year.
Alex: We're going to play some shows up North.
Charlie: Yeah we're going to take our show outside of London again, we've only briefly been up North once before, at the beginning of the year.
Steph: And maybe some shows on the South coast as well.
Charlie: But yeah, certainly we'll have another single out by the end of the year. So, It seems like we're being quite productive. So I suppose that's our plan till the end of the year really.
P: Any thoughts of an EP or an LP in the near future?
Steph: Well it's always in the back of our minds, I mean, in terms of what's going to happen next is kind of all up in the air. And we are, as a band, quite young. But I don't think that's a bad thing, it kind of spurs us on.
Charlie: I think we certainly know the direction that we want to be working towards. I think an album is certainly in the back of our minds but it's not something that any of us would want to rush. I think we'd want to make it something that's truly representative.
Steph: We'd want to do it properly.
Nick: Yeah I mean, there's stuff in the pipeline. Our sound is still progressing, so we're not ready to rush into an album or anything. but we've got a lot of stuff to release at the moment.
P: Any plans to tour the US? We'd love to see you guys out here.
Charlie: We'd love to, we'd love to--
Alex: It's the money.
Charlie: We're still very much poor, and at a conception point for us as a band. We've only been going on as a unit since December and we're still kind of honing our craft. But we'd love to come out.