Torche’s Meanderthal still stomps and sparkles, even more than two years after its release. The 2008 sophomore record found the Atlanta/Miami quartet layering crisp hooks over burly sludge metal, creating an unexpectedly gripping combo. Roaring at all the right moments and sailing at others, Meanderthal yielded its makers loads of praise; most notably, extreme music mag Decibel crowned it album of the year for 2008. Now a trio, the group’s recently released EP, Songs For Singles, extends the thread of unlikely pop. Torche plays the Varsity Theater tonight (along with fellow metal-mongers High On Fire and Kylesa), but before that, vocalist-guitarist Steve Brooks talked with The A.V. Club about Meanderthal’s aftereffects and why Torche shouldn’t be called a metal band anymore.
The A.V. Club: In past interviews, you’ve mentioned that Torche’s lyrics are nonsense. Do you still use that approach?
Steve Brooks: Pretty much. A few little things here and there mean something, but I just use voice as an instrument. If I tried to make sense of songs, I would sound stupid. I tried that on the first record. I don’t have anything to say to people through lyrics that hasn’t been done a million times. It’s more of a stream-of-consciousness thing—just a bunch of words thrown together.
AVC: If the lyrics are nonsensical, why not go instrumental?
SB: Because that would be boring. [Laughs.] I like instrumental bands, but I’m more into rock. I like vocal harmonies, hooks, and all that stuff. There are a million instrumental bands, too. It’s kind of a cop-out.
AVC: Meanderthal was incredibly well received. Will all of Torche’s future work be judged against that? If so, how would you feel about that?
SB: Probably. I don’t care. I’m not saying it’s the same thing, but it’s like, how can Slayer meet expectations after Reign In Blood? I’m not saying that Meanderthal is our best record or anything. I actually like Songs For Singles more than Meanderthal. It’s a little more interesting.
AVC: Decibel compared Meanderthal to the Foo Fighters while naming it album of the year. What did you think of that?
SB: I think it’s cool. I dig some of the Foo Fighters’ stuff. Everybody says it like it’s a bad thing, but Foo Fighters and us probably have the same influences—bands like Hüsker Dü, Sonic Youth, and all kinds of stuff. If we’re compared to them, it’s a good thing. It’s the fuckin’ snobs that are the ones throwing their noses up at bands like the Foo Fighters.
AVC: If you had to liken Songs For Singles to another popular group, who would you pick?
SB: God, I don’t know, what we are doing is totally unique. [Laughs.] I’m kidding. I read some review saying that it kind of reminded them of Jane’s Addiction. Some of my vocal lines remind me of Jane’s Addiction. It’s inspired by them, too. All kinds of inspirations are in it. In a way, it’s all over the place. I think it sounds like us.
AVC: You previously said that you wanted to make Meanderthal “a little less metallic” than Torche’s other material. Do you see that idea carrying on through future records?
SB: Yeah. I don’t really listen to metal anymore. Every once in a while, there will be a band, but I listen to a lot of ’80s metal and old thrash or stuff like that. We’re not a metal band. We’re about as metal as bands like the Melvins.
AVC: Since guitarist Juan Montoya left Torche in late 2008, what’s life as a three-piece been like?
SB: You have to step up your game and try to fill in those gaps. We’re eventually going to get another guitar player. That guy has to know how to sing. We already have somebody in mind, but we haven’t started working with him yet. We’re probably going to start jamming in January. The next record will hopefully be a four-piece with somebody fucking brilliant.
AVC: What is your onstage mindset like?
SB: The same as if I was playing a party. I’m out there to have a good time, and I want those vibes to come out to the people we’re playing to. We do DIY shows, and everybody’s happy and having a blast. It’s different when you’re playing on a stage, especially the bigger shows, because you’re not really getting that face-to-face connection with the crowd, so you have to do what you’ve got to do to get that point across. It’s all in fun, you know. I am having a blast. I mean, I’ve got to. [Laughs.]