Fifteen years and still going strong, Torche is a stalwart of the Miami rock scene. Today marks the release of Admission, the fifth studio album from the hometown rockers. In anticipation of the album drop, former bassist and current guitarist Jonathan Nuñez spoke with New Times about what it took to make the record, the state of the band after 15 years together, and how being from Miami defines its members.
Following the departure of guitarist Andrew Elstner in 2017, founding member and longtime bassist Nuñez made the switch to six strings in a nine-day gap between tours.
“It’s exciting, and it came at a very interesting time,” he says of the shift. “We were in Europe and I was playing bass; then we changed the lineup and nine days later we were playing a full U.S. tour with me on guitar. I don’t think it could have happened any faster. Switching to guitar was almost like starting over, and there’s a lot that went into getting a sound that I was happy with and finding instruments that I was comfortable on having played bass in the band for all but these last couple years. It was still a little strange, a little alien at first, but now it’s feeling great.”
Nuñez always had a hand in shaping the band’s sound, but now that he’s playing guitar, he had even more freedom in defining the sonics of Admission, the band’s first record in four years.
“I would always work with previous guitar players to get a certain vibe for the parts, and now I don’t need to explain what I’m hearing in my head — I can just go ahead and do it,” he says of taking on a new role while recording Admission. “Now I have the freedom to really dig in and embellish those vibes instead of having to explain it first. This record is definitely an example of some of our dreamier elements and noisier elements that there were just hints of in the past coming up to the surface now.”
Though each of the band’s projects has its unique elements, Torche has maintained its own signature sound throughout the years. Nuñez credits this to the group’s collaborative nature while writing and recording material.
“You can listen to our whole catalogue and tell that it’s definitely our unique sound, but there’s always something new,” he says of their continuity. “It’s inevitable because we’re a group that listens to a lot of different types of music — we’re all inspired by a lot of different things — and that’s reflected in what everyone brings to the table. Ultimately, all those elements together complement each other, and I think with every record we’ve been growing and expanding while still keeping this same identity that we’ve developed since we started.”
The members of Torche have always had a distaste for traditional categorization, preferring to be left outside of the boxes that many people use to define bands.
“People try to overcomplicate some of the simplest things, and it’s even more specific an issue with music,” Nuñez says of genre classification. “If someone describes something so perfectly that I know exactly what it’s going to sound like, then I’m probably not going to be curious enough to go check it out anymore. When people ask me, I just tell them that we play loud rock 'n' roll. How wide is that door? For us, I feel like we took the door down a long time ago and now we’re chipping away at the wall around it.”
The band has maintained a DIY, independent mentality in spite of its success, which hasn’t always been easy.
“It takes a lot of sacrifice to do this,” Nuñez says, “especially if you’re making truly independent music that’s different and you’re not just chasing the latest fads. It can test you here and there, but in the end, when you complete a new record, it’s more fulfilling. When you’re playing the songs live and you can see people’s reactions and excitement, there’s just no other feeling that feels quite as invigorating. You feel accomplished and proud and fulfilled, and it’s like a high. Not a lot of other things can touch it.”
Regarding the band's commitment to the grueling process of making an independent record, he adds, "I don’t think we could possibly put any more into this, unless maybe we did the Kiss thing and cut our fingers to put our actual blood into the vinyl."
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Though the members are now spread between coasts and record in different locations around the country, Torche is and always will be a Miami band.
“As you get older, I think you really start to value where you started,” Nuñez says of the band’s Miami roots. “In all of the interviews we’ve done all over the world, we always speak highly of our hometown. Being from Miami has really influenced all of us and our sound, and I think that’s why it’s so unique. When people tell us that our sound is really different, I say it’s because we’re sub-Southern. We’re from a very different place, so different things move us. We’re from a place where people do their own thing, and that directly relates to us having our own sonic signature.”
Admission is out now via Relapse Records.
Torche. 9 p.m. Saturday, August 10, at Las Rosas, 2898 NW Seventh Ave., Miami; 786-780-2700; lasrosasbar.com. Admission is free.