One of the great joys of any festival is coming across a band that you’ve never heard before. At Hammerfest we caught many such bands, but one of the undoubted highlights was Birmingham-based three-piece Torous who opened up the Hard Rock Hell stage with considerable aplomb, attracting a sizeable crowd and converting many of them to instant fans in the process. Truly Torous were fantastic and their music deserves as wide an audience as possible when their much-anticipated debut album drops later this week. Charismatic on stage and with a raft of great songs, the band were kind enough to agree to an interview in order to discuss their formation, influences and the recording of their album, ‘Mindfields’, which is due out via Holier Than Thou records on May 5th. Read on and meet Torous, quite possibly your new favourite band.
So, to start off with, could you tell us a little bit about how Torous formed and how long you’ve been playing together?
It was April 2014 when we did our first show, so about three years basically. We formed a few months before that but about three years. Everything came together because we played in different projects before and we actually played together in a different project before we started to do this properly. So, we started Torous, came up with the concept and the name and everything and went from there.
There’s a lot of diversity in your music, so (and it’s a question everyone dreads I know) but what influences brought you together.
Tom: We each have various influences. Our bassist is a massive punk, I grew up on Metallica and thrash and then our Marc is into Godsmack and Celtic stuff and then, obviously, Tool.
Marc: Yeah, Tool was my favourite band, but then I grew up on everything from Pantera to Metallica and Tool and whatever and Alice in chains and then, as I got older, I got into (from my roots, being Irish and stuff) the Celtic stuff like Clannad and Enya and all that cool stuff. It was by accident that it worked. It wasn’t a contrived thing, we didn’t sit down and say, “let’s do this!” I just enjoy a bit of a jig and then heavy riffs and we just let the songs write themselves to be honest.
When you hear Celtic and folk metal you tend to think of bands like Ensiferum but you guys have a sound of your own, I think, which perhaps comes form that diversity of influences…
Tom: Well a lot of bands like Ensiferum is that it’s great, but it’s very Scandinavian, whereas we’re more Northern Ireland…
Marc: Yeah and a lot of British folk like Welsh and Scottish and English music so more Celtic folk which is more this sort of land. I think one of the main differences between us and those bands is that those bands are very set in that genre whereas we wander a lot, so the Celtic thing is one influence of many that we have. So, we wander from that to wat can be perceived as mainstream rock to really heavy riffs so, we really do just go in and out of all different things because we like so much.
At the end of the show today you gave out a CD, so obviously, you’re already got some material down, can you tell me a bit about that?
Marc: The CD we gave away today is a compilation of basically everything we’ve done to this point so about ten tracks. We did a couple of Eps and a couple of singles and, at the moment, we’re working on a debut album which is called ‘Mindfield’ which is going to be out within the month so it’s very cool. We’ve been working on that for a few months and it’s just the best stuff we’ve ever made. I was saying to the guys before that I was really glad that we waited until now to do the album because these are just the right songs. It’s cool how it all came together so that’s what we’re doing now and that’ll be us for the next year at least.
It’s a huge commitment to make an album, how did you approach it?
Tom: We did it over the last couple of months, so we did a weekend here and there…
Marc: The thing that has taken the most time is vocals. Especially me, I’m so critical of it and I’m newer to it… I’ve been playing guitar a long time and the guys have been playing their instruments for a long time, but vocals I only started doing before we started Torous, so therefore I’m very critical of it and I’ve been revisiting the vocals a lot and that’s taken a lot of evenings and weekends but we’re there now and it sounds awesome.
There’s a lot of pressure, I think, on the vocalist to get things right because you can tune your instrument, but as a vocalist every performance is unique which can be hard…
Marc: I think the hardest thing with vocals is capturing the emotion. Not to like… not that we sound like robots, but you don’t just want to sing a good performance, you need to get the emotion of the song into the performance and that’s the hard part. We had twelve or thirteen tracks and each one has a different concept so I have to get myself in that place to revisit that emotion in order to record it how I want to record it… that’s the hard bit. Not necessarily do a good performance but to get the right emotion, that’s what takes the time.
So, where have you been recording?
We record with a friend of ours called Johnny at FlatOut Studios in Birmingham. It’s this really cool little operation outside the back of his house where he built his studio for recording. It’s very cool, his prices are reasonable, he does an amazing job, the best job of anyone I’ve worked with and I’ve worked all over the country.
Tom: We’ve been using him for a while now and he’s happy to take on the full project. He knows our sound almost as much as we do, so…
Marc: He’s like a fourth member of the band in a way.
You’ve got the flyers with the really cool artwork on it, can you tell us about the image?
Marc: A friend of mine, Chris, who’s actually an acoustic guitar player by trade. He just doodles and he’s not a “professional” artist, but he puts some wicked caricatures on Facebook and I asked him to do that because I like the idea of that rather than our faces. The art of it is all encapsulating. They’re just pictures of us at shows that he’s drawn out so they are what our faces look like, almost, except we’re not quite as tanned! There’s a little olive tint… it’s nice and I’m really pasty in real life!
In terms of lyrical themes, how do you approach the writing?
Marc: 95% of it is personal life. There is the occasional bit that I’ll take form a concept like a book or a movie or something like that or, you know, historical stuff. But mostly it’s about my stuff, so the lyrics separate us form Ensiferum and that sort of thing because it’s much more personal. I look at it as a way of trying to make sense of what’s going on, whether it’s in my life or what you see out there. There’s so much craziness all the time, so I write lyrics that reflect something that makes me feel a certain way.
In terms of lyrics and music, do you write as a band and jam stuff out or do you work individually, demo it and then share it around?
Tom: He’ll come with like a verse and a chorus, maybe a bit of a lyrical idea and then we’ll jam it out, really fill it out and some songs are just nicely rounded singles, like 3 and a half minutes and other songs just hit a whole other plain!
Marc: The first single from the new record, ‘I Am’, which is the first thing we’re releasing off that, that was one I completely wrote because it’s very straight to the point, music, lyrics and it all came together very fast, just a couple of hours, so I took that to the band and it all just came out. But I guess the more proggy songs, the eight-minute tracks, we tend to all chip in with those. It tends to be an idea from drums or bass that will spark the whole song, so it depends on the song really.
The bass work was really interesting – almost a bit jazzy in places – what were your influences as a player?
GMT: The effects… I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing with effects. I good part of my career has been winging it… I’m a massive Matt Freeman thing, I don’t like to do just do one thing and I like to move all over the place as much as possible really.
I had a question which has now vanished…
Marc: I’m wearing Calvin Klein boxers… oh, sorry, different interview!
In two and a half / three years, you’ve done a lot. It sounds like you’re dedicating a huge amount of time, how do you balance life and the band?
Marc: We don’t! The balancing thing is really hard, especially with how much work has gone into the album and touring at the same time. To be honest I’ve always prioritised the band. Life, outside of the band, goes around the band as much as it can rather than the band being the addition. The other things are the addition, the band is the focus, so it’s just trying to figure out how to make everything else work around the band, that’s the difficult part at this point in our career, anyway.
How do you promote the band?
Tom: The best way is to do what we’ve just done which is to play live really, really well and that speaks for itself.
Marc: As much as we use Facebook a lot, we really love interacting with people, I think it’s a great medium, but the best form of promotion is still word of mouth. If someone tells you they saw a band and they were great you’ll listen to them more than, say, an ad, so we try to pride ourselves on being good at he songs we write, good live and that’s how the promotion works. People tell people and we rely on the good graces of our fans.
How’s the album coming out?
Tom: We’re on a label, Holier than thou, Stratford-Upon-Avon based.
Marc: It’s an independent label – sadly we don’t get a lot of money for Rolls Royce and groupies, I was hoping we’d come into the studio and there’d be strippers and stuff…. Nah, Holier than Thou are great, they’ve been around since ’95 and they’ve been running their label since then and they took us on a year ago in May and we’ll be releasing the album through them.
How did you end up at Hammerfest?
Marc: It was a recommendation. Someone recommended that we play the festival so we got in touch and they liked us and booked us and hopefully they will again!
Any final words?
Tom: I like it here
Marc: Always salt pasta before you boil it, it tastes better!