Pleasure of the riff

Rock ’n’ roll 101 with Torche’s Andrew Elstner

Torche (from left): Jonathan Nuñez, Steve Brooks, Rick Smith and Andrew Elstner.

Torche (from left): Jonathan Nuñez, Steve Brooks, Rick Smith and Andrew Elstner.

Photo by Janette Valentine

Torche performs Wednesday, May 4, 8 p.m., at Cafe Coda. Wild Throne and Touch Fuzzy Get Dizzy open. Tickets: $15 ($20 at the door) at
Cafe Coda
265 Humboldt Ave.

The members of Miami-based metal band Torche have been delivering some of the heaviest, mammothian riffs in rock over the past dozen or so years—and doing it with goddamn smiles on their faces. The four-piece keeps getting better, too. Last year’s excellent Restarter—Torche’s first album for Relapse Records—is loaded with some of the band’s nastiest riffs, while guitarists Steve Brooks and Andrew Elstner retain a death grip on melody. It’s a no-brainer that Torche is one of the best heavy rock bands going.

Elstner—who’s also slung axe in St. Louis riffmeisters Riddle of Steel and Tilts—joined the band in 2011, bringing with him a magick bag of riffs, licks and tricks. The Chico News & Review recently caught up with him for a little rock talk.

What were you looking to add when you filled the guitar slot that had been vacant for years in Torche?

Well, as a fan who joined, I really just didn’t wanna fuck anything up. Also, I can sing, so I was super ready to sing the harmonies live that were on the records but never, ever, done live. I love a good harmony. But yeah, it wasn’t like I joined going, “I must bring my own style to this band!” It’s a thing that just happens when any individual joins a band.

You guys are spread out a bit geographically; does that make it challenging to keep focus on the band? What do your current environments bring to the music, if anything?

You know, there are pluses and minuses to us living all over the place. Maybe we’d be more lazy if we were all in the same town. It’d definitely be cheaper to get together! But nah, we get in time where we can, and we make time as much as possible. As to current environment, I cannot overstate how much I love Atlanta. For me, no city compares. Reminds me of the Midwest in the ’90s. Lots to be inspired by.

Which bands do you and Steve share a love for, specifically when it comes to guitar?

All the obvious ones: Van Halen, Sabbath, RATT, Judas Priest—mainly Van Halen.

Are good riffs still pretty easy to come by?

Of course. You just have to sort of clear your head while simultaneously challenging yourself. Not to be a dick, but we see a lot of paint-by-numbers kind of stoner/riff rock out there all the time. Commonality is nothing new, and it ain’t like we’re reinventing the wheel, but goddamn, there’s so much music to be heard and to be inspired by. Branch out! There are no guilty pleasures, only pleasures.

As songwriters, what is your primary directive?

Please ourselves.

How has being in a working band changed for you over the past 15-20 years?

Holy hell, it’d be impossible to list all that’s changed. I travel very easily—nowhere really feels like home anymore—but on the plus side, you definitely feel more comfortable wherever you are. On the band side, you really have to learn to be honest with yourself, honest with those around you, and be comfortable with it all.

Do you think there’s a shortage of theatrics and stage presence in rock today?

Ugh, so close to home. Yes, I do. The hard part is doing it or finding it delivered in an awesome and authentic fashion that isn’t complete bullshit. It can sorta scare you into complacency and doing “enough,” because no one wants to take the risk of looking foolish. But yeah, where is David Lee Roth when you need him?