Once we get the ol' interviewing machine up and running, there's no accounting for how to slow it down. Graciously joining us for today's interrogation here at the Sleeping Village Dungeon--err, I mean "conference room"--is Joe Huls, the bassist for Flint, MI based melodic groove band Torn Away. Taking inspiration all along the gamut of heavy music, these guys represent, a tenet of music as catharsis and absolution. Indeed, as they say: "as a phoenix rises from the ashes, so do the members of Torn Away."
We Villagers would like to thank Mr. Huls for the in-depth answers to our prying questions! It's always an honor to receive heartfelt and informative responses such as these. Without further ado:
Sleeping Village: Thanks for subjecting yourself to interrogation! Firstly, and most importantly: given the wild world that we suddenly find ourselves inhabiting, how are you guys holding up?
Torn Away: We are doing well. The governor has instituted a “stay at home” order, which basically means we are under mandatory quarantine except for going to get groceries. I know I am surrounded by many things to keep myself busy...even in quarantine, there is no shortage of laundry or dishes to wash. Netflix and Xbox are keeping me busy, as well as coming up with new song ideas.
SV: Taking what you’ve created thusfar as a model for what is yet to come, Torn Away feels equal parts melodic and groovy. If you were explaining your band to someone who isn't familiar with descriptors like these when applied to metal--my grandma, say--how would you describe your sound?
TA: We are a pretty heavy band with vocals that you can understand. Our vocalist, Cameron Frechette, does in fact do some more aggressive vocals where the song requires it... but his favorite bands are Iron Maiden and Motley Crue, so those vocal melodies are always present. Our approach to songwriting is always to write something catchy and memorable while still wanting to make you headbang. We love our songs to have forward momentum.
SV: How does a new Torn Away song come to fruition? Do you have an established songwriting process at this stage, or do you just try stuff out until something sticks?
TA: There isn't really an established creative process for us when it comes to creating new music. There's been situations where a person has presented a mostly fleshed-out song idea where we would work on it to get it nice and tight. There's been situations where we will just be jamming, someone will play a riff and we'll all join in and see what we can do with it, where we can change it and make it grow. We've written songs by presenting a riff and then riff by riff building a song. It might not be the most efficient way to work, but we have been very happy with the results thus far.
SV: Is it safe to say that “My Mind is Dangerous” is the band’s collective favorite Life of Agony track--or is there another song in their roster that takes the crown?
TA: I will actually be honest and say that I, bass player Joe Huls, am the resident Life of Agony fan in Torn Away. I think the other guys are aware of them and appreciate what they do, but I am in the fanboy camp for Life of Agony. The cool thing with this band is that we all have so many different influences that it can come up anywhere. Our guitar player has been in industrial and death metal bands. Our drummer has been in country and funk bands along with metal bands. I used to play in a doom metal band and a power metal band. We all have these diverse set of interests and influences and it helps to inform the music that we make. Having said that, if given the chance to play music for people, Life of Agony is one of those bands that I always return to. They are terrific songwriters and are criminally underrated and unknown.
SV: Speaking of influential music, your list of inspirations ranges from Sabbath to Seether...which ultimately leads me to believe that you all are all heartfelt devotees of heavy music. That said, what non-metal or rock musicians do you enjoy from time to time?
TA: I find that I often look back to 80s pop music. As a guy who grew up in the 80's, there is something very comforting and nostalgic about hearing a Paula Abdul song... A lot of those 80's songs felt really cheesy at the time, but looking back, and knowing what passes for pop music these days, I miss it. I have been introducing my six year old daughter to 80's pop. Her mom likes to play stuff like Lady Gaga for her. I would rather she check out Madonna instead, or Tiffany, or Blondie... Something with more substance than just style. I recently discovered BAT FOR LASHES, which I know she's been around for a while but her voice is absolutely like butter to me. A surprising one for some people too would be the soundtrack to the video game “RED DEAD REDEMPTION.” That is my all time favorite game, and the music was a huge part of that. It absolutely fits the mood of the game, it creates an atmosphere. The song “Compass” continues to give me chills. My friend played this guy AMIGO THE DEVIL for me which I read described as “murder-folk” music. Absolutely tremendous lyrics.
SV: Tell me about that Rewind 94.3-FM WERW gig! How did that come about?
TA: It was actually an opportunity that I ran across while on Facebook. I kind of consider being in Torn Away a seven days a week kind of gig. If we are not writing or rehearsing together, I am still looking for different ways to get our name out there, interviews to do, blogs to be featured on, merch ideas, so on and so forth. The Unsigned host, Jill Elinor, had posted that she was looking for bands to come into the studio, be interviewed for an hour and to play acoustically. We had a show in Detroit around that time, and the scheduling worked out beautifully for us.
SV: As a followup to the last, was it challenging to adapt and play an acoustic set, or does the unplugged aesthetic come fairly naturally to you guys?
TA: Playing acoustically comes fairly naturally for us, although I do have to say, some of our songs translate better to an unplugged setting than others. Our more melodically-minded songs work out really well. Our more aggressive songs can be done, but it just feels weird. That's probably one of those things that only we would notice. Our drummer Kevin has a really nice cajon that he uses when we play unplugged, and there is a surprising amount of dynamics and nuance he can get out of that thing. I would definitely love to do more acoustic stuff in the future. I would love to do an acoustic EP where we play some of our favorite Torn Away songs acoustically.
SV: In what ways do the hardships we all associate with Flint, MI inform Torn Away? Is there something essential to your daily surroundings that determines your sound, performance, and aesthetic?
TA: There are a couple of things that I, myself, have noticed... First, you have to be a tough S.O.B. to be able to get along around here. You have to have a good head on your shoulders. You have to be mentally tough. We are so used to hearing “NO” that you have to be able to look past that and keep moving forward. You have to be an extremely hard worker – you have to want it more than the next guy. You have to be driven and self sufficient. When the whole water crisis went down, all over the world people offered us prayers and well wishes, how many postings on Facebook were there that said they are with us... It's a nice sentiment, but in the end it amounted to nothing. The lead pipes are still an issue...people still have to line up for hours to get bottled water. The public schools are still closed. Flint has been left to fend for themselves, and you have to be tenacious to make it.
SV: My knowledge of Flint is not particularly intimate. In the spirit of discovery: what's the metal and rock scene like in your area? Besides yourself, are there any hometown bands we should check out? And, the given state of affairs aside, are there many places to catch a live show?
TA: The scene here isn't a real huge one, but it is surprisingly diverse. A lot of the bands here gravitate more towards the death metal side of things, which I really do enjoy. There's a couple of bands I would like to name check...FATE OF MISERY is a really cool two-piece death metal band. It's definitely not brutal death metal, but more riffy and groove focused, plus they are great guys... I like to think of them as Obituary but played a little faster. ARSENIC TEA PARTY is a really cool band, kind of like an avant-garde punk metal thing going on... They wear masks and dress up like criminals from the 30s and 40s... If you are into bands like Mr. Bungle and Dog Fashion Disco you would dig them. There's a band from just north of us called SHADOW PEOPLE that we played with not too long ago and they were absolutely awesome. They were in the Pantera meets Lamb of God neighborhood. Cool dudes. As far as venues, there are some but most of them cater to the cover band circuit. Flint is less than hour away from Detroit, Saginaw, Pontiac, and Lansing, which all have great scenes in their own right. There are definitely places to play, they just aren't down the street from us.
SV: What’s the next step for Torn Away? I’ve been jammin’ these demo tracks for a few days now--is there an official release we can look forward to?
TA: We are ready to start recording our official album which will be called “AS WE RISE.” This whole COVID-19 shutdown has really thrown a wrench into those plans. We ordered a new mixing board for recording that was scheduled to arrive just as the lockdown went into place. At this point, we have no idea how long it will be before we can get around to getting this thing done... All we can say is we hope it's really soon. On the plus side, we know these songs inside and out, so we should be able to get them recorded without too much problem. We have plans for a music video or two... and hopefully a lot of shows to be played! Being cooped up in the house makes me really miss getting up on stage and throwing down with my buddies. That energy you get from the audience is intoxicating...I need my fix!
SV: Thank you again for taking the time! Stay safe out there. Are there any last thoughts you'd like to leave us with?
TA: Yes, please check us out and give us a like on Facebook. Please wash your hands and stay safe out there everyone. These are difficult times, but as anyone from Flint can tell you, we can and will get past this. We are strong. You are strong. Thank you for all of the support!
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.
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