One of my greatest pleasures as a writer for BAZ is to discover great music and then have a chance to talk to the people who made it. Torpor is Jon Taylor, Lauren Mason, and Simon Mason. Since getting a promo of their latest album ‘Rhetoric of the Image’, it’s been on near constant rotation for me (you can read my review back on 25/09/2019 here). Jon and Lauren were kind enough to take the time to answer some questions for me. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it and then go buy their records on Bandcamp!
– Thanks a lot for taking the time to do this interview for Blessed Altar Zine. I’ve been enjoying listening to “Rhetoric of the Image” ever since I got the promo. First off, which band members will I be talking with?
– This is Jon and Lauren. Thanks for your time too.
– I’m taking a calculated guess that the Masons in the band are siblings. Have I got that right?
J – You have miscalculated!
(well the mystery continues for me I guess)
– “Torpor” seems a very fitting band name for the music you make. How hard was it to choose your band name and do you think having that name has influenced the music you’ve made over the years?
J – It wasn’t hard to choose the name at all, Simon mentioned it in the pub after one of our early practices. We just went with it and never really thought about it more since. Now it’s obviously taken on the meaning of the band rather than the other way around.
– How did the band form at the beginning and what were those initial years like with your first singer (I’m a bit unclear about when Nats Spada left and Jon Taylor joined)?
J – The band was the 3 of us from the beginning and Nats joined later. I was looking to start a band, as were Simon and Lauren, and they responded to an advert I had online. We met up and jammed and it worked. We tried out a few vocalists and then met Nats about 6 months after we had been playing and writing together. We recorded the demo and the first album with Nats and then when she left, I took over the main vocals.
L – Nats brought a different energy and influence to the music, but ultimately we disagreed on more things than we agreed on. It was natural to continue as a three piece, as that’s how we’d always written the music anyway.
– It’s been six years since your first recording “Bled Dry” came out. What was that first recording experience like and how do you feel about those songs now?
J – These were the first songs that we did as a band. We never write anything that doesn’t get used and these were our way to get some music out there, so we could get some gigs. I think they were an interesting start, but we haven’t played any of them since the first album came out. We are a very forward-looking band, which means that we always like to move on, and we don’t really revisit anything old.
L – I can’t listen to those songs now, I don’t feel any connection to them at all! It’s like a different band entirely.
– Your UK label Sludgelord Records has some really great music coming out at the moment (yourselves, Wallowing, Cranial, Opium Lord). Do you feel some connection with these bands, or do you more feel like you’re operating in your own separate world?
L – The UK music community is very supportive and close-knit, so we have a lot of connections with people in those bands and our labels Truthseeker and Sludgelord. I think we all help each other out however we can, we’re so proud and thankful to be a part of this scene and none of it would exist if anyone was operating in their own world! We’ve known Opium Lord since we first started out and played a few gigs together – they are a band we have so much respect for and love for as people, their new album is incredible. The guys from Wallowing are all in other great bands (Sūrya, Aerosol Jesus, Prisa Mata) who we’ve known for years, there is a lot of cross-pollination and influences going back and forth but with people doing their own unique things.
– The music and song titles on your latest album “Rhetoric of the Image” are evocative, but the deeper meaning feels quite mysterious. Could you give some insight into the themes you’re addressing on the record?
J – To be honest I prefer to keep things a bit mysterious. It’s a bit boring to just explain things and I think, instead of enhancing, it often takes away from what the songs can be. Benign Circle, Enigmatic Demand and Mourning the Real and all based around personal themes that I have been exploring through the lens of psychoanalysis. It’s very introspective and follows on from the ideas I was thinking about for Jasager and Agalma. I just hope that the emotion translates in the music. I will say that it’s not about politics.
– Where did the idea for the album’s artwork design come from and how does this fit together with the music for you?
L – We were playing with ideas about not being able to trust reality, partly in relation to what is going on in the world, but also in the sense that the more you try to understand the notion of ‘the real’, the less it means. Jack Burley created a fantastic YouTube video for us, where the artwork slowly morphs and rotates over the course of the album.
– What’s the songwriting process like for you? Do songs come together in the rehearsal studio, or do band members bring their own ideas fully formed?
J – All the heavy tracks come from my guitar riffs that we then all work on together. But it basically always starts with spontaneous guitar riffs in the studio and then the drums and bass come after that and we try and build something we are all happy with. It’s all organic and it just takes as long as it takes. It’s reliant on how quickly my guitar parts come to me at first and then it’s a case of everyone having a chance to work out exactly their parts. The vocals are always the last thing to come. Partly, again, because I just wait for the words to come to me about something that I have been thinking about that I find interesting.
L – We’re pretty comfortable with our method these days, riffs first and then see where the song goes..! Although on this new record, Simon and I did write the two shorter songs together outside the rehearsal studio. ‘Two Heads on Gold’ and ‘Mouths Full of Water…’ were written around two of his synth lines, with layers of cello, percussion, and poetry.
– Through all your releases from “Bled Dry” to “From Nothing Comes Everything” to the split with “Sonance” to your current record there’s been a clear progression to your sound. How consciously have you tried to avoid repeating yourselves, or has the music you make just naturally evolved each time you put a record together?
J – Yes and no. I wouldn’t say we definitely make a conscious effort not to repeat ourselves, but we tend to only go with something if it interests us – and we are very picky. Some of it is just that we all have different tastes and styles which drive us in different directions. In a strange way – even though we are all on a very intuitive wavelength with each other – we can’t really predict how each of us interacts with each new piece of music we are writing. It’s like we hear different things in what each other is playing and it opens up new areas to take what we are playing. This is what I think keeps us all interested in playing with each other.
– I’m sure you don’t want to pigeonhole yourselves, but how would you describe your music to someone who’d never heard you before?
J – Heavy music is alien to anyone that doesn’t really listen to it. That usually causes me to just describe it as heavy music – metal, but not metal. Metal usually makes most people think of Metallica etc and we aren’t like that. Sludge makes people think of bands that I don’t think we sound like. Doom makes people think of bands that I don’t think we sound like etc.
– Do you have many live shows planned to promote the new album? Will you be playing any gigs around Europe? – I’m sure you’d get a good reception here in Prague (hint hint)
L – We are planning an EU tour for April 2020, and we’d love to come to Prague! We haven’t managed to get over to the mainland for a couple of years, so we’re really excited to come back. We also have quite a few shows and festivals booked in the UK.
– For our readers, what’s one book and one record they might not be familiar with that you’d recommend they check out?
J- I would have no idea what people will be familiar with, but a writer I would recommend to anyone is Adam Philips – who is a psychoanalyst and very thought-provoking essayist. I don’t think I listen to anything particularly obscure music that people wouldn’t already know.
L – Simon and I have been listening to a lot to ‘We All Know’ by Talons, which came out last year and is really great.
– And finally, are there any further thoughts you’d like to share?
L – Thanks to everyone who’s checked out the album, we’re really happy people are getting into it!
The new album is really great and I hope it gets the reception it deserves. Thanks again for your time,
Interview by Tom
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