Great Chemistry: An Interview with Torrid (A Love Affair)

Torrid (A Love Affair) has been gaining a loyal following among those in the know since the release of their debut album, Poems from Mars, on Bandcamp in February. Indie singer-songwriter duo the Kintners, for example, described as a “pretty effin’ inspiring group of rockers.” And with good reason: Soaring over a solid foundation of grunge-inspired noise, their crystal-clear vocals offer a message of hope and strength in uncertain times. With their album making the leap to all major streaming services on June 10, I dropped them a line to see what makes them tick.

Who’s in the band, and what does everyone do—both musically and beyond? Who’s your biggest cheerleader? Who takes care of business? Who handles social media?

Sarah: I’m Sarah, I’m the singer and main songwriter – we all contribute but they generally start with me. I think I champion the band by driving us forward, but my lovely bandmates definitely cheer me along when I’m having doubts about something – usually my latest song!.

Will: I’m Will, the drummer and producer of Poems from Mars! Honestly, I think Ads is the biggest cheerleader, but everyone encourages and inspires each other all the time. That could be just in a rehearsal room with a new riff or comment on a new drum fill, or by sending a message to the band about a song they’ve listened to and were inspired by! Sarah takes a lot of the weight of socials and business but I’m trying to take a more active part in some of those business roles.

Syd: I’m the bass player, Sydney. Sarah is definitely our cheerleader and we wouldn’t exist without her.

Ads: I’m Adam. I guitarinate and sing high bits. And what the others said.

I don’t often see bands with parentheticals in their names. Can you say a little bit about that? And why “a love affair”?

Sarah: Well that’s my fault! Back in the early days of Syd, Ads and I putting songs together we were discussing band names. I said I wanted something poetic like the word torrid. At some point during the session Ads mentioned something about a love affair and I said that’s it! But to be different (a recurring problem of mine) I said let’s not just be Torrid Love Affair, let’s switch it up!

Can your friends just call you “Torrid,” or do you prefer the full name?

Sarah: You can call us anything you like! But Torrid is fine.

How would you describe the chemistry within the band?

Syd: I love our chemistry. We have always worked well together in a musical and social way. I think it’s fair to say we all pretty much clicked from the start

Will: I think we have a great chemistry, when we’re writing new music I think (and hope) everyone feels comfortable experimenting and throwing their ideas into the hat, knowing that we’ll all listen and give our honest opinions. Outside of music we all get on well, we have a lot in common, enjoy the same things and are all pretty easy going, though it’s not often we all get to hang out all four of us together unless it’s just after a gig!

Ads: I’m enormously attracted to all of them. On a spiritual, physical and musical level. Plus Sarah brings crisps.

Sarah: We get on really well! I’m lucky as I get to spend the most time with each of them individually, writing, producing or just down the pub! I can be honest in front of them, which is challenging for me writing such frank songs. I remember actually shaking the first time I showed All The Bad Men to Ads, I didn’t think I could get through it! But thank god I did cos look what it’s become! That is the kind of chemistry you need from your bandmates.

And how is that chemistry reflected in the music?

Will: I see the union of our various parts played on the songs as a reflection of our chemistry, we all know when to work together and play in unison, and also when to spend some time on our owns and take the lead or fall back. Sarah does an amazing job of bringing a great concept to the studio every time, then we build on that together while also thinking about our own parts. We often have quickfire discussions about our favourite artists or songs recently and that helps us work together musically. Our writing group process is very laid back and very naturally flowing and I think that shows in the end product!

Sarah: For me it’s seeing the journey of the song, from 1 acoustic guitar to the final track. But it’s also what you see on stage. I think you can tell we like each other, we enjoy what we do and we believe in it.

Ads: I think our personalities can be heard in each instrument and although individual, they all fit together to form an unstoppable mega-personality. Called Torrid.

Syd: Agree with all of the answers here. Our individuality is reflected at the same time as how we all come together to create our sound.

Your songs have an underlying theme of strength and resilience. What makes Torrid (A Love Affair) especially qualified to deliver that message?

Will: Though I think Sarah is most qualified to answer this as they’re her songs, I think that absolutely anyone is qualified to deliver a message that is personal to them, we’re no more qualified than anyone else, but we’re choosing to convey those themes and emotional states through music.

Ads: Age.

Sarah: Er, I don’t think we or I are any more qualified than anyone else! I just write what I know, what I feel, and I do it because I have to do it. If Torrid didn’t exist I’d do it anyway. So I guess it’s more about the receptiveness of the listener than what we have to say!

I understand that the art that the album art was produced by local artists. How did that come about? And how does their contribution enhance the overall presentation of the music?

Sarah: Well, when we realised the album was going to be an actual tangible object (thanks to Lights&Lines), I was reflecting on what I loved most about getting a new CD or tape. Yes, listening obviously, but for me as a budding vocalist even then, it was opening the insert and praying all the lyrics would be there, seeing photos and the personalities of the artist! So I starting thinking how we could incite that same excitement. I can’t draw stick men, but I have some very talented friends, so I asked around and it went from there! The support from people was incredible and it was great to help and be helped in such a creative and reciprocal way! So it was a real pleasure to be able to put unknown or local artists work in print. I think it looks stunning and I honestly couldn’t be prouder, it’s a such a wonderful layer to the album.

In addition to the art, how is the band part of a larger community, however you might define it—on a local scale or within a more global context? How do you use your voice, and what do you use it for?

Ads: Lyrically, I love that although from a female perspective, the themes are so universal and realistic that everyone can dig it. I can feel the connection with the audience on a much fuller level than when I was singing about goblins and apocalypse…es.

Sarah: Really, I just want to be relatable as a writer. I tell stories, usually real stories, of real emotions and experiences. I was always inspired by Alanis Morissette and George Michael for the way they didn’t ‘write a song’, they told a story. That’s all I want to do, and I believe if you tell the truth then people will hear that and respond. And even if you don’t understand the lyrics, hopefully our riffs and hooks will be enough to engage with. And that’s really what music is all about; connection.

You’re billed as a combination of grunge and stoner rock, but I’m also hearing a strong echo of what might be termed classic rock in your sound. Your harmonies in particular call to mind Heart. Do you have any… I don’t know what to call them… “Hidden” or “secret” influences?

Sarah: Firstly – thank you! Well despite being mainly into the rock and grunge genres now, I grew up on a mix of Andrew Lloyd-Webber, The Beatles and Barbershop! So harmonies were everywhere in my house! Singing a 5th along with the microwave was not uncommon! Later, seminal albums like Jagged Little Pill, the greatest hits of Roxette, Bon Jovi and Aerosmith never left my stereo. So yes, lots of influences and you’ll hear moments throughout our album – the title is a courteous nod to David Bowie.

Will: I believe that 90% of people you talk to, especially musicians or people with musical interests, won’t primarily listen to the music they play. I absolutely enjoy stoner rock and grunge and desert rock, but I often listen to RnB, Soul, Jazz, Soul, Opera, Classical/Orchestral pieces. Absolutely I enjoy thrashing to some power metal and chilling to some stoner doom, but musical influences come from all over the place and I truly believe that that is really well reflected in the songs. If you look at the whole album, there are rock and grunge riffs, jazz beats, funk basslines. We’re channeling our influences into these songs but those influences aren’t always as obvious, immediate and recognisable as a lot of people think!

Ads: I love ethereal shoegaze guitars and I really connected with that in the 90’s. Being a very 90’s influenced band, I like to try and fit in some of that mournful psychedelic stuff where I can.

Syd: I am a huge rock fan, but I also love Country music and the uplifting sound of Spanish music. I love the harmonies in country music which maybe helps inspire me with the backing vocals? Within our genre I think there are lots of sub-genres infused, or just right out in the open! You can hear Queens of The Stone Age, something Sarah calls her Beatles harmony, even Portishead and Tool. Part of what makes us musically interesting is our unique blend of so many styles – we think so anyway!

What are your plans for the future?

Ads: To play loud to people that exist.

Will: We were in the studio a short while back working on some new tracks, we’ve got some shows lined up, maybe there’s a new album secretly brewing in Sarah’s head. If there is, I’ll be ready to tackle it head on!

Syd: To keep doing what we’re doing and see where it takes us. I think the future is exciting!

Sarah: Gigs! Always playing live, ideally some festivals – maybe abroad!?! I’d like to write 15 songs (I’ve got 7 or 8 so far) and make 10 of them good enough for a second album. And lately I’ve been toying with the concept of a remix EP of our favourite songs in different styles? A swing version, maybe a dance remix….it could be fun! We are open to suggestions…