Milk

“Old Soul” TORRES on The Extremes of Human Emotion

words by me; image courtesy of Ashley Connor


In the course of writing Three Futures, TORRES has walked practically every inch of New York City. And that’s not all; she’s also been cooking up a storm, and in the process, has “changed the entire way [she] treated [her] body and mind.” The result of so much introspection (and good eats)? A brand-new album, more thoughtful and elaborate than previous renditions, and a sense of self more expansive and thorough than ever before. TORRES is having a moment, and we’re here for it.

Three Futures drop on September 29; while you anxiously await its release, hear from TORRES herself on what themes are woven throughout the album, how her new commitment to self care translates to tour life, and why she considers herself an old soul (according to her, she’s often “arriving to the party, a century too late.”).

So your album is out at the end of this month, how are you feeling?

I mean, you never really know. [Laughs] I am really excited about it, I’m feeling more confident, I think, in the process this time than I have in the past, just because I know what to expect, but yeah, I feel good about it!

Do you get nervous to hear people’s reactions and how they receive it? Or are you more like, “It’s my art and it doesn’t matter”?

Oh no, I think, sure I care about that, but I don’t think about any of it in that way. I think that I’m more susceptible to general exhaustion, and it’s more about just taking care of myself during the whole album cycle, you know, touring and talking to people about it, I tend to get busy and don’t sleep enough on the road, it’s just a different sort of reality that you’re living in when you’re touring. I’m totally fine when I’m home, and I love being on tour but it’s kind of a rough lifestyle [Laughs].

Oh I believe you! So for the album, can you talk to me about the vision behind it, or is there a narrative that ties everything together?

I was working with a couple of motifs, one visually, and I guess, thematically and sonically for sure. It kind of had this tagline: arriving to the party, a century too late. I, for many reasons, feel like I’m kind of showing up not a step too late, but like a century too late [Laughs], in many regards.

In what ways?

I mean, there’s that classic, “I feel like an old soul” thing that I think a lot of people feel, like people feeling like they weren’t born in the right time, or they’ve already lived in a previous time and they’re back, and there’s the whole past life aspect of it that a lot of people identify with. But for me, I just like the sonic palette, that the theme allowed me to create when I sort of lived with it, and what that would sound like, I envisioned showing up to the Parthenon, but after everybody already died and there had been no party there for a century, looking at the Roman baths. I think there’s something really haunting and something has really stuck with me about some place, like an abandoned place, a really lavish or ornate one, that obviously took a long time to build, and was built with really expensive elements that were so expensive and so nice that they outlasted the people that built them. I’ve always been fascinated by that, the archaeological aspect of history, and physically structures have had a lot of life taken place, so yeah, you know, even something as simple as an abandoned school, and you look at the swimming pool or the basketball court and it’s like, well this is really creepy now that there’s no crowds of people here. [Laughs] Sonically that was really interesting. The palette that I went with was cold and palatial and haunted and hollow, and very glassy I suppose, instrumentally speaking, and the other theme I was working with lyrically is the human body, specifically the aspect of choosing a used body as a mechanism of joy, and everything that that entails. It’s very much about the senses for me, about indulging the senses that we have, you know, not just being aware of our tastebuds, but really using our tastebuds, and eating things that really appeal to our tastebuds, and things that make us feel good after eating them. There’s a sexual element of lust and physicality, but just as important is sound and sight, and using each organ in a way that really brings the maximum amount of joy. That’s the bulk of it.

I feel like those are so complex and can be really broad, or can be interpreted by a lot of people in a lot of ways, but when you started the process of creating an album, were you already thinking about these things? How do you go from the beginning to this fully-formed album, that encompasses all those things you’ve talked about?

Well, it’s kind of both. This time around, writing this album, I think I had much more foresight into what I wanted to explore in the songs, than I have had in the past, but there are themes that show up kind of right from the beginning. In this case, I tried to figure out sooner what themes were emerging, because I wanted to know, I wanted to be aware of that. The first two or three songs that I wrote for the album made it clear that the themes were far more sexual in nature, but sensual too, I was inclined to put food in my songs, which struck me as a little more unusual, and perfume; I’ve never written about scent before. Or color, was a really interesting one. These little words that get speckled throughout the songs, and I just tried to pay attention to them, and what I realized was that they all connected to that larger image of using each of the senses in a way that serves the person who’s using them, rather than denying them. I mean, it’s complex. I kind of started to see it early on, but also, it takes me two years to write an album, so I don’t really know what early on means. [Laughs] It’s a super long process.

[Laughs] Do you think those themes were married into your own life while you were writing? Were you experiencing really vivid senses or a lot of joy?

Something that did coincide with the writing of the album was joy, and there are always lows and sorrows and everything in between, I do tend to experience life in huge extremes, which is great when it’s great, but terrible when it’s terrible. But, one change that I made, that signaled a new era of writing, was when I started walking everywhere. I live in New York so I walk a lot anyway and I take the train, but I wanted to exercise and I didn’t want to run or join a gym, I wanted to be outside, so I just started walking everywhere, and then I really started walking everywhere. I mean because when I’m at home and not on tour I just have not as many commitments, I have time to walk 10 miles a day, so I started walking 10 miles a day. And then eventually, I realized I was walking NYC top to bottom right now, and it was kind of an unintentional shift, but then it became such a joy for me, it became a part of the structure of my days. It brought me a lot of joy, that combined with cooking, I simultaneously got really into cooking and baking, and really indulged in that activity, but healthy cooking, but still tasted amazing, and what I found was that my whole life, I kind of understood that things that taste good aren’t good for you, and things that are good, you never want. And commonly, I think it’s a thought that a lot of people carry around from a young age. But I kind of proved myself wrong, and I started finding the overlap, and cooking things that were really good for you, but also the best thing I’d ever tasted. It was kind of cool, becoming a sort of new person, in my mid-twenties, discovering things that I didn’t know I was there. A joy of exercise and a joy of cooking and eating healthy, and it kind of changed the entire way I treated my body and mind, and the way I thought about health. I think when we’re younger, at least in my case, I kind of had that live fast die young mentality that we romanticize when we’re younger. The body is meant to be abused, it’s fine, it can take it! I totally thought that way in college and beyond, and when I actually started paying attention to my body and starting treating it well from the inside out, it kind of affected the way my mind felt and my spirit. I then realized just how connected those systems are, and you can’t have one be healthy and the other unhealthy, it’s actually that when you treat one poorly, the whole thing feels bad, and when you treat the body well, it trickles into everything in a huge way. And then it made its way into my art. I basically made an entire album about the human body and how it’s tied into our joys and sorrows, and our extreme pleasures and extreme disappointments. It’s all tied in.

So, now that you’ve kind of come to this place where you’re so involved into these different aspects of health, like physical health and eating, do you feel like you’re able to access a deeper level of your artistic expression due to the fact that they’re all connected?

Oh, that’s interesting! One thing that I have noticed, maybe it’s not artistic expression necessarily, but I just have more stamina, physically and psychologically. Going on tour and staying at home, my endurance got a lot greater, and all of a sudden, I’m not quite as exhausted when I’m on the road, or I’m not experiencing quite the extremes of depression when I haven’t gotten enough sleep on tour, or even when I’m at home, I’ve found that I’ve been able to handle the things that came my way with more clarity and balance, and of course that’s not everything to do with the lifestyle change and it had to do with growing up, and learning how to handle everything that life throws at you. There’s a certain part of my writer’s voice that I was able to access that I haven’t necessarily reached in the past, but I think it’s a different type of expression, I suppose, there’s a drunken artistic expression, magic mushroom artistic expression, even distinct whiskey expression, versus gin expression, versus wine expression, and regardless of the substance, or lack thereof, there will always be some new high or low, I suppose, to settle into and reach out from artistically to try and connect. This was just a new facet for me, and sitting in a position of knowing what the clarity of health feels like is something I’ve never felt quite in that way before.

Well it’s very inspirational, as someone who doesn’t treat their body very well and doesn’t exercise. [Laughs]

Oh. Well everything in moderation, it’s fine. [Laughs]

[Laughs] Well, my last question is much more simple—what are you most looking forward to with the release?

I’m excited to play live with my band. I’m excited myself to hear what my songs sound like live, through a PA, on a stage. That part is really exciting for me. I love traveling as well, I’m really excited to see a bit a little more of America than I have before, see a bit more of Europe than I have before. I love eating and I love coffee, and I’m really excited when I’m on tour to try the best espresso in every town that I’m in. It’s a ritual, I look it up and map it out the night before, and I let everyone know that we’re going to that espresso bar tomorrow and that everyone needs to get ready for it. [Laughs]
EMMA C. BANKS