INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
The Torch are a four-piece from Stoke-on-Trent, comprising of vocalist/guitarist Owen Hodgkinson, guitarist Kieran Breese, bassist Josh Wood and drummer Harry Poole.
Having only formed early last year, with Hodgkinson now already the sole survivor from the original line-up, the band, with their eclectic sound and lyrical subject matter, have rapidly gained a devoted following.
With all this and their recently released EP ‘Welcome To The Torch’ getting rave reviews, the future does look bright for The Torch.
I chatted with them backstage before their headline gig at The Underground in Hanley.
How did the band get together initially?
OWEN HODGKINSON (vocals/guitar): I started The Torch in February 2015, and I wanted a band with musicians who were into the same sort of stuff as me at the time.
We practiced every day for months on end, playing, headlining gigs and all that, but then it sort of broke up for a while.
I started the band back up again, and the boys came in shortly after. It was good that all of us found each other at the right time.
KIERAN BREESE (guitar): It’s now a completely different line-up to what it was.
OWEN: Yeah, I’m the only original member left now.
How did the name The Torch come about?
OWEN: Well, we were originally called The Scene, and we didn’t really have a reason for the name.
The first time we headlined here, we looked at the poster and it said: ‘The Scene are supporting…’.
We didn’t like how it looked, so we started throwing names around.
I’m pretty sure that it was me who came up with the name The Torch, I’m going to say it was me, and I think the idea came from an old Northern Soul club in Stoke-on-Trent.
How would you describe your sound?
OWEN: I’d say it was quite unique, like we can go from a really punky tune to something that is more melodic and slow-paced, but still with a punky vibe to it, so we’re one to our own, and we’re happy with that.
KIERAN: It’s almost like a character rock kind of thing.
HARRY POOLE (drums): Like Owen just said, we can do something that is really heavy, and then we can also do something more slower.
What are the band’s musical influences?
OWEN: Personally, when writing the tunes, we’ve always looked to music that’s different, because that is what we want ourselves to sound, so we aim to make something along the lines of The Velvet Underground and The Doors, fused with the punk energy of the late Sixties and Seventies.
There’s all these sorts of influences thrown in, so we can go from that to something like blues and folk. It’s a real mix, really.
KIERAN: I’d say we are also influenced by the bands that were themselves inspired by The Velvet Underground, such as The Strokes, The Libertines…
OWEN: The Libertines are a big influence on us, we’re basically a rip-off of them. (laughs)
JOSH WOOD (bass): You couldn’t really say we’re like just one band, because we could have a song that sounds like nothing like them.
OWEN: A massive on us more recently has been another band from Stoke called The Control, who were huge around 2008 to 2012.
KIERAN: Our songwriting is a bit like The Control, and we’re actually covering one of their songs here tonight.
What’s the inspiration behind your lyrics?
OWEN: It changes every time, to be fair. We’ll go through really happy, upbeat stuff about looking to the future and that, and then it’ll go to something like drugs.
HARRY: Like ‘White Line Dress’.
OWEN: Yeah, we also write about our experiences, people we know and their experiences, we bring that all in and try and make it more poetic.
Most of our songs actually start off as poems, and then we turn them into tracks.
You’ve just released a new four track EP ‘Welcome To The Torch’. How was the recording process?
OWEN: Yeah, it was alright. We got it done pretty quickly, it was all recorded in only two days.
HARRY: We were pretty much done by the end of the first day.
OWEN: Yeah, it was sound.
KIERAN: We knew exactly what we wanted to do with the songs before we actually started recording.
OWEN: We recorded at the Riff Factory in Stoke with Tom Carter, and I’ve never met anybody who knows so much and exactly what they’re doing.
He helped us out a lot, and during the recording, he was always keen on getting the best out of us.
The band are all from Stoke-on-Trent. What is your opinion of the current Potteries music scene?
KIERAN: To be fair, I think at the moment, it’s doing really well, but until a couple of months ago, it wasn’t as good.
Recently, there seems to have been lots of good local bands coming through from nowhere, for example, one of the bands we’re playing with tonight, Jupiter’s Beard, they’re all only around fifteen, but they’re really good.
When I first started playing gigs with my old band, The Castaways were big on the scene, Bonsai and Release came out of that, and them and others have made a real impact locally.
I think it’s safe to say that Stoke music is in a much better shape than it was a few months back.
How is it for you playing live?
KIERAN: When I first started gigging with ALMA, the band I was in before this one, I was always nervous and shaking beforehand, but now, when I go and see a band, I get a real buzz from it, and I keep that feeling for the next time I play on stage.
HARRY: I don’t get why you would be nervous before a gig, because at the end of the day, the crowd have paid to come and see you. There’s a reason you’re on the stage in the first place.
OWEN: If you fuck up, it’s your own fault, no-one else’s. You can’t just ponder over the bad stuff, in a way, you’ve got to be arrogant about it, you have to think: ‘This is what we’re going to do’.
The band went on tour this summer. Will you be doing that again any time soon?
OWEN: Yeah, we’re looking to get back on tour for next summer. We had a good time on this summer’s tour, we played all the big cities of the North and Midlands, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, places like that.
KIERAN: Summer is really the only time we can realistically do a lengthy tour, what with all of us being at college and work and that.
What’s the best venue you’ve played on tour?
OWEN: I’m not sure, really.
KIERAN: I went to see this band before I joined, because I’ve always been mates with Owen, and they played at a place in Manchester called The Live Room, which is all underground.
It’s a sick venue, and that was a really good gig.
OWEN: I found Sheffield to be quite good as well.
HARRY: We played in a venue there that was rather like a pub, wasn’t it?
OWEN: Yeah, it was a small venue and we kicked ass there.
What have you got lined up for the near future?
OWEN: We’re supporting Clean Cut Kid at The Exchange in Hanley early in the new year, I think it’s January 28th.
JOSH: They recently supported The Courteeners.
OWEN: We’ll probably just be playing gigs around here for the time being, what with work and college. We have a few lined up.
What is the band’s long-term aim?
OWEN: Hopefully, to be as big as possible, and get recognition.
I personally think that if the music industry was actually about the music and talented bands getting the recognition they deserve, then we should get known.
KIERAN: I wouldn’t say that was the end goal though.
At the end of the day, millions of bands who play all over the world don’t get signed.
It’s always like a ‘what if?’, it could happen, but at the moment, as long as we’re getting our music out there and building a following, we’ll be fine.
OWEN: I can personally put it down to having a lot of people, whatever you play, actually wanting to come.
THE TORCH’S LATEST EP ‘WELCOME TO THE TORCH’ IS AVAILABLE NOW.