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Standout Track: No. 1, “Mister Vampire,” which shows the fullest range of the group’s swampy mix of country, blues rock, and roots music. Its hooks evoke fun, Seeger-esque folk balladry, only wrung through the meat grinder that gave Tom Waits his beaten growl. Although frontman Stephen Guidry (also of The Cassettes) spits out lyrics like “Mrs. Rice became a Christian/I became a saint” and “My neck was probably asking for it/and now my blood, it runs true,” he says poking fun of the current vampire craze wasn’t his only intent. “I didn’t sit down and wonder, How do I make a True Blood reference?” Guidry, 30, says. “I can be melodramatic and self-obsessed but only I know I’m doing that. There’s some layering.”
Musical Motivation: “After our first show,” Guidry says, “[Cassettes frontman] Shelby [Cinca] said ‘OK, you sound like Tom Waits.’” Guidry’s voice is not so unnaturally gravelly, but as a child he thought he could do a solid Louis Armstrong impression. “I’ve always been attracted to vocalists who have a fairly limited range but then figure out how to dance inside that range,” he says. The Torches’ songs also call back to Guidry’s Louisiana upbringing. “In previous bands I was worried about repetitive song structures,” he says. But looking back to his grandfather’s performances of “You Are My Sunshine,” Guidry realized that he’s “going to be OK with writing simple songs.”
Layers and Layers: But Guidry wants to keep his music as complex and multi-tiered as possible. “I’m a big fan of [‘70s glam-pop eccentrics] Sparks,” he says. “As you’re unpacking the lyrics you laugh but in the context of the whole song it becomes poignant. It’s funny but it’s a little sad. I would love to be approaching that. I want people to have fun.”