By Dave McPherson
In the increasing cloning business of popular music, where consumers are often happy to be spoon-fed corporate creations and flavours of the month, Toronto-based trio Mrs. Torrance is attempting to create a unique sound which does not fall into the formulaic category.
Lead singer and songwriter Tamara Williamson is feeling a little under the weather today, so drummer Steve Pitkin fills in to do the interview. Joining Williamson and Pitkin, to form Mrs. Torrance, is bassist Chris Waller. Pitkin explains the band's desire to stick to its guns and blaze its own musical path always searching for the road less taken.
"We like to think we are part of a new movement and this is a reaction to all the formulaic music out there," he reveals. "It's hopefully a statement towards the progression of music because things tend to turn into formula as soon as something works.
"A lot of bands pander that extremely and we don't find that particularly exciting. To us, it's like creating the music without plagiarism second-guessing and trying to anticipate a trend."
Mrs. Torrance began on the Bloor Street scene four years ago independently releasing Why the Sky in 1994. Due to Pitkin's suggestion, the band changed its name from Why the Sky to Mrs. Torrance after the character in Stephen King's horror masterpiece, The Shining. This name change proved to be the beginning of a maturing process for the band.
After searching for an indie label, the band had the good fortune of being approached by several major labels. A bidding war ensued between BMG and Warner before Mrs. Torrance signed with BMG and released its major label debut I'm the Bird earlier this year. While the financial freedom gained from having major label-backing helped in producing and recording I'm the Bird, according to Pitkin the process was pretty similar to when it recorded its first indie release.
"When we recordedWhy the Sky, we were in and out in a day and it cost $250," he says. "We had an element of this on I'm The Bird. Even though we had the luxury of time and the backing of the major on this album, we still recorded it in a similar way.
"Everyone was within 10 feet of each other in the studio to get that really tight band feeling. Some bands take it to the extreme," he continues. "They say we have to get a quick track and separate all the instruments. For us though, there has always been a really strong chemistry in the band and that is what we are trying to translate in the studio."
The first single from I'm the Bird was the catchy "Porn" a song that received moderate rotation on MuchMusic when it was released in February. The latest single is "Wish," which debuted last week. Pitkin admits, however, the band's greatest success has occurred on college radio where it has consistently charted.
Mrs. Torrance is currently touring with King Cobb Steelie across Ontario and Quebec. At this stage in its relatively young career, the band enjoys not always headlining.
"As the headliner you have to be ultra-responsible," says Pitkin. "I don't really like drinking or anything before I play, so you have that extra time. It's kind of fun being the opening act because it comes down to expectations.
"Often, whatever comes first is a total surprise. I think subconsciously we play on that sometimes, opening bands can surprise you."
People who are familiar with the earlier sounds of Mrs. Torrance might be surprised when they listen to this new album or see the band live. The band used to push the decibel limits, but lately it has decided to tone things down a notch.
"We used to play loud and we were more grunge-influenced," explains Pitkin. "Lately, we have taken it upon ourselves to be a little more musical, more counterpoint-oriented now. Different people in the band are all playing a different sound instead of all of us playing the same thing at once. That is how we have matured."
Mrs. Torrance has a full schedule tomorrow as the band plays both HMV's in London and it will also be performing a brief acoustic set at The Spoke at noon to warm-up for the opening gig Friday night at Call the Office. In the future, the band hopes to continue its maturing process and continue to take its musical journey to new and exciting realms including the band's more acoustic side.
"This is a side we want to expose more to the public because we already can rock," Pitkin says. "But rockin' is boring. We are trying to expose more of an atmospheric edge to us almost like a mystical journey."