Metal Makes Strange Bedfellows

Heavy-rock group Torche wins fans on both sides of the aisle

November 9, 2011

Torche singer-guitarist Steve Brooks, second from right, is not a Mike Huckabee fan.

Last year, a video clip from Fox’s overnight news show “Red Eye” made the music-blog rounds. It featured the animated head and real voice of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee exclaiming his love for the melodic hard-rock band Torche. “If you haven’t heard of them, you’re probably a racist homophobe,” said the Republican, who’s made anti-gay remarks in the past.

While openly gay Torche singer-guitarist Steve Brooks appreciated Huck’s shout-out, it turned out that the praise was scripted by “Red Eye” host Greg Gutfeld (a rabid fan of the band) and was, alas, not a real endorsement by Huckabee.

“[Gutfeld] gave the same speech to Sarah Palin [to read], but she didn’t go for it. She thought he was making fun of her,” Brooks says. “But Mike Huckabee did it — good for him. I don’t agree with his views, but I thought it was pretty funny.”

Torche’s crushing riffs get the band pegged as metal — Decibel magazine ranked its sludge-rock classic “Meanderthal” No. 1 on its Top 40 Extreme Albums of 2008 list — but the group’s cathartic music is filled with drones and hazy melodies, not solos and double-bass breakdowns.

“I rarely listen to metal,” says Brooks, 37. “I grew up on it, so there’s a part of me that’s influenced by old metal. I’m a child of [music of] the late ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, and I hold all those eras with me. Sometimes I have to be edited by my much younger bandmates [when I say things like,] ‘Hey, that reminds me of Talk Talk or Adam and the Ants.’”

One of those young’uns is guitarist Andrew Elstner, who makes his recorded debut with Torche on the band’s upcoming, still-untitled album (the follow-up to 2010’s “Songs for Singles”) and on a new split EP with British rockers Part Chimp that features three Guided by Voices covers.

“It really inspired all of us,” Brooks says of Elstner’s contributions to the writing process. “We related to him so much more than our last guitar player [Juan Montoya] in many, many ways. … I think it’s the most mature work we’ve done.”

Let’s hear what Huckabee has to say about that.

DC9, 1940 9th St. NW; Thu., 8 p.m., $14; 202-483-5000. (U St.-Cardozo)
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