TORRES on “Three Futures”

Pushing Boundaries

Nov 17, 2017 Issue #62 - Julien Baker Photography by Shervin Lainez (for Under the Radar) Bookmark and Share


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"Nothing is off limits. I think that's what people should know." This quote was given by Mackenzie Scott, artistically know as TORRES, in discussion of a particular lyric off her third album, Three Futures. But it very well could apply to Scott's career as a whole. After the soft introspection of her 2013 self-titled debut as TORRES, Scott made an about face and released 2015's Sprinter, a visceral album that was awash with heavy guitar and rage. And now, with Three Futures, she has changed course again with an album constructed around electronic beats and influenced by groups like Can, Kraftwerk, and Portishead.

"Can and Kraftwerk were both bands that my touring bandmates really loved," says Scott. "My bandmates play a pretty huge part in the art that I consume and that really plays into where I go musically. But with Portishead, I was kind of late to that party. I knew some Portishead in high school and college, but Adrian Utley played some guitar and synths on Sprinter, and I walked away from that recording session feeling like maybe I needed to listen to his band a little bit more."

Having decided that she wanted to structure the songs on Three Futures around beats, Scott bought a cheap Korg Volca drum machine and wrote rhythms. Inspired by the idea of movement, she then ended up writing most of the record's lyrics and melodies while walking.

"I would walk every day for miles and miles," says Scott, who currently resides in Brooklyn. "I still do, but there were several months where I would just walk with no other plans for the day. I would go up to the tip of Manhattan and walk back down to Brooklyn and do it all over the next day. So the tempos on the record, every BPM, is within walking tempo."

Lyrically, Three Futures, which also heralds a move from Partisan Records, which released Sprinter, to the larger 4AD, is bold in its theme of what Scott calls "celebrating the body as a mechanism of joy." But some of its most interesting lyrical turns are when Scott coopts language that she says was not generally intended for her, as she does when describing herself as getting "hard" or "more of an ass man."

"There's this vernacular that has been handed to half that population that, for most of my life, I've understood to be off limits to me because of whatever role I'm meant to occupy or whatever body parts I do or don't have," says Scott. "I actually think that's really boring. I think it's more fun to use all of the language that's available to me and to subvert it so that it's structured within a new context."

Which points further toward her lyrical theme.

"Celebrating the body as a mechanism of joy can encompass a lot of sorrow and pain as well," says Scott. "The body is inflicted with pain often, and the mind too. There's mental illness. I'm certainly someone who's dealt a great deal with that. But part of the theme that I really wanted to drive home was the act of choosing joy, of choosing to celebrate the body and the space that we occupy, despite the pain and the sorrow of being alive, despite the rejections or the little deaths we experience every day. Or as Tori Amos would say, the little earthquakes. It's an absurdist mentality really, choosing joy despite not having any idea why we're here or what we're doing here, how we got here, where we're going when we die, if we're going anywhere, all of those questions. But to still celebrate is the act of true joy."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Fall 2017 Issue (October/November 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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