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Torres

Interview — Mohamed Sqalli
Photography — Hélène Tchen Cardenas

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After a first release in 2013, Torres -aka Mackenzie Scott - delivered this year a candid new record that relates some of the dark sides of her Baptist upbringing. With no self-pity nor melodrama but with a lot of fierceness and an « intense love of life ».

Hi Mackenzie, how are you? Aren’t you tired of speaking of your life to strangers all the time?

Well, it’s part of the job. It’s fine. And I can’t complain, I’m in Paris.

Congratulations for Sprinter. Did you expect such recognition after this second Torres album?

It’s always surprising. I hoped it will connect with people but I never expected that.

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Don’t you suffer from the new guy syndrome? 

In the beginning, I felt like I hadn’t been doing this long enough to work with people that I admire. And now, I’ve been doing this for almost 3 years now. I’m starting to feel like I earned my stripes a bit. I’m still brand new but not as brand new as I was then.

You also look more confident than before in the way you face the crowd during your shows. Is it something that you worked on?

It came naturally. It just evolved from touring and playing a lot of shows. The new songs are a bit louder. They allow me to have a bigger persona onstage.

Speaking of the songs, you worked with Adrian Utley (Portishead) and Rob Ellis (PJ Harvey). What was their contribution to your sound?

I wanted to make a stronger, heavier record. Which is why I reached out Rob. I knew that he could help me do that. I flew to England to record with him and then he asked Adrian if he would play guitar on the record. All the musicians were friends of Rob’s actually.

Nice friends.

(Laughs) Yes, quite so!

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It’s funny because your album made me think about Perfume Genius’ record. He also worked with Adrian Utley and he also had a stronger sound on his last album. When I interviewed him, he also told me he was more confident now he had those songs. I see a strong connection between your track Strange Hellos and his Queen. They’re two heavy and bold songs that I think shaped sonically the rest of your albums.

Thank you! That’s a huge compliment. I love that record and that song.

In your interview with Pitchfork, you said you had an “intense love of life”. What are the things that you like to do the most?

I like to watch people. To observe them. I really do, I’m a bit creepy. I love to go the park, bring a book, read and get distracted. I love being observational in New York especially. It just helps me understand the world and be creative.

How do you deal with the recurrent comparison with PJ Harvey?

Mmh… I just laugh! I hadn’t heard her until last year. So it’s interesting that people assume that I listened to her growing up. She’s wonderful. Now that I listened to her, I’m her biggest fan.

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Who were your inspirations vocally back then?

Johnny Cash. His deep resonant voice. I love the way he explores the lowest ranges of his voice. My other inspiration is opera. I’m not trained; I just love the Phantom of the Opera. I just love theater. I’m a bit theatrical in my vocal performance sometimes.

How did your family respond to this album?

I don’t really know. We haven’t talked about it. But they’re proud of me and supportive. I think it’s better like this. 

How important was Sharon Van Etten in your building as an artist?

Very important! She befriended me about 6 or 7 months after I moved to Brooklyn. The first year I spent in New York, she took care of me in a lot of ways. She showed me around, introduced me to all her friends. We did a song together. She’s just been very supportive and encouraging. She gives me a lot of advice because she has a lot more experience than I do. I’m really grateful for her. She’s a gem. She’s absolutely magnificent.

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