Thoughts & Reflections - Vol. 1

I answer some questions about TORAs hiatus, new music, writing processes and much more...

Thorne Davis

How was it reuniting with TORA after the bands hiatus?

 It was very cool. It felt like not that much had actually changed. Obviously, after our US tour in 2022 we decided to take some time off. We've been together for almost 10 years and it felt like the right time to focus on solo projects and just, enjoy a different pace of life. What a lot of people maybe don't realise is that making music is fantastic, and being in a band is great, but when you are a collective, when there's more than one of you, when you're not just like a solo producer or a DJ, every one of you has got individual life plans and things going on, right? And so to set up a situation wherein you can basically have everyone in sync, but still working and doing their own things in their own life is very challenging. So, a lot of times what you have to do is as individuals, we have to make our lives work around the collective vision of the project.

But I have to say that coming back together felt natural. It felt right. It's a beautiful experience to know that after this amount of time, we can still come back together. We all still get on. We all have a shared vision and a shared purpose, and we just immediately were back in flow. One of the many cool things about being in a band with your best friends is that you always have this connection despite what you might be trying to do professionally. The other side of the coin is that sometimes having friendships involved with business can also have its challenges too.

So it's all about this balance, but it felt really good. It felt natural. It just flowed, just felt like it was meant to be… It was very good.

What was different about this album writing session?

What I think what we have done differently this time is we've got a studio which is a lot more conducive to live experimentation. As you can see, we're in a live room here. We've got the drums, we've got roads, we've got guitars, we've got all sorts of other stuff.

Usually we'll rent out a house somewhere nice, somewhere where we can just have time, some quiet, and we will get into the zone with song writing and fleshing ideas out. We will obviously also record but we're always a bit hesitant to do recording of too much live stuff because it's very difficult to control the sound -  especially live drums -  if you're in an untreated room. Also the microphones and equipment are quite expensive and specific to this purpose. So it's not really something we would or we have added to our travelling studio kit. Like we've got decent mics, but they're nothing crazy.

Also having a space where  you can live and work is quite special. You get to wake up, have breakfast and walk straight into the live room or the control room and just start fleshing ideas out - making it happen. Personally I don't think it's sustainable for a very long amount of time because you are indoors a lot. You're not socializing as much as you would, you're not getting out and about and taking breaks.

So it is quite intense and I think coming up to the end of the six weeks now, it feels like the right time to take a break. I think if we were going to go for another week or two, I think our productivity would be going down. I can already feel that we're slowing down. So most of what's happening now is just tinkering little production elements, writing a couple new sections, mixing all of this sort of stuff.

But in terms of fleshing songs out from the start and us all together jamming, I think we've lost a little bit of our stamina, which is natural. And so the plan now is that we will finish up here in a few days. And then we are going to take about a month and a half off, and then we meet back up here again at the studio in September to listen over the tracks do any sort of other production stuff we need to do to the songs to get them done across the line.

And then we'll do some mixing and mastering as well. And who knows maybe in the two weeks where we're back here, we will write some new tracks. That's definitely not off the cards. I'll continue to write when I'm back in Bali as well, but it'll be more for solo project stuff. And then coming back is gonna be good because I would really love to have this album done, completed by the end of September, October.

And for me to come back to your question like what makes this one difference, I really feel where we are as well, like being in Spain and this little town that we're in here. The studio, the layouts working so well for our creative flow in a way that I don't think we expected it would before. We’re free of distraction with everything we need.

Beautiful part of Spain. Beautiful studio. Great equipment. Great mics… everything just really aligned and yeah, I think this is probably one of the best writing experiences I have had with this band.

How you approach the songwriting process?

The process is always changing. It's always evolving, I think as we are becoming better songwriters the process is also adjusting a little bit as well. Songs will typically start more acoustic. Jo will have a guitar, Jai will be on the piano. I don't think there's any right or wrong process. I think everyone needs to do what they feel is most comfortable and most natural to express an idea or a concept.

Whoever brings the initial seed or the initial concept of a song, they will usually have some kind of idea or some interpretation of what the song could become. That is usually gonna be the guiding force. Once there's a few layers that have started to build up what I find happens is we will start doing some referencing as well. We've got a lot of artists that we like that we're inspired by. We'll see how they've approached certain things, whether it's sounds or arrangements. Whatever it actually you can start to flesh out this idea and give it some kind of final destination or some sort of outcome, especially within the group dynamic.

If one of us starts a track and then everyone starts to add layers but there's no map or there's no bearing, it never reaches a fully identified form. It just becomes a bit of a ‘mish-mash’ where what's actually happening is everyone's got a different idea of what's going on. We’re packing it into the song and we muddy the essence of the track a little bit. We have had some good songs created this way, but I don't think they are the strongest.

I believe that when you're in the initial phases of writing, you've got to be very careful when you bring the ‘editor’ in and you've also gotta be careful to guide the other people that are contributing. If I make a melody or a chord progression and then I get Shaun - our bass player - to start playing around on it, if he has heard a reference or if I've given him some sort of feedback as to where I think it could go and he's exploring that we can start to move in tandem. There has to be so much communication happening here. This is actually one of the biggest things I actually say this quite often, but being in a band is more about communication than it is about making music. You need to be very good at communicating and expressing concepts to one another, first of all. But there's also this balance of the egos where everyone wants to have their input in the song which is of course important, but if there's no shared understanding of exactly where this track is going, as I said before, it just dilutes on the whole thing.

So songs can be killed if there's too much input that isn’t aligned toward the same outcome. This is what I find is one of the big challenges with Tora is because everyone is so outrageously talented and can play several instruments, we get to a point where the landscape of optionality - in terms of where the song can go - is almost infinite, and without clear bearing, some sort of map or a clear reference, it's difficult to communicate this song or this concept to everyone else in the band.

The process that we follow is very dynamic. It's open for everyone to get involved. Sometimes someone will bring in a track that's a little bit further along and they'll usually be the one who's like steering the ship to get it done. Other times it's very collaborative. It really changes based on what the song is as we each have strengths best suited to particular vibes.

In general I think it's good not to be too concerned or too tied down with defining a ‘process’ beyond understanding the editor and the creator. If you can understand this duality, that these are two separate processes and you can learn to be sensitive as to when the editor actually comes in to start destroying things. Typically you'll be taking things away. You'll be mangling, you'll be pushing, you'll be trying to really get this thing under control.

Otherwise it just goes forever.

What are the highlights of this album writing session?

Behind you there is a second production room. We've got the main control room in here, and then obviously this is the live room. In fact, actually on the other side of the production room there is also a guitar room, which is isolated. So there's technically four rooms in which we can be creating or fleshing out ideas at any given time.

What I found compared to previous writing sessions, because of the way that we work, we make everything in the box, which is basically a way of saying that we use the computer. A lot. We are not sitting here jamming ideas out and with the engineer in the room who's then, capturing everything and then we form it into a track.

We'll usually start something acoustic or electric or whatever, it doesn't matter. We'll start something and it's going straight into the box and then we're starting to layer up and, because that's the process. What this means is as we're four in the band and we're all capable, one person can only use the computer at any given time.

What's then happening to the other three? They're sitting around. There's so much time that is not optimised. I've always felt in previous writing sessions that this was a very big roadblock because you do start to drift off. You start to lose focus. And you just it just feels sometimes like pointless to be there, especially if Joe or Jai are tracking something.

It can be half a day that you're there tracking vocal ideas or fleshing things out or trying new melodies or whatever. And if you don't have another space to go to or something to do, you will just sit there and you are just totally waft out. So this time what we've done is we've set up two production rooms.

So if someone's working on something here and I'm not needed, or I've got no inputs or whatever's happening, it's just tracking. I can go to this production room and I can actually be working on music as well. And I found that having this set up was so good because I'm not feeling unproductive. I'm not feeling like I'm wasting time.

And I think we actually also managed to increase the output. We can technically double the amount of songs that are getting made. The other guys didn't use that room much, if at all actually, which I was a bit surprised by maybe cuz I just totally. Dominated the setup with all my stuff. But I think for future writing sessions, this for me is an absolute must.

Like we do need to have several places where we can write and work that are separate. Big thing for me, I think that was one of the highlights is having these separate spaces we've done very good. We were very lucky to find this place and props to jive for doing the Googling and getting it sorted.

What's next?

We take some time, we rest our ears, we sit on the music, we maybe do some tinkering. I think a few of us are gonna still continue to do some writing as well. And then we're gonna meet back up here in September. We go through all the tracks. We start to flesh out the album tracks, like the list, the set list, not the set list, like the album track list, rather.

And then we can submit those and we can start to get all the assets ready. So this will be music videos, this will be cover artworks. All of that kind of stuff still needs to happen, which does represent a pretty solid portion of the whole album creation process. But mood boarding is gonna be the first thing that needs to happen, which Jay and I have already started, but we need to put a little bit more time into taking it further.

But yeah, I just really wanna get this album out as, as soon as possible. I think there's no reason to sit on an album too long. I think there's no reason to be too precious about the music. Because releasing something also releases you from the anguish and also from the insecurity around whether it's actually good enough.

As soon as it's out, it's done. It's bang, okay, now I get to focus on doing the next thing, and. Being able to move or iterate through this process faster, I think makes you a better creative in general. It also means you've just got more catalog out, so you're technically probably gonna make more money.

It just, yeah, the, it's what creatives are supposed to do. It's just churned through. Things. I think it's quite unhealthy for any creative in any discipline to sit on their work for too long. Granted, some do need to, if you're a writer, you probably don't wanna rush out a book too soon. But anyway, we're getting into the semantics here.

The road ahead looks pretty much just like we need to get this album out. And everything out everything related to the album that's around. It just needs to happen as well. I don't think we, we should overthink it. I think the music is fabulous. We just get some cool visuals and we pull it all together.

Visual Art