Last month, WBRU’s Rock Hunt semi-finals could have easily been mistaken for a Barrington High School ’04 class reunion, as Providence music venue Fête filled with familiar faces from some of my very best childhood memories. Nick Molak’s mighty guitar riffs radiated through the crowd, and the whole room silenced and transfixed on the four-piece jam meets blues meets Americana rock and roll show. I closed my eyes, and was enveloped into the walls of a well-oiled music machine. There is no denying that Torn Shorts have found their sound over a rigorous six months of touring and recording, and they’re ready to turn it up a notch.
When I sit down with the members of Torn Shorts a few weeks later backstage at the first annual Artistic Explosion Music Festival, they’ve just won the entire WBRU Rock Hunt, and they’re still riding the wave of their victory. The group’s bass player, Zach Zarcone, recalls the band’s last minute entry into the statewide search for the next big sound, saying they were shocked to even make the initial cut. But something tells me that the band’s loyal league of supporters would beg to differ.
What began as lead singer and East Bay native Josh Grabert on a kick drum and guitar has organically grown into the current lineup, with a few interstate moves and instrument shifts along the way. They’ve finally hit the sweet spot, with Molak and Grabert on dueling guitars, Zarcone on bass and Brendan Tompkins on drums, with each bringing their own stylistic preferences and influences to the collective writing table. (When I ask what they currently have playing in their cars the answers vary from a Cuban jazz compilation to recent Newport Folk Fest headliners The Black Crowes, to Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ghostface Killah.) The result is a multilayered sound that has a familiarity to it, with a classic rock resonance and dabbles in eras and genres, united by a melody-driven radio-readiness.
When the band was ready to lay down an album last fall, they started an online kickstarter to raise production funds. The result not only met their monetary goal, it nearly doubled the figure. Through the Mill was released in February to a sold out celebration in town. With albums pressed and the band eager to share new material with their New England wide fan base, the Shorts hit the road for back to back weekend gigs finding persistence and close attention paid to both local and more region-wide opportunities paying off with a fully-stocked schedule of shows. “We’re gonna play live, we’re a live band,” says Grabert on his eagerness to keep racking up the concert hours.
So what’s next for the Bay-based band? (Molak, Zarcone, and Tompkins currently live and rehearse in Barrington, with Grabert joining from his place down the road in Bristol.) If the start of 2013’s momentum is a sign of things to come, it seems to hint at the big time – bigger venues, bigger crowds and bigger sounds. First up is their coveted Rock Hunt winner’s spot in WBRU’s Summer Concert Series line-up, June 14 at downtown Providence’s Waterplace Park. Next up, possibly Nashville. One thing is for sure, you’ll want to stay tuned in.