When Montoya's band called it a day early in the decade, he joined that later incarnation of Floor and formed another hardcore-influenced band called Cavity. But just as Floor was slated to head into the studio and then tour with high-profile Gainesville post-punks Hot Water Music, the group's drummer quit. So in 2004, the duo decided to start fresh with Torche, recruiting Smith and Nuñez (both of whom also play in the full-on grindcore band Shitstorm). The newly minted outfit issued its self-titled debut album in 2005 to a great deal of notice in underground hard-rock and metal circles; soon the unit was touring nationally, supporting the likes of Mogwai, Isis, Jesu and the Sword.
Meanderthal was greeted with much enthusiasm by both critics and fans when it arrived in April on well-respected Hydra Head Records (home to, among others, Big Business, Pelican and Boris), ensuring plenty more opportunities to get on bigger touring bills and possibly headline in the near future. Montoya says that all the attention coming Torche's way lately has been gratifying, but there are some mixed feelings as well. He bristles a bit at being termed an "overnight success" after spending fifteen-plus years in the trenches, and adds that it's only recently that his efforts have received much love in his home state.
"It's rewarding that people appreciate what you're doing, but we've been doing it for a while now, and where we came from, it wasn't really accepted," says Montoya. "I'd tour with Floor or with Cavity, and throughout Florida, people, you know, like promoters and stuff, they'd kinda shut us out. Maybe we were too loud for the club itself, and they'd cart us out early.
"A lot of 'em never really liked the music," he goes on. "We knew we liked it, and we were all like, 'The Melvins rule and the Melvins keep doin' it, so we'll do it, and if the people hate it, fuck 'em! Let the people hate us!' But the further away we got from there, there were more people who started appreciating it. Now that underground metal's gotten so popular, now I guess they appreciate it at home."
Although a triumphant homecoming would be nice, Montoya knows that probably won't happen. Regardless, he takes solace in the fact that Torche's profile increases by the day, especially as he and his bandmates put their live prowess on display from city to city. At the same time, Montoya is staying grounded both by the fact that as he talks on his phone, the cramped conditions of the band's van has forced one of his bandmates to prop his smelly feet near Montoya's head, and the fact that he's got another bandmate around to keep his flights of fancy in check.
"Steve is the more realistic one in the band," notes Montoya. "He's all about handling the ugly business stuff and making sure we don't get ripped off by anybody and just not getting, like, way excited about every little thing that happens. And I'm the one that's always like, 'We're gonna be the best! We're gonna rock out! Let's go to Japan by the end of the year!' I make all these crazy goals, and he's like, 'Dude, you're a daydreamer...' But man, all this shit is really, actually starting to happen."
Indeed. Torche will go to Japan for the first time in November. That will follow the rest of the U.S. tour with Boris and a European tour later this summer with Pelican. And then the band will cap off the year by performing at the All Tomorrow's Parties Nightmare Before Christmas festival in England at the personal behest of the Melvins and Mike Patton, who are curating the event.
Soon, Montoya enthuses, he might be able to quit his job at the music store where he's worked for five years — and Brooks might be able to quit his job at the pizza place. And maybe they'll be able to break and then buy as many damn cymbals as they want, too. After nearly two decades of dreams and setbacks and hard work, they've earned it.
"When I was like twelve," Montoya recalls, "I was like, 'Dude, when I'm eighteen, that's gonna be it! It's gonna be huge...and here I am in a van and I'm in my thirties. But it's totally enjoyable, it's great. The music business is filled with a lot of creeps and shady people who are trying to rip you off. When you're a kid, you don't realize that's a big part of rock and roll. But the playing itself and the music itself — that's what keeps you going, man. The personal accomplishments are good, and every day I'm finding new things that are satisfying about this. That's what makes it worthwhile."