Artist Spotlight: Torrey

    Siblings Ryann and Kelly Gonsalves formed Torrey while living in San Fransisco in 2018. Now a five-piece featuring Sinclair Riley on drums, Adam Honingford on lead guitar, and Susie Chinisci on synths and backing vocals, the band self-released 2019’s Sister EP and their 2021 debut album, Something Happy, which were recorded at the legendary Tiny Telephone studios. They went on to sign with Slumberland Records for their self-titled sophomore LP, which sees them working with Matthew Ferrara of the Umbrellas and taking more time to flesh out the songs. The home studio environment allowed them to experiment and build on the shimmery indie pop foundation of their debut with hazier, grittier, and even more radiant ideas, drifting between loud and subdued textures just as Ryann’s vocals blur melancholy and joy, tenderness and angst. Despite the noise that echoes, the energy coming through the recordings is playful and organic, adding palpable layers of emotion and movement to its dreamy expressionism – lifting, wiggling, spinning, and running into you as the lyrics envision, creating a map of sound only to scribble outside it.

    We caught up with Torrey’s Ryann and Kelly Gonsalves for the latest edition of our Artist Spotlight series to talk about their relationship with music growing up, forming Torrey, recording their self-titled album, and more.

    What role did music play in your lives growing up? Was it something you bonded over?

    Ryann Gonsalves: Music was always around, and I think it was definitely something that Kelly and I bonded over. I’m four years younger, and I have a very prominent memory of hearing the bass line of ‘Evil’ by Interpol – Kelly had put it on in the car, and I was like, “What is this? This music is amazing.” Our parents, our mom, our auntie, who we’re really close with – there was always good music around. On the off chance that Kelly would make me a mix CD, it was like gold. [laughs]

    Kelly Gonsalves: Yeah, music has always been around. As far as making music, at least for me, it’s been more recent, but it was always a nice escape growing up. Back then, finding music was a lot more – it wasn’t challenging, but it was more exciting. You weren’t fed music on a playlist all the time, you had to some searching, and finding out different people around you, maybe five or six people in middle school or high school also liking that band, developing those connections – it was just fun discovering music. I feel like that’s kind of what started everything.

    Kelly, when you made a mix CD or put on a song in the car, did you feel a sense of importance in introducing Ryann to good music?

    KG: It was just fun. One, it was really fun making playlists, and then it was fun sharing that with Ryann when we were younger, having that connection.

    RG: On the off chance that I found a band like on my own, too, that I got to show Kelly, I was like, “I’m the coolest.” [laughs] But that didn’t happen very often.

    Apart from music, how were your personalities different around that time?

    RG: Kelly’s my older brother – anyone with an older sibling, I feel like the younger sibling ends up being a little bit louder and running around, seemingly playful but probably annoying. So it was a lot of me sneaking into Kelly’s room when he’s out playing and writing down band names, just being a little gremlin, and Kelly having to set boundaries with that gremlin, and also accept the gremlin. [laughs]

    Why were you writing down band names?

    RG: Kelly had the Dell Digital Jukebox that came out before the iPod – it had a scroller, and I remember while he was gone, I went in there and just scrolled like mad and wrote down anything that looked cool. And then I went into my room and would go hacker mode to try and find these cool bands that my brother listens to.

    Was songwriting something you were both into individually?

    KG: For me, not so much. I played guitar from an early age, but I was very much maybe that cliche, I’d go into guitar lessons like, “Teach me this Weezer riff.” And then I’d play that one Weezer riff for like two weeks until the next one comes to my head. Songwriting and all that has been fairly recent, but there’s always been this interest, like it would be cool to do this, as far as back then, but maybe not committing as much as I have been over the past few years. I feel like Ryann’s always been coming up with melodies and stuff since she was younger.

    RG: Yeah, writing was a big part of my life. Even when I was a little kid, I’d come up with little songs, and I’ve been keeping a journal since elementary school, which is kind of cringey if I were to stumble upon anything. But writing is a big part of my life, and music as well, so when the two come together, it’s just wonderful.

    How did the idea of forming a band come up?

    KG: We were both living in the city, in San Francisco at the time. I was just sending Ryann voice memos parts of songs, song ideas and riffs, and that kind of went on for a little bit. And then eventually she started sending them back to me with vocals over it and lyrics, and we’re like, “Oh, that kind of sounds like something.” Ryann, at that time, had already been playing for a little bit in the city and doing things, and it just kind of happened. Like, “Hey, we should get with a drummer and start playing and see what happens.” Ryann had some mutual friends that we’d both played with, and it just grew into something, and eventually it grew into that first EP. It felt pretty natural, we didn’t really think about it too much. It just kinda happened. At the time, it was a lot of discovery for me, being a little bit older, like, “I’m enjoying doing this.”

    How do you remember that period, Ryann?

    RG: The voice memo process isn’t unique, a lot of bands do it, but when it felt like we were mad scientists and we just cracked the code – that feeling is amazing. And I feel like it must be super interesting from Kelly’s perspective as well, because all of the songs for Torrey start with him, his scripts and his guitar playing. It must be such a trip to send me something and then I sing over it and send it back and see how things transform over time. Melodies can really change the whole mood of a song, so it’s cool, receiving a text back from Kelly being like, “Yes, that is it.”

    KG: Honestly, some of the more fun moments in the songwriting process is those early clicking moments, when it is just blindly sending something out. It could be just two minutes of a potential song, and then you’re just in the middle of the day, working, and then getting something sent back and you’re like, “This is pretty great, we should explore this.” It’s really fun when those moments click between the two of us. Everything after that is really hard, though, putting the song together – it’s really easy to come up with a minute of awesomeness, and then it’s like, “How do we turn this into something more?”

    Ryann, you said you’d always been writing, but when you were trading ideas with Kelly in the context of this band, how much more conscious were you of, like, “What words do I put over this?” Did that change things for you?

    KG: Yeah, the writing process for the lyrics of this band are really image-based, which is super fun. Kelly would send me a song, and I would just see little vignettes of things and try and articulate that into cryptic lyrics. Writing for these songs has been a really wonderful self-exploration while also not being super explicit with where I’m at in our lyrics. It’s kind of like poem writing, in a way, for me.

    How do you collaboratively approach that stage of stitching a song together? Does either of you tend to focus more on ideas or sounds or mood?

    KG: Since I’m primarily writing everything on guitar, I focus a lot on the song structure, and a lot more on the sound and the atmosphere that’s coming together. I think when Ryann comes in, it’s fitting her lyrics and her melody into that world, seeing how you could mesh it. At least with the record that’s coming out, a lot of those ideas really seemed to happen really naturally, like we were in sync with that. I think the reason why is a lot of those songs were pretty realized before we went into playing with a drummer and piecing it together, so we created that world early on.

    RG: With this record, we definitely had the structures more organized, and we’re feeling a lot more confident in our musicianship going into it, which allowed us to have a lot of room for weirdness and exploration. It was very organic, and we were able to add even more to the atmosphere that Kelly creates in his guitar parts, kind of on a whim, which is fun.

    KG: The first record that we put out by ourselves, we had tons of time to play with our drummer at the time and work out those songs. Whereas this one, it was mostly just me and Ryan shooting stuff back and forth, so it was a lot of me playing with a drum track and piecing that together, and then eventually fleshing that out with a drummer. I feel like a lot of it happened between the two of us before we were ready to record, whereas the last album, we were playing in a band and we’d practice at night and piece it together before recording.

    How natural was it this time, knowing when you were ready to record?

    KG: There was just some urgency with getting it done, and we were super motivated, so once we started working with a drummer, we were really focused on everything. We just knew it was time, and we knew we wanted to work with Matt [Ferrara], who recorded and produced and really fleshed out the sound. There’s always this, maybe for myself, I won’t say not being happy with how previous things sounded, but kind of searching for a different sound constantly – there was a lot of motivation with these songs, having spent so much time with them before recording, wanting to get that sound and capture whatever was going on in our heads.

    RG: I really enjoyed recording this record. Moving forward a little bit in time, we built out a studio in my old house and just got to drink a lot of coffee and run around – the best part, I think, of recording is this feral side that comes out. Like I said previously, we had the structures, so we had a lot of room to just play, and the chemistry with Matthew Ferraro was the best, he’s just the best dude. There was nothing too weird, we just tried at all. Recording is hard, it’s not all hella of fun, but there was a really good energy and a positive, controlled chaos.

    KG: It was nice not recording in a studio. As much as I really enjoyed our time recording in a studio, it put a certain pressure and time constraint of making sure you get all of your ideas out in a certain amount of time, because it’s expensive. There was a little bit more freedom, and working with Matt, you could tell him, “This is what I want it to sound like,” and he’d be like, “Oh, I have a great idea for that.” It was really fun. It was six days at Ryann’s house, probably starting at 8 and finishing at 6 every day. By the end of the week, we’re like–

    RG: Never want to see each other again. [laughs]

    KG: Too much coffee, probably, but I think it worked out.

    RG: We were so caffeinated that we wouldn’t even have to really talk about it, and recording was down in the basement, so you just start running down the stairs.

    KG: It’s an older home, so there’s no insulation, you just hear stomping everywhere. You know exactly where everybody is in the house. It was fun being below everybody and doing something and not really knowing what happened because it’s really loud in there, and then hearing cheering and clapping from upstairs. I remember doing the guitar part for for ‘Really Am’, which isn’t really a guitar part as much as just sound coming from a guitar, and it’s really loud and chaotic and swelling in and out. I was like, “I hope that sounded cool,” and then everybody clapping – it was kind of funny, getting that affirmation from stomps on the ground or something. And the neighbours were really nice.

    RG: I had the best neighbours at that house. They were like, “Sounds good!”

    Your sound has gotten noisier and more intricate over time, but you still show a lot of appreciation for classic shoegaze and pop structures. Is there a balance that you’re trying to achieve when you’re laying down a track?

    KG: Because we were so prepared, there was confidence and time to make decisions, and also confidence in trying to make every song sound different, but also cohesive at the same time. There’s shoegaze elements, and I definitely wanted to have those elements, but I didn’t necessarily want to have a fully shoegaze album. I wanted it to be a little bit of everything.

    RG: Not to sound cheesy, but there were just magic moments where we would add a weird sound and be like, “Oh shit, we love that.”

    KG: There’s a few good examples. I feel like a song like ‘Pop Song’, there’s a break in the song, and me and Matt were trying to figure out how to merge the break into the last part of that song. We caught audio of Ryann just talking, and we slotted that in before the little break first. It’s just so random and catches you off guard, but it works. There’s an element of not wanting to take it too seriously at times. And then also, I was listening to a lot of Brazilian music at the time and was like, “I want to have some of those classic Brazilian drum rhythms randomly going on.”

    One of my favorite moments is the ending to ‘Bounce’, where you have these trading vocals that feel like a significant decision.

    KG: Did you track that by yourself, and then Adam did it a month later?

    RG: Yeah, it was originally tracked, and Adam, our lead guitarist and all-around best friend – he used to live in LA, but he flew up for one day of recording where he put a bunch of noodly guitars and lead guitar lines, and he has the best voice, so he sang on a few songs too. Having our double vocals on that was really fun, because that song’s more outward, so having another voice come in, it’s less of a conversation between one person. It was more external, so having another voice come in to reaffirm that at the end is really cool. I love singing with him.

    Could you share one thing you love about each other, be it personally or on a musical level?

    RG: There’s many things I love about Kelly, but if we were to talk about musically,  I love being on the other end of how his environment has shifted his music. He was living by Golden Gate Park for a while, and it was really simple and wonderful. And then he was living like off of 880, and there was a lot more shoegaze and industrial aspects to it. This is just my own perspective of it, but it’s been really interesting to see how these different spaces in my mind affect his music.

    KG: At least with recording recently, having that telepathy – sending something out and automatically knowing what to do with that also perfectly fits what you had in mind at the time – there’s a lot of those moments that happen with me and Ryann that I feel like are really special, especially with the record. It was really cool being in sync with how he wanted it to sound, and I feel like that’s something that you could only really get from being a sibling. It’s not exactly an easy thing to do because you are really close, but when those moments link up and you don’t even have to say anything – it just happens through something that you’re trying to create, through music, and you’re speaking the same language. We both look at each other when the song’s done or when we came up with that really good idea, and we’re like, “Oh, yeah, same.” It’s a lot of unspoken stuff that happens.

    This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

    Torrey’s Torrey is out now via Slumberland.

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