When we last checked in with Torn Shorts they were riding high as the winners of last year’s WBRU Rock Hunt. Big gigs started coming there way, including spots headlining the Summer Concert Series at Waterplace Park, and opening for national acts like Young the Giant at Lupo’s. Anyone who tuned to WBRU last summer was just as likely to hear Torn Shorts as fun. or Cage the Elephant. “The radio play thing is huge,” says bass player Zach Zarcone said. “You reach so many more people; [there’s] a lot of press surrounding it. You start gaining more social media followers. It definitely helped us.”
But like so many Rock and Roll stories, Torn Shorts took an unexpected turn, one that could have put an end to their success before it ever really started: Basically the band imploded. “About a month after we won the Rock Hunt we were doing the weekend warrior touring thing and then we lost half of the band,” Zach said. “Things were going really well and then two of the guys split for different reasons.”
Very suddenly the now-actually-torn Torn Shorts found themselves without a drummer and rhythm guitar player. “We had to rebuild while still maintaining this influx of gig offers. It was kind of a crazy year. [Me and Josh] had to manage the whole thing while simultaneously rebuilding the band.”
Zach and Torn Shorts founder Josh Grabert have been the band’s constants through several early incarnations and lineup changes before they settled in with the four-piece group that won last year’s Rock Hunt, so performing as a duo was something they were comfortable with. But they also saw this obstacle as an opportunity to mix up the band’s sound. “We took the gigs and made them work. We did some pretty wild things just to keep playing. We didn’t want anything to hold us back. It was tough, but it was fun being able to rebuild the band and move forward with a little more creative freedom. We pulled out of it by the fall. We got a good drummer and we pared down to a three-piece.”
Their new drummer, Chris Ardoin, hails all the way from Lafayette, Louisiana which is hard to wrap your head around when you think a trip to Westerly requires packing a lunch, but he’s currently studying design at RISD which is a slightly more manageable commute. “We were playing with a bunch of different guys around here and nothing really quite fit, so I was like ‘screw it, let’s see what’s on Craigslist.’ He’s a New Orleans cat. He definitely has a laid back feel – groovier. Definitely a good find.”
According to Zach, Chris brings a fresh, looser percussion style to the band that both he and Josh are pretty stoked on. “It was definitely a shift but it’s something we’re totally embracing. It’s interesting how that happens; two guys leave and the sound is completely different.”
Moving forward with that new sound, Torn Shorts has set its sights on their follow up to last year’s Through the Mill, a process the band seems to be content with taking its time on. “We’ve been working on it kind of slowly, been writing and demoing. We’re getting a better idea of what we want to do and how we want to do it.” For starters they want a sound that really captures the energy of their live performances, sidestepping slick production for something more genuine to the band’s sound.
Also on the horizon is their return to Waterplace Park, where they’ll be symbolically opening for this year’s Rock Hunt winner, The Rare Occasions. It’s been a long year since they last played there, but it’s hard to think of a better place for them to close the book on it.
WBRU Summer Concert Series Opening for Rock Hunt Winners The Rare Occasions. Waterplace Park, Providence. June 27 at 7pm