“I still have a lot to say:” TORRES talks new album ‘What an enormous room’

“I wanted to carve out a path to hope and resilience with this record,” TORRES said of her expansive new album.  

Given the sheer brilliance of its recent singles, we couldn’t help but wait with bated breath for TORRES’ much-anticipated new album, What an enormous room.

Thankfully for fans of the indie singer-songwriter, the wait is finally over, as TORRES drops the ten-song album today in all its technicoloured glory. 

Torres interview 'What an enormous room'
Credit: Ebru Yildiz

We’ve already been treated to the lush electric guitar riffs of I got the fear and the screechy revenge tale of Collect, but the album’s surrounding tracklist somehow digs deeper in both style and substance.

Dipping into an array of sounds from pop rock to indie balladry, What an enormous room reads like a manifesto of TORRES’ talent, though she hardly needed to prove herself

“I want to be direct and speak to universal experiences with confidence,” TORRES told Happy of the impetus behind her sixth studio album.

Below, we caught up with the US phenom for a deep dive into What an enormous room, van voyages from Columbus to Nashville, and her undying quest “to make things in order to be fulfilled.” 

HAPPY: What are you up to today?

TORRES: I’m riding in a van from Columbus to Nashville. 

HAPPY: Tell us about New York, what’s the scene like, and what do you love or not love about it?

TORRES: I love New York! The beauty of living there is that if you don’t like your scene you can just find a new one. There are million worlds within the nyc solar system.

Most of my friends there are people I didn’t even know 5 years ago. Another thing I love is that when you’re having a shitty day, something unexpectedly humorous or heartwarming is likely to occur, because you’re just constantly surrounded by people.

The moment you look outside of yourself you might find you like humans after all. (Some days that does not happen and that is to be expected, too.)

HAPPY: Congrats on your forthcoming album release, what’s the overarching theme or story you’re trying to tell with “What an enormous room”? Was there a specific song event or feeling that sparked the creative process?

TORRES: Thank you! I wanted to carve out a path to hope and resilience with this record. The mind is the most confining space that exists, but it’s also the most expansive. Perspective is everything.

Because of my own struggle with anxiety, fear, and often hopelessness, I know how impossible it can feel to imagine a joyful life for oneself and a better world in general.

Now that I feel that I’ve found that hope, my desire is to try to help other people imagine endlessly so they can lead fulfilled lives. I realize that’s a huge oversimplification of something incredibly complex, but making this record was something I could offer in that regard. 

Torres interview 'What an enormous room'

HAPPY: Can you talk about your approach to songwriting for this album? How did you balance the deeply personal elements with the broader themes you mentioned?

TORRES: For me the personal stuff is always easier to write than the big picture stuff, so some of these songs took me a long time to write, lyrically speaking.

I didn’t want to feel like I was generalizing or oversimplifying these huge themes because I think those references, like the world ending, or feeling like it’s ending, or depression, anxiety, etc can get really tired if they’re too indulgent, and I think they can be really annoying if people feel like you’re preaching to them.

But at the same time I want to be direct and speak to universal experiences with confidence. So I just tried to only write about things I know. I hope I struck a caring balance of micro/macrocosm. 

HAPPY: How would you describe the sonic landscape of “What an enormous room”? How did you collaborate with Sarah Jaffe and TJ Allen to achieve your vision?

TORRES: The sonic landscape is danceable! I was thinking about movement when writing and recording these songs and Sarah really understood the vision immediately. She’s brilliant at hooks and beats and making things…palatable?

I have a way of ruffling feathers. I know I often make the most grating choices, sonically speaking, and even vocally, and that is intentional, but I didn’t want to do that this time.

I knew Sarah could help me bring these songs into a dimension that pulls people in rather than pushing them away. She had a lot of notes about making some of the songs faster, more poppy, and lush while still leaving tons of space.

She came up with some slick bass lines and effortlessly cool drum parts that brought the record into the world I was imagining. And TJ Allen one of the greats!

He didn’t need me to give him too many directions about how to elevate these songs because he just already knew.

He added some shakers and tambourine in the mixing process and made some choices that created more space and brought more power to the dynamics.

He really knows how to mix my voice with the perfect amount of layering even though I throw about a million vocal tracks his way. 

Torres interview 'What an enormous room'

HAPPY: How do you see “What an enormous room” evolving from your previous album, “Thirstier”? Is there a sense of continuity or a deliberate shift in sound or themes?

TORRES: I always see the thread from the previous work to whatever I’m making next, even if other people initially can’t see it. So I guess my hope is that, especially playing these new songs live, I can show people how I got from A to B and have it make sense. 

HAPPY: What keeps you motivated to create after a decade in the music industry? How do you maintain that preciousness towards the act of creation itself?

TORRES: I still have a lot to say. I don’t even think I’ve made my best work yet. And I just really have to make things in order to be fulfilled. So for me, it doesn’t really feel like a choice. It just is. 

HAPPY: How did learning and playing so many instruments shape your writing and production process? Do you approach each song with a specific instrument in mind?

TORRES: Sometimes I know for certain something is a vocal melody, or a guitar part, or a synth line. Sometimes I have no idea what instrument will end up delivering an idea.

There is a freedom that being able to play a little of everything offers. Particularly in the case of making this record, I knew Sarah could do the same, so I was excited to get in there and just make decisions in real time because I knew we could handle it. 

HAPPY: You’ve collaborated with different artists over the years. What do you gain from collaborating, and how does it influence your own music?

TORRES: My head is sometimes a wonderful place to be and sometimes so annoying. Collaborating pulls me out of that space. Other people can often see things that I can’t, especially when it comes to my own work.

Wake to flowers, one of the new album’s songs, is a great example. I wrote that song as a melancholic acoustic guitar song—it sounded like a Nick Drake B-side.

Sarah upped the BPM and laid down a strutting bass line and breezy drum part and suddenly it was a dance song. Sometimes other people help you imagine things that you wouldn’t have come up with on your own. 


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HAPPY: Lastly, what makes you happy?

TORRES: Doing hard things and pushing outside of my comfort zone so that I can feel fulfilled.