Mackenzie Scott is a musician, singer, and writer, who creates under the moniker, Torres. On the surface her music is dark and brooding, but a closer listen reveals a more optimistic message. There is a theatrical and playful nature to Torres, and Scott’s newest and third album, Three Futures, takes the listener on a groovy, industrial-inspired, electronic journey.
Three Futures highlights Scott’s growth as a musician and songwriter. Her first album, Torres (2013), was raw and unfiltered. Then Sprinter (2015) came as a more guitar-driven, dark rock album. Three Futures presents a new direction for Scott; it’s less guitar-heavy and has more electronic and synth-based sounds. One thing that remains consistent, however, is Scott’s ability to create hauntingly captivating songs that exhibit raw emotion and an abundance of creative energy.
Scott is currently based in Brooklyn, but she was raised in the southern town of Macon, Georgia. Scott says she used to resent certain parts of her upbringing, but she is now able to appreciate it more. “I’m finally at a point where I can enjoy the charming, more nostalgic bits of the south,” she says, reminiscing about living close to her parents and family, eating southern comfort food, and how, as a child, she played in the creek every day and rode her dad’s tractor around the neighborhood.
Scott played piano when she was young, then she started playing flute, and eventually picked up guitar in high school. As a child she listened to 90s pop, such as Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, and Enya as well as into early pop country, such as Shania Twain, Tim Mcgraw, Faith Hill, and The Dixie Chicks. One can catch glimpses of these influences in the more theatrical aspects of Scott’s music.
For Three Futures, Scott used several album references for her sound: Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love, Fleetwood Mac’s Tango in the Night, and Portishead’s Third. Scott says she was also listening to the “modular, sparkly, otherworldliness” of Kraftwork, the disco pop of Abba, as well as the synth-heavy sounds of Gary Numan. “I wanted to make something, not only more rhythmic, danceable and poppy, but also industrial,” Scott says. She also explains that she did a lot of walking while in the process of creating the album, and that perhaps, subconsciously, her pace made its way into the songs. “It’s also the reason that I believe the record is probably most effective if it’s being listened to while one is moving,” she states.
Listening more closely at the album, these influences are clear. The sharper, more industrial elements blend well with the more disco and dance direction. “A lot of what I do with my guitar is a nod to what [Gary Numan] does with synthesizers,” Scott says. Using a combination of pedals, including a ring modulator pedal, polyphonic octave generator pedal, and others, she makes her guitar sound more like a synthesizer, an aesthetic that is particularly noticeable on tracks such as “Three Futures,” and “Bad Baby Pie.”
Repetition is another element Scott worked with on Three Futures. Tracks like “Greener Stretch,” “Skim,” and “Helen in the Woods,” are built on simple, catchy melodic phrases. “I think repetition is really interesting,” says Scott, “because if you repeat something enough it has this ability to put the listener in a trance. So I was really interested in experimenting with that sort of hypnosis… It’s pretty satisfying, pretty sexy.” The resulting music is often hypnotic and sensual, something one could either dance to or enjoy with more focus.
Lyrically speaking, the body is a central theme of the album—images of the body and the five senses of perception appear in the titles and imagery of many of its songs. For example, “Bad Baby Pie” and “Tongue Slap Your Brains Out” deal with taste, with the latter describing food being so good it makes “your tongues slap all your brains out.” “Righteous Woman” depicts the act of spreading her body “to take up all the space I can,” along with other images of the flesh.
Scott describes the song “To Be Given a Body” as a hymn of gratitude for being given a physical form. Scott repeats the line “To be given a body is the greatest gift.” The next line, “Though the jar lifts and the jar descends,” is a reference to Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Scott describes this image as a metaphor for how depression “stifles and sort of chokes out life.” “Even when we as humans have to go through indescribably painful things… it’s still such a gift to be alive to do so,” Scott explains, “Because the alternative is potentially having no vessel at all.”
This appreciation for the body is somewhat new for Scott, who says she’s spent most of her life being unkind to her body, often on a subconscious level. “I think that mindlessness has led to the mistreatment of my body in some way,” she states, describing how this could take form in ways as simple as choosing what one eats. Now she pays more attention to what her body tells her. “I just started listening,” she says, “and what I’ve determined and am still finding out is that it’s such pleasure to have a physical being, even when there’s pain.”
Scott’s newfound mindfulness has carried over into her growth as a lyricist. She aimed to approach Three Futures from a more objective standpoint than she had in her past work, especially when it came to writing about herself. “I think there’s a tendency to glorify oneself or to have oneself, as the person writing the story, come out looking like the most ‘correct’ character—because writing is so much about getting the last word,” she says.
For Three Futures, Scott mixed her previous tools and knowledge with added experience and a greater appreciation for life. With this new outlook and sense of growth, as well as her new genre and instrumental explorations, Scott has been able to expand her music further than ever before.