The End Is Near
"Go tweak yourself to death you rich, big headed rock stars. You are nothing but image concerned asswipes. By signing to Epitaph you will just destroy your underground following, and the mainstream will not catch on so you'll end up destroying your band. Not that I have a problem with that."
So read the first few lines of the Locust's bio. You see, most band bios are chock-full o' lies, self-comparisons to bands they'll never be and positive reviews from obscure Web sites no one's ever seen.
The Locust is not most bands.
Most bands have songs. Most have melodies...bridges...choruses. Again, the Locust is not most bands -- the quartet flips the bird to the 4/4 time signature while physically assaulting all those old-school Bernie Taupin types. Nothing about them says "pop harmony." They go about everything -- bios, music, releases, merchandise, live shows -- in a manner that flies in the face of music convention. It's almost impossible to imagine Clear Channel radio or its family of safe-choice radio concubines adopting the Locust as one of their own, and a TRL VJ might look a bit silly announcing, "At No. 4 today, the Locust with 'The Half Eaten Sausage Would Like to See You in the Office.'" Clive Davis would hate them.
But what do wrinkly old music execs know, anyway? Not much more than the rest of us, it seems. If there ever was a "formula" for picking the next big thing, record-company bean counters can eat it. Hit records seem to happen more often by mistake than by design. Time and time again, you read about revolutionary records that were issued only over the dead bodies of the suits who claimed to know what the market would bear. The "formula" has always been flawed. It's what has kept mainstream music sounding generic for years. It's what gave birth to two generations of boy bands. (To be fair and balanced, it also gave us Britney's tits, so it's not all bad.)
The formula also dictates that pop songs should last no longer than three minutes, and be no shorter than about two and a half. The Locust seldom crack the one-minute mark; because of the short duration of their songs, they usually perform about 25 per set. Which is about a quarter of the heckles you'll typically hear. There are more jeers and catcalls at a Locust show than Amateur Night at the Apollo. "Play a fast one!" is popular. "You suck!" is another crowd-pleaser, but screaming "Faggots!" seems to take the cake. In fact, it's hollered so often, you'd think the band was standing in front of Mary's in drag in the middle of a hard-shell Baptist convention. But just when it seems that a Locust show might turn ugly -- when both band and crowd are about to boil over -- it ends, and kids line up to buy their Locust die-cast belt buckles and Locust compact mirrors, which many believe are used for...well...if you have to ask, you don't need to know.
No, this music and this band just aren't safe, which makes them a tough sell in a society where fear is a factor. The fierce bursts of energy by drummer Gabe Serbian, guitarist-vocalist Bobby Bray, bassist-vocalist Justin Pearson and synth of Joey Karam seem, at points, to come dangerously close to spinning off their axis and destroying the planet. It's this planet Pearson believes the Locust's music is holding a (compact) mirror to. "Look at where we live. Look at this world we live in -- it's so fast-paced. The media, computers, having a job and all this traffic and all this shit that goes on in day-to-day life -- it carries over."
According to Pearson, it wasn't a conscious decision to write hot, 56-second slashers while dressing like God's living message that the end is near: "We didn't set out to sound like we do. Over time, things just happened. We started using a lot of electronics and effects, and we all got a little better musically, and we started writing from a more creative perspective -- not typical 4/4 timing stuff. But it was never sought out. It's weird. People are like, 'How did you come up with it?' And we're like, 'It just kind of happened.' When you mix the chemistry of people, crazy shit happens."
And right now, crazy shit is happening on the international rock scene. Bands like the White Stripes, the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have helped bury the outdated formula rock, and now the next wave of noisemakers is reading the obituary. It's a new musical age; just check your TV Guide. The Shins are on Letterman. Death Cab for Cutie is on Kilborn. And the Locust is playing shows at the House of Blues. (Something tells me Dan Aykroyd is going to shit his drawers -- their fast, under-a-minute sonic blasts of insectoid, ultraviolent sci-fi is a far cry from Hound Dog Taylor and Buddy Guy.)
The Locust formed in San Diego in 1995 from the ashes of hardcore heavyweights the Struggle, Swing Kids and Crimson Curse -- a history that afforded them the rare privilege of feverish anticipation for their first release, a split ten-inch with hardcore homies Man Is the Bastard. That little record moved fast, but not as rapidly as the unique five-inch picture disc split with Jenny Piccolo. By the time the band released its first "full-length" (a self-titled, 13-songs-in-13-minutes grind-punk opus), pressings were selling out in days. With 25,000 copies sold to date, they've blown by all their "noise-punk" brethren: Black Dice, Blood Brothers and Melt Banana.
While these records were being snatched off the shelves, the Locust was also bringing its earwax-dislodging circus sideshow to the people, and now these four twentysomethings find themselves in a new position. Having headlined to hordes of hipsters around the country, they've set their drones and lasers on a wider audience as tour support for more visible acts such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and current tourmates Dillinger Escape Plan. The guys are now poised to make a dent in the musical consciousness with their nut-hugging hot pants, S&M-esque bug masks and fishnet hose. Oh, yeah, and their music, which has been described by one critic as "a car wreck with vocals" and another as "a churning miasma of sonic goo, a grindcore steam shovel with an insatiable appetite for shock and awe."
It's true that these descriptions don't exactly sound inviting. Hell, neither does Hampton's looking-glass analogy; after all, you live in the world -- there's no need to listen to its musical mirror. But the truth is that while listening to (and especially watching) the Locust, you feel like less a part of the rat race. Somehow it makes you feel almost giddy. Satisfied. Not sex satisfied, but "that kid just threw a drink on Simon Cowell" satisfied.
Perhaps this works for the same reason that hyper kids are calmed by speed. The Locust will keep on providing its musical Ritalin, and if, as Joe Rogan would say, "fear is not a factor for you," you'll line up for your dose.
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