Destruction and chaos are never far behind
San Diego native, The Locust's vocalist and guitarist, Bobby Bray, explains how the band records the mayhem that is their sound and tackles the accusations of selling out head on.
In a world of short attention spans, The Locust has taken that notion to its extreme. Their latest album "Plague Soundscapes" crams 23 songs into its dangerously short 21 minutes and 47 seconds. The songs are over and gone just as you are catching a glimpse of it. So many musical moments crammed into so few seconds. It may sound like unplanned, erratic chaos, but it is, in actual fact, well thought out and processed. What sounds like four guys throwing their instruments down the stairs and into a fruit blender is in fact obsessively planned.
At times, you would swear that they are trying to get all of the musical ideas they have ever had out as quickly as possible before they forget them. Oh and don't forget that it was produced by Alex Newport, who worked alongside Max Cavalera in Nailbomb and has also in the past done production for the insane Icarus Line and more recently, the demented Your Enemies Friends.
Speaking on the phone from London, San Diego native and The Locust's vocalist and guitarist, Bobby Bray is explaining just how his band developed their sound. One which has seen them lumped into the horribly titled Mathcore genre alongside bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge and The Abandoned Hearts Club.
"It just seems like the right thing to do," Bobby says. "I think, maybe, the combination of certain music that we listened to in our youth and then also just the harsh realities of existence, and shifting from one moment to the other in terms of thinking. Kind of our brains kind of function in, the short attention span, kind of like, catching up with fleeting moments. Trying to always stay on top of like the quick moment, like trying to musically capture that. Make a sound metaphor for the way our brains really think. It's not really like we really set to really chart it, I think it just comes out of us and I think that's probably the reason why, because that's how our brains really do function. The four of us in the band and I've a feeling there are other humans out there who think the same way."
But how hard is it to write a song like this, with no verses, no chorus, no intro? Where do you begin? "Possibly the hardest thing to do is try to communicate a song idea within the band. Throughout the years, we've been able to work with each other pretty well, but, at times, it's hard to communicate a concept and you've got to like the idea. I think the hard thing about it is working with human beings as individual people and conveying your musical idea, without coming across a certain way and I think we've been able to, over the years, get it down to a certain way where it works. So it's not really that hard, anymore," he finishes, making it sound as if writing a Mathcore song was as easy as making toast. "But it did take a while to get to that point".
Visually Bobby and his fellow Locusts, Joey Karam (keyboards/vocals), Justin Person (bass/vocals) and Gabe Serbian (drums), stand out in a crowd, dressing as they do in green cover-alls and bug-eyed masks. Over the phone though, Bray sounds nothing like you'd expect - open, easily distracted, intelligent and squeaky voiced. As far away from the destructive, apocalyptic noise created by his band as you can get.
Life outside of the eight legged, eight armed, non-winged force of nature that is The Locust is pretty difficult, especially in the past year that has seen the group jumping from US tour, straight into a European tour and then onto a Japanese tour. When I ask him about the constant touring Bobby, sounding dangerously like the stoner kid from 'Dazed and Confused', puts it plainly and simply. "We love to play music, y'know, that's what we do. So why the hell not do it all in a row. Fuck our normal lives.
"During the eight years that I've been in the band, since the beginning," the 25-year old Bray explains, "I've had over twenty jobs and had to quit them to go on tour. None of them were really that good. Some of them were pretty good, but I had to quit all of them to go on tour. Right about now it's almost working itself out to where it works, you know? Like we're not losing money on tour, but considering that we have to pay to rent for places that we're not even living at half of the year, it's kind of crazy and sticky financial situation, but on the flip side of the coin we get to travel around and play music, which is what we love to do.
"So, it kind of works out, where you place more value on non-money kinds of things. It almost works out. Anytime I get any money, I blow it all on musical equipment anyway, which is what we normally do. Some people give us flak, calling us sell-outs for signing to Epitaph/-Anti and they gave us a specific sum of money. We spent all the money. Half of it on a van to tour in, in the States and the other half on our recording."
That can hardly be considered selling out though, can it? Would that not involve getting serious cash sums, expensive gifts form the record company and compromising on musical direction? The latter definitely being something that The Locust have not done. Their music is still about as marketable as a masturbating Barbie doll.
"I wouldn't consider it, especially it's the fact that Epitaph itself is an independently owned label, it's not like Warner Brothers or some shite like that. And especially like Warner Brothers and any type of all those companies wouldn't want us on their label anyway, because we're not marketable."
"It's kind of laughable actually to me. I mean, I dunno. Definitely it's [good] to stay pure, to do it yourself. You want yourself to do it I guess," Bobby continues, referring to the way material is released, meaning he would rather put it out on his own label. Part of the reason that people may be waving the sell-out tag at Bobby and his fellow noise-mongers is because Epitaph is no longer a tiny obscure label, being run out of someone's garage, that someone who just happens to be Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion. Epitaph has grown into a well-known and respected label. Despite this, it has retained its purity and should be congratulated for that.
It's pretty much guaranteed that you're never going to see a Busted album put with the name Epitaph on the sleeve. Most people who label bands like The Locust as sell-outs usually only have one reason for it. They want to keep them for themselves. Somehow they have come across this great obscure band and, instead of spreading the word, they want to lock that band up in their attic, sneaking a peak every now and then, afraid that anyone else will find out about them. They are people who feel as if the band is theirs alone. Some people associate obscure, little labels with greatness and that as soon as a band they like sign to a record label that more than three people have heard of they become mass-produced, low brow culture and a commodity. Maybe they are afraid that next week McDonald's will be giving away The Locust action figures with Happy Meals.
"I think that might be part of it. People are equating things that are known, as opposed to things that are not known, instead of what their actual goal is. Which is things that are corporate and culture controlling, squeezing the life out of culture and squeezing the life out of art and music." At this point, Bobby gets a little distracted by what he says looks like a fight about to erupt outside the tour van, in the car-park. Where The Locust goes destruction and chaos are never far behind. Be afraid, they have come to destroy music as you know it.