It’s been 25 years since The Locust formed in San Diego out of the ashes of hardcore band Struggle. That’s a quarter of a century of blending glorious grindcore noise with avant-garde complexity and a new-wave vibe.
From the very beginning though — notably from the self-titled debut album in ’98 — the band has made it their business to dumbfound and confuse while battering the listener around the head with hyper-fast riffery, beautifully odd noises and venomous vocals. It’s a potent combination that has proven remarkably effective.
Of course, the group has evolved over that time. A natural metamorphosis has taken place as each member has grown up.
“Obviously we’ve grown as humans in 25 years,” says bassist and vocalist Justin Pearson. “We were much younger when we started the band, and in very different places in our lives. And with that being said, the world as we know it has drastically changed. So obviously we’ve adjusted and that has clearly affected our music, as it should. It’s a natural metamorphosis, but to answer the question accurately, we’d have to look at all facets of the world we live in.”
Meanwhile, some things have remained the same. The group still dresses in vaguely locust-like stage get-up, though the costumes seem to be more carefully designed and coordinated than they were back in the day, when balaclava masks with big eyes were the order of the day. Additionally, the lineup of Pearson, Bobby Bray (guitar, vocals), Joey Karam (keys, vocals) and Gabe Serbian (guitar, then drums) has stayed solid since 1998.
“We had some personnel changes from the start to now,” Pearson says. “However the current lineup, which has been the same since the early 2000s, is The Locust. There is no changing that at this point. I think it’s a band [in] which not one certain member can be replaced, which I appreciate.”
It’s been 12 years since The Locust put out their third album, New Erections, via ANTI- Records. It was their second for that label, with the debut released through Gold Standard Laboratories. Their first for ANTI-, Plague Soundscapes, saw the group’s sound mature drastically, with the keyboards featured more prominently.
Pearson says that The Locust are planning on working on new material soon. After all, they’re due. It’s worth noting, though, that the various members have been off doing other things. Notably, Pearson has been working with Slayer’s Dave Lombardo, Faith No More’s Mike Patton and Michael Crain in the hardcore punk band Dead Cross. Pearson, Crain and Serbian collaborated in punk band Retox.
For Pearson, it’s healthy to have other experiences with other musicians.
“I think all life experiences would lend to some sort of evolutionary process,” he says. “Granted, it’s one’s opinion, but I don’t think that we would work on other projects and then come back to The Locust and decide to suck. Then again, everyone is a critic, and we can refer to the comments online. For me, and I assume for the others in the band, working on other projects does help with our overall experiences and probably brings in new ideas.”
It’s been a long road full of all sorts of ideas. In the ’90s, Pearson appeared on Jerry Springer’s show to fake a relationship crisis in the name of guerrilla marketing, all the while sporting a Locust shirt. It’s tough to know how many new Locust fans were made that day. But having grown up in Phoenix, Pearson knew he had to be imaginative to get the world out.
He told this writer that it was the Sex Pistols’ Nevermind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols that exposed the fledgling musician to another world. “This is the album I needed for basic survival as a shitty kid in the ’80s,” he said. “Growing up in Phoenix. I saw there was another world thanks to this band. I then knew I had to get out of the dying world I lived in… Life is really weird. Every day there is a soundtrack to something in my head.”
On Friday, The Locust play at the Regent Theater and we’ll have the chance to see and hear exactly where they’re at in 2019 as they prepare to begin work on new material. This isn’t a prolific band — they regularly take breaks and do other things. But when these four guys regroup, the results are invariably spectacular. That’s what we expect at the Regent.
“About 40 or so minutes of ‘music’.” says Pearson. “Possibly some emesis by a member of the band, and possibly by the audience as well. Also the exchange of energy and means of communicating.”
Go see for yourself.
The Locust play with Big Business and Geronimo at 8 p.m. on Friday, November 29 at the Regent Theater.