No matter how hard you try to keep things under control, there are times when everything just seems to go wrong. Just ask the Locust's drummer, Gabe Serbian. Reached on his cellphone while running errands in his San Diego neighbourhood, the musician is clearly flustered by how his day is going.
"I'm a fucking mess right now," he admits in the middle of explaining the gap between the release of 2003's Plague Soundscapes and the outfit's latest prog-hardcore opus, New Erections. "I'm trying to do 50 things at once. I just forgot my practice-space keys. Now I've got to drive all the way back home. Hang on a minute."
The line is silent for a minute or two before a beyond-frustrated Serbian returns. "I just gave you the answer as to why I think this album took a long time to write and then I find out my phone is on Mute. Can I call you back? This is not a good time."
Half an hour later, the Californian calls back to recap his lousy day. It's only the early afternoon, but the drummer has already had to clean up shattered glass after a rotted-out window frame gave out from under him at home, received a shitty haircut from his stylist friend, and almost hit a kid on a bike with his car.
"I don't understand why shit just can't work out easy for me today," Serbian continues with a nervous laugh. "I just want to go home, have a beer, and listen to some records."
Formed in the mid '90s, the Locust used to specialize in short, shard-strewn blasts of terrifying, synthesizer-fuelled noise. With thousands of copycat acts also playing as if a shrieking litter of kittens had been thrown onto a NASCAR track, the Locust finds itself no longer satisfied with playing jarring salvos of bizarro punk. Rounded out by Justin Pearson (bass), Bobby Bray (guitar), and Joseph Karam (keyboards)–all of whom sing–the quartet is finding new ways to expand its symphonies of destruction.
"Back in the day, we could bust out a 30-second song a lot easier," Serbian notes. "That shit just doesn't fly now. It feels too easy. It feels like cheating."
"The Unwilling”¦Led by the Unqualified”¦Doing the Unnecessary”¦for the Ungrateful" is the most dynamic composition on New Erections. The multipart song begins with the band's typical blend of stop-start blast beats and tradeoff screams, but settles into a chilling, extended coda of sci-fi synth metal propelled by Serbian's punishing tom-tom hits. The piece clocks in at, given the Locust's past, an almost unheard-of four minutes.
"We weren't like, 'Hey, let's try and make these long songs,'" Serbian claims. "The songs didn't feel finished until they were finished, you know?"
After nearly a decade with the Locust on guitar, Serbian has spent the past seven years slaying the skins. Since his switch to drums, the San Diegans have not only taken to wearing mesh-and-spandex uniforms stolen from the Battlestar Galactica set, but have become a well-oiled machine of musical mayhem.
The drummer has relished the outfit's newfound interest in slow-motion beats. "It gives me a chance to catch my breath," he says. "If it's just hauling ass nonstop, it gets old pretty fast."
That said, the Locust can still thrill with frantically paced pieces. The album opener, "AOTKPTA"–which finds Karam corrosively growling "Is this the Dumpster of your dreams?"–plays as if Yes's synth wizard, Rick Wakeman, had teamed up with Napalm Death.
Known for their aneurysm-inducing shrieks, the Locust's vocals on New Erections are noticeably gruffer than past offerings. Serbian explains that only Bray's performance caught him off guard.
"Joey's voice has always been lower than everyone's, and a bit rougher. Justin stopped screaming high-pitched a while ago, and started having a snotty approach to it. Bobby's the one that took me by surprise. He always had the pterodactyl style: super-high-pitched screamy shit."
Serbian chalks up the burly vocal performance of his bandmates to the natural growth of any long-time act. "We're all a bit older," he muses. "Our music is just maturing. We're just trying new things, which is what I think a band would want to do."
With the Locust still pumping out some of the most intriguing heavy music out there, Serbian looks forward to the continued evolution of the foursome.
"It's pretty much all I know," he explains of playing with the group. "I haven't really given myself the opportunity to learn some other trade. This is what I do."
The Locust plays the SUB Ballroom at UBC on Saturday (November 3).
Link: The Locust