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Year of The Locust 

Despite negative media, band prepares to invade the land

the old adage states, "There's no such thing as bad publicity," as is the case with the San Diego, Calif. four-piece, The Locust. Since forming the group in 1995, Justin Pearson (bass/vocals) and Robert Bray (guitar/vocals), along with current members Joseph Karam (keyboard/vocals) and Gabe Serbian (drums/guitar), have generated a body of work that embraces postmodernism in style, substance and presentation, and has been the subject of intense scrutiny every step of the way.

Beginning with the group's debut release, a split 10-inch EP with "Man Is the Bastard (King of the Monsters)," each successive recording has taken on a distinctive form -- a puddle-shaped 7-inch, a 5-inch picture disc and a camouflage-vinyl LP. Throughout the recordings, rapidly changing complexities and brute force drive through a myriad of influences. Elements of punk, hardcore, heavy metal and new wave interact with each other, yet the finished product shows no allegiance to any one genre. The songs are similar to hardcore in that they're short and explosively aggressive, yet unlike hardcore, there is no overtly political message in the music.

"The Locust is most definitely not a hardcore band," Pearson says. "As a whole, our tastes have always been pretty eclectic. There are a lot of different influences that may or may not be present in the music -- Devo or other new wave bands -- but there's also a lot of punk and metal in there, too. This is a constantly evolving project and we're not here to make the same rehashed bullshit you can hear everywhere else."

Condescending remarks like this, coupled with a domineering presence and an appearance by Pearson on "The Jerry Springer Show" a few years back have created an undesirable public image of the group. Compounding this image, critics target the members' fashionable appearance, referring to The Locust as "fashion-core," and "trendsetters." The band has manufactured compact mirrors and belt buckles emblazoned with The Locust's artwork, and the group's members often are photographed sporting nothing more than underwear or diapers. Pearson is featured in the July swimsuit issue of Paper magazine, sucking on a popsicle, sporting only a camouflage bikini bottom.

Earlier this year, the online music zine Hit It Or Quit It (www.insound.com) ran a story titled, "The Locust: A Round Table Discussion," in which four people discussed the merits of the band. Throughout the story, participants interjected criticisms such as, "[At a recent show,] everyone was dressed as The Locust," and "The Locust make it hard for fat kids to succeed in hardcore." As excessive as those comments seem, they represent a debate that has been tailing the group for more than a few fleeting moments.

"Being skinny is one thing, but I don't know why anyone would say that we make it 'hard for fat kids to succeed in hardcore,'" says Pearson. "If we were inducing vomiting at our shows, I would understand a comment like that, but obviously we don't. People talk about this fashion that we have, but it's something I'm never aware of. I think people are just boring and have no concept of fashion outside of their nice, little suburban life, and they'll target that we wear tight pants and have big hair."

Despite the plague of negative attention in the media, bad publicity has done The Locust a lot of good. The group's debut full-length recording The Locust (Gold Standard Laboratories) stands as the label's best-selling release to date. The group was featured on the soundtrack to John Waters' film, Cecil B. Demented, alongside Liberace and Moby, and is slated to make an appearance in Troma Studio's Toxic Avenger IV: A Tale of Two Toxies.

Public opinion on the group may vary, but The Locust is definitely attracting a lot of interest. And although the group hasn't compromised in the wake of these accomplishments, often when underground bands achieve even the smallest amount of success, the subculture turns its back.

"In a lot of people's eyes, The Locust has committed the cardinal sin by appearing alongside acts like Moby or Liberace, but this could easily be the most subversive move the group has made," says GSL owner Sonny Kay. "A fraction of the people who buy that soundtrack will even know who The Locust is. This is a very innovative way of breaking into commercial culture without compromising the group's own ideologies."

Postmodernism is most accurately identified by a rejection of rigid genre distinctions, decentralized narratives and a tendency to extend artistic expression beyond the medium. On all counts The Locust has embraced these aesthetics, as the chaotic rumblings of its music spills over onto the packaging of the records, the members' appearance and the commercial viability of the band. But as The Locust prepares to invade the land, the most trying obstacle along the way will be staying true to its underground roots.

The Locust play Fri., July 13, at Under the Couch. For information, call 404-894-4099.

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