The Locust

w/the Get Hustle, Moving Units, Fast Forward

Mon March 3, the Vera Project, 8 pm, $8, all ages.

As band names go, San Diego's the Locust couldn't be more on target. After all, what is a locust but a crazed grasshopper that attacks in a swarm, decimating everything in its path like an evil army of B-movie villains?

In the same way that these insects strip and destroy entire crops of vegetation, the Locust strip metal, grind, and hardcore like a power sander, abrasively blasting out minute-long opuses with titles like "Turning Your Merchandise into a Ripped Wall of Mini-Abs" that leave burn scars in your ear canal. With the additional theatrics of offbeat sci-fi keyboards, listening to the Locust's music is like being inside the head of a speed-metal addict as he plays Defender while loaded on carpet cleaners.

With very short, confined songs, the band members work to agitate and entertain, gathering a cult over the last seven years that wants to both destroy them and get destroyed by them. They've been called fags and bitches for their rail-thin frames and anti-homophobia rants; they've been labeled sellouts for signing to a bigger label and selling merch like belt buckles and pocket mirrors; they've been maced, had their equipment stolen, and gotten their tires slashed by crazy kids who think they're too antagonistic, but every blow just makes them strike back harder.

The Locust are planning on being an even greater pestilence to society, thanks to a new record, Plague Soundscapes, coming out this summer on Anti (a division of Epitaph that's home to Tom Waits, Nick Cave, and Merle Haggard), and an EP on Ipecac. Epitaph owner Brett Gurewitz says he signed the band because "they are the most offensive group I have heard in 15 years."

Speaking from the offices of his own record label, Three One G (Moving Units, the Get Hustle, the Blood Brothers), Locust kingpin/bassist Justin Pearson says this upcoming record obliterates their past work. "Everything else we've ever done sucks in comparison. We're not even going to play our old songs anymore," he says.

Pearson adds that the new material is more complex than earlier releases like Flight of the Wounded Locust. "Honestly, with all the effects and synths, there are parts that are stripped of all musical value," he says of Plague. "It's all calculated and precise, so it's not just us doing a noise thing, but it has these weird tones; and the way that it's layered creates these sci-fi and ambient sounds that make you feel a little uncomfortable."

By refusing to confine themselves to specific notes, chord structures, or chord progressions, the Locust (Pearson, guitarist Robert Bray, keyboard wizard Joseph Karam, and drummer Gabe Serbian) are able to make sounds Pearson describes as "dinosaurs/spaceships with a beat."

"We don't set up to make people physically feel shitty, but we are definitely drawn toward more obscure sounds," he says. "It's interesting to create these tones and frequencies, and add rhythm to them to make something that's not typical. With the effects I use for my bass, there's this low, rumbling, kind of apocalyptic feel. It's not textbook music. You can't go and learn it. You have to stumble upon it."

Although he definitely doesn't enjoy becoming the de facto battering ram for the young and the clueless, Pearson, who also plays with the equally fucked-sounding Holy Molar, says he enjoys agitating people enough to make them think. "I like making it so you can't read us so easily; so you're like, 'What the hell was that?' We make people uncomfortable, hopefully in a few different ways," he says.

Some of the discomfort comes from the music, which is equal parts aggressive and abrasive, but another part is the band's between-song retorts against audience members who taunt with the aforementioned calls of sexually charged slurs, which Pearson says the band uses as a tool on stage to go deeper on issues of intolerance. "We deal with social issues and how they interact with the band," he says. "Like people being homophobic and misogynistic and yelling shit at us at shows, like 'Fag!': We're definitely going to make someone feel uncomfortable if that situation occurs."

In an era when mainstream music is all about soothing the masses, it's refreshing to know there's a growing community reveling in making the kids feel uneasy enough to think--with the Locust helping to lead the swarm.