Checking In: Worm Suicide Blacks Out

Punks put out a 23-years-in-the-making LP in a pandemic

Blacking Out may be the best distillation of Worm Suicide’s yuks-galore hatecore,” opined Chronicle punk Tim Stegall. Singer Pablo Flores and guitarist/singer Scott Free put it best on the March LP: “We feast on ignorance/ We sell belligerence/ I live on chaos and anarchy/ We’re a three-chord band/ We’re not in demand/ But we are who we want to be.”

Horns Up! Free and Flores (r)

Austin Chronicle: Where are you sheltering and under what circumstances? Who else is there and how’s that going?

Pablo Flores: I am sheltering at my home base in Round Rock and still working Monday-Friday downtown at an Austin high rise. My partner in crime Beth lives a house away from my own, so we hang every day. We go for walks, watch movies, drink Jameson, play with my three best cats, drink more Jameson, work on making Worm Suicide music videos.

All the regular stuff you can do without actually going out.

I also have three roommates, so the house doesn’t feel desolate and lonely even if we all are sheltered in our own rooms.

Scott Free: I stay locked indoors with my cat, and yes, I stay in a lot. Which is quite a change from being out doing shows two or three times a week for the last four years. In the past, home was a place to recharge after screaming my face off onstage.

Now, it feels more like being in a box, but a safer box still, so we all need to keep doing that.

“Some of the kids in the building think they are bulletproof sometimes and that is aggravating as fuck. Wear your fucking mask!” – Pablo Flores

AC: At what point did C-19 shut down operations for you, and what went down with the ship, so to speak, both personally & professionally?

PF: We were officially shut down after our last show March 14 at Dirty Dog. We headlined Dirtyfest after Green Jello dropped out due to everything starting to go bad. Originally, we were going to be Green Jello, not Worm Suicide that night. Bill Manspeaker hit us up to play as every band member except himself and Hammy were unavailable.

We did that final gig and then we had to cancel over 40 booked shows.

We put out our first vinyl album in our 23-plus years of existence and had to cancel our record release show on April 3. We play 100-120 shows a year, so ending the year at 20, if everything stays closed, is an awful empty feeling. [That said], we would rather be safe – would rather friends, fans, and family all be safe – than be the cause of harm to our punk rock community.

One-hundred shows light this year … .

We have not even held a practice since the last show. Speaking of Green Jello, we wrote a song, “Champion,” that will appear on their new album.

SF: We put so much into recording the new Blacking Out vinyl: the graphics, advertising, new merch, packaging, getting it all ready to ship. It really has been a lifelong goal to produce something like this as a band – vinyl that is. I fretted for weeks daily on things that needed to be finished up so we could get this album into people's hands.

All said and done, we missed the release show by about a week due to the C-19 shutdown.

Luckily, with the few livestreams and music videos we have done AND with distro help from our label Wiseass Records, we have been shipping out by mail a good amount of the new record. I believe people do understand, at least in Austin, the impact that C-19 has on the performers and entertainers. If we make anything at shows, 80% is from merch sales at our table.

It's difficult to sell that stuff from our living rooms, but we’re glad some of our fans are able to continue to help support by buying our record, along with other bands in the same situation.

Worm Suicide taking home the Best Punk plaque at the Austin Music Awards in 2017 (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

AC: As a global culture, people employ music for every purpose imaginable, obviously spanning religion to entertainment and everything in between. What happens to communities like ours when people can no longer access it in person?

PF: I can’t speak for anyone but myself on this, but I have an emptiness. I have this feeling that something I held close is no longer there. A void.

I miss performing. I miss watching bands perform. I hunger for that energy. I long for that fucking release.

Take that away from everyone and eventually it boils over – mistakes will be made.

SF: It’s asphyxiating. The first few weeks were not that bad. Even the first month was tolerable for me. Beyond that first month, it really began to peel me down.

When your only outlet gets disconnected, you lose such a part of yourself to a large bottomless hole. It's just gone. It's like being locked in a vacancy. You lose your fuel and just go dormant. Luckily, we’ve been committing our time to filming music videos to keep a tiny bit of our sanity intact.

“It’s asphyxiating. The first few weeks were not that bad. Even the first month was tolerable for me. Beyond that first month, it really began to peel me down.” – Scott Free

AC: Everyone’s had to shift or drastically alter their work situation. What does that look like for you?

PF: I work front desk as Lead Concierge at a building downtown with probably 400-plus people dwelling inside. My days are still the same Mon.-Fri., 6:30am-3pm. No lost wages.

I was lucky in that aspect.

We are masked up behind plexi. We have signage for mandatory mask usage. Food delivery personnel must have a mask to enter. No mask, I boot you out.

Tours are self-guided. You now have to book gym time, pool time, all amenities, so we can contact trace if needed. No guests at any of the amenities. Sanitizer stations are set up throughout the building.

Housekeeper has a big fumigator-looking sanitizing fog machine she blasts in the gym. Some of the kids in the building think they are bulletproof sometimes and that is aggravating as fuck. Wear your fucking mask!

SF: I work from home, so it’s business as usual. You would think all the extra time we have at home now would be like a mini party vacation. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

It’s too, too much for me. We try to keep doing creative things. I’ve written a few songs during this, so we’ll hopefully start funneling some of this back into the band.

AC: What’s your soundtrack for the apocalypse and what role does music play for you as a fan and scholar of it in times of hardship?

PF: I use a lot of various podcasts to keep me occupied. It’s a distraction that I need. Focus on their story and check out of my own.

I also have a cat group, ATX Cat Punks United, and we recently started member-suggested MixTapes on Spotify. I pick a year and group members contribute a track from an album of that year. We explore and discover bands we may have never heard of. [Recently], we did punk and post-punk, 1984.

Music is everything.

Use the music to rage. Use it to be happy. Use it to make a difference.

Music is the key, we just need to decide what door we use it on.

SF: I watch a lot more movies, as if I didn’t watch enough. And somehow, I’ve allowed myself to be sucked into movie soundtracks, ambient music, and just kinda everything else that tells a story with film. Which ironically, is still just its own mixtape.

I’ve also gone back to books like Henry Rollins’ Get in the Van and Steven Bush’s American Hardcore reminds me of times on the road in our van. I remember days barreling across big ass Texas coming East.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Worm Suicide, Pablo Flores, Scott Free, Green Jello, Bill Manspeaker, ATX Cat Punks United, Henry Rollins, Get in the Van, Steven Bush, Checking In 2020

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