photos by Rae Mystic
The Suicide Machines exploded onto the punk and ska scene in the ‘90s, releasing six albums in only nine years. When putting out music that prolifically it’s easy for a band to lock into a formula and churn out albums that are almost indiscernible from each other, not the Suicide Machines. Each album stands out stylistically from the others, showing the constant evolution of their sound as they went from Operation Ivy-inspired ska-punk to politically charged hardcore to pop-influenced punk and beyond. And then they were gone.
After 15 long years the band returned in March 2020 with the release of “Revolution Spring.” Given the recent trend of punk bands reuniting for a tour or two to pad their income, many fans may have been cynical by their return, but within the first 30 seconds of album opener “Bully in Blue” it was abundantly clear that The Suicide Machines weren’t content to cruise by on pure nostalgia. Musically, the album hit hard, but it was the lyrics that made it so vital for the moment. As the country was on fire in the wake of George Floyd’s murder (and a global pandemic), “Revolution Spring” was the ideal soundtrack for those fighting back against an unjust world.
With the release of “Gebo Gomi,” a split LP with Japanese ska-core legends Coquettish, the Suicide Machines are proving they are back for good. Over the course of four blistering tracks the band showcases all of the diverse elements that have made them such a unique band for decades. You’ll be skanking in a circle with a smile on your face one minute, then angrily screaming for change as that circle becomes a pit.
In anticipation of “Gebo Gomi” coming out on Bad Time Records this Friday, July 22, we spoke with Suicide Machines' frontman Jay Navarro about the album, finding hope in dark times and more. Check out our conversation below.
Let's start with the easiest question: What can you tell us about how this split came together?
We have toured many times with Coquettish, even played South Korea together. Lots of miles, meals and drunken nights together. We have talked about making a split for years and the time was just perfect finally for both bands to pull it off.
What were some of your influences as you put it together?
Really love Kae Tempest as a poet, MC and artist. Some of it is a return back to basics to though—hardcore punk.
The album is pretty heavy—both musically and lyrically— particularly your final track, "Slipping into Darkness." Would you say that writing and recording has been therapeutic during an incredibly fucked time?
[It’s] very mischievous, especially that song. Most won't get the title is a nod to the band WAR but yes, it’s just a very crazy, violent and unpredictable time now.
Going off of that, as I write these questions the Supreme Court has essentially gutted Miranda rights and overturned Roe v Wade in the last couple days. Politics and general human rights have been the subject of countless Suicide Machines songs over the years, and they take the forefront on these songs for sure... so first, how are you feeling right now and is there anything you feel optimistic about? Can music do anything to actually help, or are we all yelling into the abyss?
It's hard to believe it's 2022 and women are almost now back to square one having no rights. What rights will be taken away next? I don't think it's hard to be a good human being. Just be cool, it's that easy. Yet here we are. I don't really feel optimistic at all. Most will say the Republicans blew it bad and will lose the next election. I think the Democratic Party isn't really much better than the Republicans. Anyone who wants to be a leader or a president etc., it's because they have power issues and want that power. That’s a big part of why I don't believe in it. Music to me is documenting the time which is how punk is, telling the truths of the time.
In the same vein, if I didn't speak English I would think "Theater of the Absurd" was just a fun song. But as is the case with a lot of ska, and especially Suicide Machines songs, there's a split between the lyrical content and the sonics of the tune, can you tell us a bit about how you strike that balance?
Minor chords! The balance these days is let's try to have some positive vibes as well as negative.
There were 15 years in between "War Profiteering..." and "Revolution Spring," what sparked the resurgence? Where do you see things going?
Yeah the time was right and we were feeling the vibes. I felt I had the lyrics and we were all firing up. I live for today not tomorrow, no predictions for the future.
How does the punk/ska scene today feel different than the one the Suicide Machines came up in? Are you finding inspiration from the younger generation?
It's way different, way more forward thinking, which I absolutely love! Always look to the next generation.
"Gebo Gomi" comes out 7/22 on Bad Time Records. Click here to pre-order the album and more.