We sit in a cozy room, on the second floor of a pink house in Whittier—a very quiet neighborhood considering the band occupying it is a death-core metal monstrosity. Alex Lopez and Mitch Lucker of Riverside’s up-and-coming metal act Suicide Silence are just chilling out to Val Kilmer on the boob tube.
Both guys are exhausted from band practice, and now it’s four days until SS heads out on feasibly the biggest tour of its career—a slot on the Rockstar Mayhem Festival, which features heavyweight headliners such as Slipknot, Dragonforce, Mastodon and Disturbed. The all-metal music festival will make a stop in the Inland Empire on Sunday, July 13, at the Glen Helen Pavilion in San Bernardino. A homecoming for Riverside’s heaviest to be sure, as the road has been long and windy.
“Suicide Silence basically started from a bunch of local bands in Riverside,” Lucker says, “we’ve been a full-time touring band since 2004.”
“We’ve toured the country, umm . . . ” Lopez ponders, when asked how many times the band has traversed American soil. “ . . . Maybe 20 times, ” he guesses, almost incredulously.
“At least that,” Lucker jumps in. He’s sitting on a couch as the action-packed methamphetamine-fueled drama The Salton Sea plays in the background. “Alex only joined the band two years ago,” he adds. The drummer Lopez came to SS from the Funeral Pyre, a Los Angeles-based death-metal band, and is the newest of the clan.
Twenty treks across the country in less than four years—five times a year on average—is a lot of tread on the tires. The reward? An ever-growing fanbase in every nook and cranny of American and beyond. Perhaps that sort of legwork is one of the reasons that Suicide Silence—which also features guitarists Chris Garza and Mark Heylmum, and bassist Mike Bodkins—is latest IE success story.
Take note grind-core upstarts—to sell thousands of records across the globe is an organic process, which requires dogged persistence and a strong work ethic—not to mention an old-school dedication to playing out live.
As a species of a sub-genre, it’s difficult to place Suicide Silence into the slippery canon of metal—but if you think technical, yet catchy death metal, with a groovy side and hardcore breakdowns, you’re getting warm. The band first began to play shows in 2004 and immediately made a name for themselves in the underground circuit for its extremely intense and deafening live performances.
“Alex and I have the hardest roles in the band,” Lucker says. “[Alex] uses his full body on the drums . . . and I basically run a mile without breathing.”
Though some might argue that the guys in Suicide Silence owe their success to MySpace like so many others out there these days, Lucker is quick and firm when defending the greater responsibility of his band. “I mean, sure, it’s a good promotional tool,” he says. “But you can’t get signed or be successful if you don’t get kids to come out to your shows.”
Playing out and converting the youth is why the band suddenly found themselves in a bidding war between several undisclosed labels in 2006, an enviable position to find yourself in as a relative newcomer on the scene. They decided on Century Media and released their first album—The Cleansing—in mid-2007. Not only did The Cleansing reach #94 on the Billboard Chart, it broke Century Media’s record as the highest-selling debut record in the label’s history, moving tens of thousands of units in its first week of release.
Thus the reason the band has literally been thrust into a constant mode of touring. They have gigged all across Europe and North America, with everyone from Behemoth to Unearth. Amazingly, the longest stretch of time they have had off in the past 18 months is ten days. Ten lousy days off at home after tours—and usually that time is spent catching up on all that was missed. Not that they’re complaining.
“It can get rough, of course you miss your family,” says Lucker of life on the road. Each time Suicide Silence hits the road he leaves behind a girlfriend and baby daughter, sacrifices for the art of music and the cult of fame.
“We just keep positive outlooks and put all of our energy into delivering the best live show we can,” Lopez says. “But we also like to try and have fun.” One form of universal fun is of course an herbal essence the band sometimes indulges in. What would the road be without fun?
And they’ve also got new material for a record that they may just try out on this upcoming tour. “We have a few songs for a new record,” says Lopez. They hope that for the short time they are in SoCal that the legions of the hometown fanbase turn up and make it into the most chaotic live event of the summer—especially since they’ll be on the same stage as some of their icons.
“We’re all very excited to be playing with Slipknot, and our friends in the other bands,“ Lucker says. “We want everyone from the IE, Riverside, the OC and LA to come out and represent because we’re the only Southern California band on the tour!”
Did someone say party—or was that just an echo in this pink house?
Suicide Silence, CrazyFists, Black Tide, The Red Chord and Underoath at Glen Helen Pavilion, Hot Topic Stage, San Bernardino, Sunday, July 13. For more information on the entire line-up, please visit www.mayhemfest.com. Tickets $6.66 (lawn)–$50 available at www.livenation.com; First band on at 2PM