There was a particularly eye-roll-inducing take that popped up all over social media after the 2-by-4-to-the-head that was election night 2016. The theme was some iteration of “Hey, at least we’ll get some good punk music out of this thing.” It may have taken a cultural slide toward authoritarianism to motivate certain types to plug in, crank up, play fast, and scream loud, but for those who’ve spent a lifetime in the game, there’s no need for a reality TV star cosplaying as a fascist demagogue as a muse.
When this vapid idea of a consolation prize was mentioned to bassist and local hardcorde scene vet Jamie Shipman, he put it this way: “Human beings get comfortable and need friction and conflict to engage us, but there’s something lame about feeling compelled to write political slogans into your lyrics just because of the notion that it’s the job of a punk band to do that. It’s the duty of artists of all types to speak their mind through their art, however that manifests itself.”
Shipman’s newest vehicle for doing so is hardcore blitzkriegers Phorids. Formed with Travis Brown, his bandmate in Fort Worth punk mainstays Heater, the four-piece just dropped out of the sky with a surprise EP released via Bandcamp earlier this month.
Shipman and Brown had an idea for a change from the melodic, frenetic dynamism of Heater. The duo envisioned a faster, more stripped-down sound. Brown slid from his normal singer/guitarist role onto a drum throne, and the two began hashing out songs with Shipman coming up with basic riffs on bass. They recruited vocalist Brad Barker at Brown’s suggestion. Brown had admired Barker’s stage presence in local punk outfit Antirad and thought he’d make a good frontman. The trio added Shannon Greer on guitar a short time later after meeting him via a North Texas punk-focused Facebook group. His own band, Rome I$ Burnin, had recently dissolved.
“The idea presented to me was we would be four older dudes tripping the lights nostalgic by doing some absolutely ripping ’80s hardcore,” Greer recalled of Phorids’ pitch to him. “That’s the stuff I emulated and played when I was a 14-year-old weird kid from East Texas wishing like fuck I was from anywhere, but stuck behind the pine curtain reading my thrasher magazines under the covers with a flashlight hoping my dad didn’t catch me.”
The name Phorids was derived from the phorid fly, a parasitic insect that injects its eggs into the heads of ants. When the eggs hatch, the larvae devour the brain of its host while it is still alive and mobile.
“We took it as a metaphor for mind control,” Shipman said, “especially with propaganda and meme warfare in the modern era. People walk around living their lives not knowing someone has taken over their brains.”
Clocking in at under 11 minutes, the six tracks of Phorids’ self-titled debut make for a solid primer course on the early high-speed harcore of Black Flag and Bad Brains. Bombardier drumming, teeth-chattering bass runs, and fast-breaking power-chord guitar are an aural onslaught under Barker’s surprisingly discernable vocals. The end result resides simultaneously in the present day and in the dingy underground dives of the Reagan-era West Coast during hardcore’s inception.
Though perhaps elder statesmen in a scene that’s lifeblood is angsty, black studded vest-donning youths, Phorids prove that you can still rip shit up when your 30s are in life’s rearview.
After their set in front of a few dozen spike-haired teens at the 2nd Annual Punk Rock Picnic last weekend at Division Brewing in Arlington, Shipman mused on punk rock’s fountain of youth qualities.
“It’s great seeing all these kids out here –– this was us!,” he said, gesturing at the assembled youths. “When we played, they were going fucking nuts. It’s so awesome to see that kind of energy. You don’t get that from straight-faced, crossed-arm dudes standing at the back of a club. Punk rock is evergreen, man.”