Bobby Bray spent over a decade singing and playing guitar in the Locust —a well-known local hardcore act that, by comparisom, transformed fellow hardcore acts into Wham. The Locust specialized in a calculated lunacy that delivered complex math-rock with a sinister twist. It was equal parts terrifying and fascinating.
After a notable run and a couple releases on ANTI- records, the band went on hiatus. Bray wasn’t done with music yet, though. In 2010, he put together a new duo called Innerds to continue his sonic pummelings. By 2016, bassist Chad Deal had hopped on board when the group morphed into the Institute for Navigating the Universal Self. It was a concept of a band as an educational institution that was the brainchild of INUS drummer Brandon Relf.
“The Institute has really been a place that allows for the unlocking of academic restraint that is interwoven into contemporary American society,” Bray explained. “I have been on the inside of some of these things. I used to teach at the Art Institute of California San Diego for six years before it closed down all of a sudden. I would consider that an example of the over-priced, for-profit institutions. INUS is worlds apart. As the academic deflector of INUS, I feel the richness of the education and the coursework that’s being delivered is much more honest and a lot freer than what the Art Institute was able to deliver.”
Similar to the Locust, INUS shows (or “presentations” as Bray is apt to call them) have a unique visual spectacle attached to the performance. Whereas the Locust performed in insect uniforms, INUS, with the assistance of Bill Gates, has discovered a new window to deliver a twist to their edu-tainment.
“We do a Power Point presentation with our shows. It’s an educational situation. Anytime you have people going in front of people doing stuff it’s an opportunity for education. Often times, we’re kind of learning at the same time. It’s definitely not a ‘top down’ type of environment. We include presentations and it’s essentially like conducting a choir.”
A fine primer for both INUS’ unique approach to songcraft and education can be unlocked by watching the recent video for “Time is a Person”, the first track off their debut album Western Spaghettification, Watch the clip on mute and it’s easy to mistake it as a commercial for a for-profit institution along the lines of the University of Phoenix. Turn the sound on, and the video takes on a life of its own.
“That video is [composed] of advertisements from our competitors. It’s sort of a demonstration of these strategies that these over-priced, for-profit institutions use. So, what we’ve done with the Institute is take that and flip it upside down and sideways and to present it in a way where we are poking fun, let’s say, at our competitors. Where other schools may charge upwards of $100,000 for an undergraduate degree, we offer free intuition. That’s the difference.”