Simulakra: Dom Pabon Explores Personal Experiences Through Themes of a Dystopian Plague on "The Infection Spreads"

(Photo credit: William Marks)

Simulakra are a band that impressed me from the moment I heard their first demo. Through the years, the band has fine-tuned their sound, slowly going in a darker, more metallic direction - and the result is the band’s incredible debut LP, The Infection Spreads.

To put it bluntly, The Infection Spreads summarizes a lot of what I love about hardcore in general. It’s a raw, realistic look into someone’s anger, sadness, and grief, channeled into pure, unfiltered aggression, with the sole intention of finding some sort of catharsis.

This record is the band’s first release on DAZE. With members that have featured in bands like Gridiron, Vicious Embrace, Foreign Hands, and more, it’s no surprise that the instrumentation is on point.  If you thought Simulakra had heavy down to a science before - they’ve managed to go further. The combination of the drums and gritty guitar riffs on this record are a repeated punch to the gut, accompanied by vocalist Dom Pabon’s harsh, fiery vocal style.

For the most part, lyrically, it follows Pabon through all the negative feelings associated with his illness and declining health, intertwined with a dystopian concept of a government that’s lying to the public about a mass plague.  “It essentially tells the story of a government telling the mass population that they have things under control when that’s not the case, and it’s only getting worse and worse,” Pabon explains. “These ideas tie into everything surrounding the record, from the art to the emergency broadcast trailer, to the clips of hospitals, biological weapons, and general corruption in the music video.” At the end of the day, despite his personal experiences so prominently featured, Pabon is able to use relevant storytelling to keep some parts of his struggles up to interpretation.

We spoke about how Dom came to join Simulakra, the evolution of their sound, how he came up with lyrical concepts for The Infection Spreads, his artwork, and Delaware Hardcore in general.

(Photo credit: William Marks)

AA: Introduce yourself with your name and what you do in Simulakra.

DP: My name is Dom, I do vocals in Simulakra. 

AA: Who played your first hardcore show? What impact did that have on keeping you involved in hardcore?

DP: Before I found out about CCAS (Charm City Art Space), my first bigger hardcore show was Trapped Under Ice in my hometown of Frederick, Maryland. That was the first hardcore band that I actually went out of my way to see that I knew of. They kind of pulled me in, the aggression of it all.

AA: What made you want to start a band like Simulakra?

DP: X [guitar] and I were trying to start a band for a while, like six months before forming Simulakra.  We had similar taste, and I felt like we wanted to just start a project. Our bands both broke up around the same time, and it just sort of made sense to start then.  We were both friends with everyone in Year of the Knife, and spent a lot of time around one another and it just sort of made sense. We originally had an Integrity-influenced sound, but I wasn’t really into it, and when I joined, we sort of changed our direction to what it is today. We are influenced by a bunch of older bands, but I also think our style has organically come together as its own thing - which I enjoy the most.

AA: The Infection Spreads is a concept record that focuses on themes of illness and government corruption - could you tell us a little more about what the album means to you?

DP: The songs before the LP weren’t really in-depth with regards to my personal life, except “Day One.” I wanted this record to give much more emotionally than our previous releases. When the tracks were being written, I was going through a lot of severe issues in my personal life and with my health, so a lot of what I wrote naturally formulated around me being ill, [as well as] what I’ve experienced and learned through the process of it all. 

I tried my best to give a depiction of what it’s like to live in the reality of someone that is sick, and the emotional grief of living in a body and mind that is failing you. What it does to you, what it does to the people around you, how you view yourself and the world, after being literally and figuratively broken for so long. Every song is a stage of grief in this cycle. Right before we started writing the LP, my health started to decline again. The band was sitting on most of these tracks for about a year before I was able to even record vocals. I was very sick, and honestly still am very sick. I’m glad we were all able to finish the record and it was able to see the light of day. 

Album art

AA: Was the idea fueled by real-life world events at all, or was this a concept you wanted to explore before the pandemic?

DP: During the writing stages of the record, I knew that all I was going to be able to talk about lyrically were my past experiences. Although I do enjoy storytelling and there is some of that on the record, I knew I wouldn’t be able to get the most out of it if I wasn’t speaking directly from my own truths. From being in and out of hospitals for almost a decade at this point, I have a pretty good understanding of how easy it is to get caught in the cycle of the medical field hell, of constant medications and prescriptions, and why it’s so hard to get out of it - especially when the people that are supposed to be helping you are hurting you the most. It’s something I touched lightly about on our demo, but wanted to go a bit deeper into it on our full length.

AA: The album artwork complements the concept perfectly. I talked to X about it and he told me the main art comes from a painting by an artist named Aaron Lee. What sort of things were you looking for when it came to the design?

DP: My friend Dean Forsythe (Compound Bunker) did the layout for the LP. I knew I wanted to work with Dean on an LP, even before we had the songs ready. It was kind of already written in stone that we were gonna work together. I just sent him the songs, and he was able to pick up on the concept perfectly. I’ve been a fan of his art style for years and am happy he was able to help us out. 

It’s a very similar story with Aaron Lee. I knew I wanted him to work on the cover, and we just sent him a bunch of things we were into for him to work with. He really captured the concept of sickness - like, the body on the cover being encased, and just thorns going through him… [It] just matches the theme of the record so well. The style being so gritty compliments our music and the LP.

(Photo credit: William Marks)

AA: What’s your favorite song off the record and why?

DP: Lyrically, the song I like the most is “Fading Away.” I think at the time I wrote it, I got out of the hospital, and the next day I wrote that track. “Fading Away” is a direct encapsulation of what the last decade of my life has been like in regards to my disease, and what the medical system has been like in regards to my life. It captures my response to them versus their response to me. Definitely one of the most personal songs on the record.

AA: You’re based in Maryland, but, as a whole, Simulakra is a Delaware-based band. What’s the scene like there?

DP: Delaware is cool. There’s a lot of young people, and I’d say at least half of the people that are going to gigs there are younger than me. Most of the up and coming bands too have younger members (Killing Me, Garrote). It’s a good scene, and I’m excited to see where it goes in the future.

AA: Aside from being Simulakra’s vocalist, you’re also an artist that’s created some dope artwork for bands - Separated, Shackled, Pain of Truth, and Age of Apocalypse, to name a few. How did you get into doing graphic design for bands?

DP: I’ve been doing art for bands since I was probably 14. It’s just something I’ve always done. It’s not something I really think about, art is just always something I’ve been passionate about. I try not to think too hard about it, I just feel it. I think that’s how art should be - you just feel it, and then do it. 

I actually got into it because a lot of my friends when I was younger were illustrators, and I was never good at that, but I always wanted to do art just by seeing them do their thing, plus watching cartoons and seeing art on TV and stuff. I just downloaded Photoshop one day and started messing around with it. When I was getting into music, I saw a lot of my friends spending tons of money on art for merchandise, and figured I could just do art for my friends' bands as a way to help out.

AA: Where do you get your inspiration from artistically?

DP: Throughout the years, I have gotten inspiration from a lot of different outlets, like film, music and other artists - but mainly just how I’m feeling. I try to portray that in everything I do. 

AA: A couple months back, Simulakra went out on tour with UK hardcore band Last Wishes - how was it? What was one of your favorite shows or moments on the tour?

DP: It was an incredible time, and we made a bond with Last Wishes that will remain forever. Probably sneaking into the Edgar Allen Poe grave with Corin (LW vocalist) or just spending time with those guys throughout the run. Every day was fun.

Upcoming tour dates

AA: Any upcoming plans you’d like to talk about?

DP: In about a week, we’re doing a 10 day run with Vomit Forth - will be fun. Hopefully the West Coast (and maybe Europe) sometime next year.

AA: Anything else you’d like to add?

DP: Be yourself.

On top of The Infection Spreads being one of the best records this year has brought us so far - this interview was awesome, and I appreciate Dom letting me pick his brain about the album. 

Make sure you check out their social media below to see what Simulakra’s up to next.

Instagram | Twitter | Bandcamp

Go listen to The Infection Spreads right now.


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