Amidst the cacophony of a myriad of bands emerging every day, few manage to carve out an identity as distinct as The Suicide Disease. This isn’t just another band—it’s an anthem of resilience, a shout into the void, a testament to what music can do when the pain is deep but the will to convey it is even stronger.
As I sat down with Jay Francis, the lead singer, the haunting glare from his stage mask bore into me. As we begin, Jay immediately sets the tone, “This is the first interview we’ve ever done actually face to face with somebody, so this is really cool to do this with you.” The sentiment offers a hint of the raw authenticity and emotional vulnerability that defines Suicide Disease’s music.
But beyond the mask and distant from the music, was the story of a man who’s seen his share of life’s darkest corners. “Growing up outside of Philly, then moving to Mastic, Long Island—it wasn’t just a shift in location. It was a collision of emotions and musical inclinations,” he begins.
The Suicide Disease recently released their electrifying single “War” under Zodhiac Records, crafted in collaboration with producers KJ Strock (Machine Gun Kelly, Crown The Empire, Motionless in White, We Came as Romans) and Ricky Armellino (the guitarist from Ice Nine Kills). Inspired by the daunting duality of positive and negative emotions, “War” is not just another rock track. It serves as a haunting ode to the relentless battle between life and death, love and loss, and the temptation of suicide that looms for those left behind.
With origins in Mastic, Long Island, the essence of a small town’s despair is evident in the band’s melancholic melodies. As Jay describes, the depression of the south shore has deeply influenced their sound, making their music a beacon of solace for those grappling with loss and pain.
The single “War” stands as a testament to Jay’s personal journey of grief after the loss of his sibling. When discussing the inspiration behind the song, he reflects, “When we kind of committed to this new direction, I was really in just a pretty depressed state. It really is kind of like a daily war in your own mind.” The track encapsulates the internal battle between the desire to join the departed and the will to continue living and cherishing their memory.
In a world still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jay’s message resonates profoundly. The collective experience of isolation, fear, and loss brought about by the pandemic has intensified the need for songs that speak to the soul, providing comfort during the darkest times. “Nothing really fills the hole when someone’s gone. But knowing that you’re not alone has kind of been the thing that sustains me,” shares Jay.
Reflecting on the band’s distinctive sound, he credited his older brother for exposing him to a mix of aggressive beats from hardcore shows and the melancholy tunes of the ’80s. “We wanted to blend this 80s melancholy with a heavier instrumentation, and I think we found that sweet spot,” Jay elaborates.
Their debut single “War” has made waves in the music industry. Between the melancholic riffs and the potent message about suicide’s domino effect, it’s no wonder. Jay lit up as he spoke of Ricky Armellino and KJ Strock, the masterminds who helped shape the song. “They breathed life into our sound,” he emphasizes, a gratitude evident in his voice.
His recounting of how they connected with heavyweights like Danny Diablo, Steve Feinberg, and eventually Ricky was a whirlwind of events. “From jamming in Mastic to recording in Lancaster—it’s been a surreal journey,” Jay muses, a tinge of nostalgia evident.
But perhaps the most poignant moment came when he spoke of his late brother. “I wish he was here to see it,” Jay whispers, the weight of the words lingering in the air.
For those familiar with Suicide Disease’s inception, their humble beginnings, with demos on a cassette tape and the dreams of Mastic kids, the evolution has been nothing short of incredible. “Recording our first demo in a closet in Mastic and then War in a professional studio—it was liberating,” he admits, reminiscing about the shift from an intimate setting to a vast professional canvas.
Beyond their music, there’s an air of mystery around the band. Their decision to wear masks is not just a fashion statement but a reflection of society’s tendency to hide away from its pain. “That’s why we remain anonymous, we make it about the message,” explains Jay.
The band’s name derives from the agonizing disorder, Trigeminal Neuralgia, colloquially referred to as the “suicide disease” due to the unbearable pain it causes. The band name draws inspiration from the same condition Jay’s elder brother tragically succumbed to. “The band name actually comes from the disease itself – my older brother knew it well. And that experience really shook me,” says Jay. This unearthing of personal pain shows how deeply the band roots its ethos in real experiences and narratives.
The distinct masks the band dons on stage represent more than just theatrical props. Jay shares, “My brother’s pain was in his face, an inescapable torment. Society often masks its pain, hiding what’s inside. Our masks physically illustrate this reality, making the focus on what and how we’re saying, rather than who’s saying it.” The masks, patched up with what looks like medical tape, signify the duality of pain – do we cover our wounds, or let them breathe and heal?
The mask concept isn’t just about anonymity or artistry; it’s about unity. “Wearing masks on stage isn’t new, but our intention behind it is. We want our audience to feel they’re not just spectating but are part of the experience,” Jay continues, “They’re not alone.”
Revealing one’s vulnerabilities and pain isn’t easy. For Jay and his bandmates, it’s cathartic but terrifying. “After my brother’s death, even uttering the word ‘suicide’ was taboo. But keeping such emotions bottled up intensifies the pain. Our music gives those grappling with loss a voice. It’s about spreading the message in the right way, ensuring people know they’re not alone,” he emphasizes.
From recording their first demo on a cassette tape and parading it on a boombox, hoping for a break, to being discovered by Steve Feinberg, their journey is as eclectic as their sound. They’re a testimony to resilience and the power of art to heal – and the journey has only just begun.
The Suicide Disease is not just a band. It’s a movement – offering solace, acknowledging pain, and inspiring recovery. Through masks and melodies, they’re unmasking the complex emotions many face, ensuring no one fights their battles in isolation.
When asked about the future, Jay hinted at a new single titled “Flood” and shared aspirations for a potential album, live shows, and even a music video. But throughout our conversation, one element remained consistent—authenticity. Their dedication to ensuring their music remains raw, genuine, and unfiltered is the force that binds them together.
Follow the band on Instagram.