Dark arts

Negative Sex

Justin Morales, John Ludwick and Ilya Arbatman’s band is called Negative Sex, and, no, it’s not named after amorous encounters gone wrong.

Justin Morales, John Ludwick and Ilya Arbatman’s band is called Negative Sex, and, no, it’s not named after amorous encounters gone wrong.


Negative Sex is a trio that consists of John Ludwick on bass, Ilya Arbatman on drums, and Justin Morales as vocalist, guitarist and primary lyricist.

“The original idea of the band was, if you pay attention to history at all, men are generally the negative sex—we cause most of the problems,” said Morales. “Financially, physically, pretty much for the last 500 years.”

“Rats For Lost” is the title track of the band’s first 7-inch release.

“The reason that’s the first song is that’s a general overview for society, thinking about how fast can we kill ourselves by being greedy and hungry for power,” said Morales.

The emotional arc of the song, like a horror story, is a powerful exercise in building tension, partially thanks to Morales’ fondness for H.P. Lovecraft.

“I don’t have a literal interpretation,” Arbatman admitted, when pondering the meaning of the song. “I have more of this mental image of like, rats jumping off a ship. Maybe that’s just an urban myth that I heard, that rats will maybe jump off a ship before the ship sinks?”

In a way, it’s anyone’s guess what the lyrics of Negative Sex are meant to evoke.

“I try and stay away from really specific meanings,” said Morales. “I don’t want in two years to feel like I don’t like how it’s portraying what I’m trying to get at. Whereas if I keep it semi-vague, in five years, you can interpret them and analyze them in a different way.”

The three agree that lyrics and messages within Negative Sex songs are no more important than any of the instrumental parts on their own.

“I mostly stick to my instrument,” said Ludwick. “It’s music. I like it, or I don’t like it, or it evokes an emotion in me.”

Yet Ludwick is also a lyricist—of the band Plastic Caves—so the words to him are integral to conveying a feeling of introspection.

“White Noise” starts right away with a sinister bass line and a driving, four-on-the-floor drum beat. Morales sings in sneering, bitter monotone, painting snapshots of daily life in the throes of depression. Verses and choruses thick with discordant guitar strokes and spastic drum hits move forward at a relentless, savage pace before dropping into a meandering, introspective bridge. The song bursts out once again with the words, “You’re too late.”

Morales said the song was written in the head space of his own struggles with gambling addiction. Though overall he feels he is getting better, he continues to grapple with his past.

“It only takes 30 seconds to make a bad decision,” said Morales. “A trip to 7-11, a drive home from work. By the time you’re asking yourself what happened, it’s too late. Your shame is back on the rise. Depression is back on the rise. You do it all over again.”

“Brain Fatigue” kicks up the tempo with a frenzied punk assault. A hauntingly repetitive and mischievous guitar riff fills the space a solo would take in a more self-indulgent band.

“I wrote that song in the middle of a gnarly depression,” said Morales. He said Ludwick and Arbatman helped him work through it.

“When music is in a good space in my life, everything else falls in place,” he said.