As Matt Fournier recalls it, the last time the members of Earthworms shared a stage together, things didn't go exactly as planned.
With the group already looking at dissolution, the hip-hop act was without Dan Mahfood (a.k.a. DJ Mahf) that evening, while its three emcees — Fournier (also known simply as Mathias), Kerry Brennan (Black Patrick) and Justin Maginn (Kama) — were at each other's throats on stage. It was not the most pleasant send-off for one of the more celebrated local acts of its day, but it was memorable. Still, it was a shame, because that acrimony hadn't previously been the norm, with the band releasing albums, touring and sharing tons of good vibes before calling it a day in 2011.
Citing the old adage that time heals all wounds, several members of Earthworms have performed gigs together in the past couple of weeks in a reunion of sorts that appears to be ongoing. But without Maginn, who has since decamped for the West Coast, the group is transitioning to a new life as, simply, Worms.
"Not 'Earthworms,'" Fournier notes. "And not 'the Worms.' It's just 'Worms.'"
The band, which originally formed in 2004, began to re-coalesce just this year, when Fournier was approached about his group Mathias & the Pirates taking part in a late-April show. With the group unable to fill that gig's timeline, lines were cast and the three STL-based members of Earthworms began rehearsing together for the first time in years.
"I think we had to live some life to get here," Fournier says. "We're all older now. Kerry's raising a couple of kids. Mahf's been a professional DJ his whole adult life and has been steady performing for years. The Pirates have been working on a new thing, but that's been a slow burn. I needed something to keep my brain moving. The energy that was created with rehearsals made sense for us to put some more energy into this. We're not approaching it like a ten-year-old sound. We're a different band now, so we're approaching this with some different sounds, different vibes, but without abandoning our core."
And, yes, the group is moving forward with two emcees rather than three, a move necessitated by Maginn's life in California. According to Fournier, he's got a pretty good life at that, residing in Venice and working as a dog trainer for LA celebrities.
"The three of us found our paths coming back together while he's out in Venice, which is pretty dope," Fournier says. "We'll perform together again. Someday."
For now, the redubbed Worms have been recrafting material from their former days, as well as working in material from their individual solo work. Moving forward, they'll add altogether new cuts as well. So far they've focused on smaller sets of music, as they've appeared on large, multi-act bills — twenty minutes or so of performance-ready material is all they've needed. The band's three vintage albums have given them hours of material from which to choose, Fournier says.
The broader notion here is how to re-shape older cuts, or write more anew.
"We're in the moment of figuring that out," he says. "I'm forever in the moment. But it's the opposite of what Matthew McConaughey says: People don't stay the same age. Getting younger people to engage with us is a challenge, and artists our age tend to make sounds that reflect the things we grew up loving. Those aren't the same things that today's 25-year-old grew up loving. You want to do that without pandering."
And that means an update to the group's determinedly underground hip-hop sound. Fournier says it's important to the members of Worms to stay of-the-moment, to make music that will resonate with younger ears. In that same vein, the lyricism and subject matter has to stay where the band's members are now, too — which is to say, it should represent the maturity that comes with time.
"This should be about what's going on in our life right now," he says. "Your mind's going to consider words and thoughts differently now. I listen to the old music we put out and I like it; we put out some pretty good shit. I know, though, that I wouldn't say it the same way. I use negative space more. I don't rap at people as much as talk to them. It's a natural evolution. Kerry's gone through the same thing. And Mahf's going to be scratching and adding elements that are going to be more advanced."
It all amounts to something that should be exciting for any fan of local hip-hop: a rejuvenated act filled with top-tier talent itching to reprove itself to the world.
"Sonically, Earthworms was a product of our times; the instrumentation was from the era," Fournier says. "We don't want to rehash what it sounded like ten years ago. What we're working on is artistically a lot different."
Worms will be releasing new music and playing shows to be announced in 2019. For a listen back to Earthworms, go to: mathias.bandcamp.com.