Escuela Grind Educate Through Brutality

Escuela Grind Educate Through Brutality

- By Nicolas Delgadillo

The hard-hitting moshers open up about the jump from being a supporting band to a headlining band, fostering community, and what Taylor Swift song they might consider covering.

From their daring blend of hardcore breakdowns and extreme metal blast beats, to their unflinching commitment to supporting the LGBTQ community, POC, and any other marginalized group, to their hilariously absurd and terminally online social media presence, New England headbangers Escuela Grind have always had one foot firmly planted in the future. “If you are a part of something and it’s not inclusive, it’s not worth shit.” It’s a declaration that vocalist Katerina Economou tells to crowds big and small every night, and it’s that inclusivity that’s helped make their band one of the best and most important acts to smash their way through the scene in recent years. 

Not ones to sit still for very long, Escuela Grind kicked off 2024 with an ambitious headlining tour across the United States and a new bone-shattering EP, the appropriately titled DDEEAATTHHMMEETTAALL. It’s thirteen-and-a-half minutes of brutality that lives up to its name, and the band views it as the end to their trilogy of influence-focused EPs that began in 2020 with PPOOWWEERRVVIIOOLLEENNCCEE and GGRRIINNDDCCOORREE.

While diehard fans know that the four new tracks have been played regularly in the group’s live sets since last year, most people attending the current Ball and Chain Tour (named after the EP’s opening onslaught) are getting their faces smashed in by them for the first time.

Just two days after the official release of DDEEAATTHHMMEETTAALL, Escuela Grind helped break in the new New Brookland Tavern in Columbia, South Carolina on a tour stop. By the end of the night, the floor was covered in beer, blood, and sweat - a telltale sign of a good and heavy time. 

“Check this out.” Guitarist Krissy Morash leads me around the back of the venue to a large set of stairs outside. “It’s like a bounce house!” she jokes as the whole thing wobbles and shakes with every step down to the tour bus. I’d been to plenty of shows at the old, one-story location of Columbia’s iconic New Brookland Tavern, but this was my first at the new spot. Fittingly, the place already appeared to have that dilapidated punk rock feel built in. Would there even be enough structural integrity to handle an Escuela Grind show?

The Ball and Chain Tour has seen them tearing up stages with a slew of upcoming bands, and that night’s lineup included local South Carolina hardhitters Rectoplasm (great name) and dryrot, along with Texas hardcore act Slow Pulse and New Jersey punks Come Mierda (amazing name). “If you're able to get cool support for a headline tour, you're making a statement to your fans and everybody around.” drummer Jesse Fuentes tells me. 

Katerina chimes in: “This is who we fuck with, this is what we want you to see. These bands that we've brought on tour are all really cool and positive people with different styles of music. We have more of a say in what we do when we're headlining, so we can pick our lineups and essentially make our route if we want to. We love going on tours with other bands and there's a lot to learn from other bands, but it's really cool when you're able to make a message, like Jesse said. This is the new direction and this is the community we're trying to make.”

“You also have to think of it as an outsider.” Krissy jumps into the conversation. “Like, obviously people love seeing us open for bands like The Acacia Strain or Fit for an Autopsy. But they also want to feel like they're there and part of the community and they're supporting you sometimes. They do like seeing you on a big stage, but here we get to be a little more personable. It's hard connecting to us when we're so far away and there are barriers between us and the fans. When we play shows like these, we're a little closer and people can come on stage whenever they want. It's their space. At other shows, sometimes a tour manager might decide otherwise for us.”

She continues, “We got a really good tour offer around next spring, but they said that we wouldn’t be able to do this current tour. We feel like we would be missing out on a lot of opportunities to really connect with people in different ways. Plus we probably saw ourselves getting better offers in the long run.” 

Katerina had more to add. “There's a small amount of pressure, though, when you're the headliner band. Everything that's been afforded to us by the bands that we've toured with, now it's our responsibility to give to the other bands that are touring with us.” The rest nod in agreement. “Yeah, we definitely learned how to be a headliner by being a support band.” Jesse concludes.

Rectoplasm began the evening with guttural growls and crushing riffs, immediately setting off the headbangers up front. By the end of their opening set, they even got the two-steppers dancing. dryrot swapped out the growls for more screamo-inspired shrieks, while Slow Pulse took command the second they hit the stage thanks to their infectious hardcore beatdown energy.

“Move up, come closer, come to me!” frontwoman Brooke Hampton urged the audience as she barked out the words to songs from the band’s recent No Room for Goodbyes EP. The first stage divers of the night made themselves known, inspiring others to follow suit. Things in the pit then got very fast very quickly with Come Mierda, who launched into a punk-fueled, take-no-prisoners set led by vocalist Jackie Bett.

If the brunt of Escuela Grind’s messaging hadn’t already gotten through to you, Bett made some of the tour’s sentiments crystal clear. “Fuck the cops. Fuck the entirety of the justice system. If you support that shit, fuck you too, motherfucker!” Tirades against religion and the patriarchy were screamed through the speakers as Come Mierda turned New Brookland Tavern into an all out frenzy, and Bett even got in on the action with some crowd surfing of their own. “I fuck with y’all heavy,” she shouted after being lifted up and through a sea of outstretched arms. “All the ladies are in the front too, fuck yeah!”

The rowdy Sunday night crowd was practically steaming with anticipation as Escuela Grind started up an ominous, screeching intro and the band took to the stage one by one. Jesse, Krissy, guitarist Thomas Sifuentes and bassist Ryan Giordano cranked up the opening to 2022’s Memory Theater as Katerina finally stepped up to the mic. “Welcome to class, bitch.” They were off. 

Escuela Grind enveloped the New Brookland Tavern in their brutal and relentless assault, shaking the walls, the floors, and the brains of everyone within. “They built this place for stage diving, let’s see it!” Jesse called out, though the fans didn’t need much convincing. Bodies flew across the room for scorchers like “All Is Forgiven”, “Punishment Ritual”, and “Meat Magnet”, the band’s latest single that features grindcore founding father Barney Greenway of Napalm Death.

“He recorded it with a broken leg!” Krissy tells me, citing the frontman’s infamous injury last year. “He did it at a venue in France, on the stage and leaning over in obvious pain. He nailed it.” Katerina fondly remembers the collaboration as well. “It was kind of funky how we put it together. We had the demos recorded, but we didn't have the actual live recording.”

“I had the songs mapped out on my laptop,” says Jesse. “I asked him and it took a couple of weeks for us to actually get down to doing it. But we were in Marseille, France and he's sitting there with his broken ankle just at the front of the stage. The drummer of this band that just finished soundcheck had an interface I snagged real quick.  We didn't have headphones or anything, just a little Shure SM58. I just played the track and it was to a click. When we recorded it, it wasn't to a click so that was a whole other thing we had to, like, move around and stuff because he didn't want to do it again.” he laughs. “But yeah, Barney was just listening on laptop speakers and nailed it on the first try.”

Escuela Grind’s self-made community has seemingly given back with just as much as the band has put into it, offering up a wide variety of opportunities for them to take up. Consider their recent overnight stay at New York’s famous Oheka Castle, best known as the swanky hotel where Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” music video was filmed. 

“We played a show in Brooklyn once and this kid was moshing for us in a suit.” Katerina shares. “And we're like, alright, we got to know what this guy’s all about. Long story short he's in a band called Wreath of Tongues and he works at the place, so we played Long Island and he was like, ‘Yeah, roll through. I've got the eight-person suite for you!’ As for what Taylor Swift song the band would most want to cover, Escuela Grind-style? “Love Story.” they declare.

Both sides of the room come crashing together with reckless abandon when the band launches into “Ball and Chain”. This amount of violence anywhere else would be cause for serious alarm, but here, there’s nothing but smiling faces as everyone bumps, slams, and jumps throughout the night. The adrenaline seems to reach a fever pitch just as things wrap up, but the band doesn’t waste a second in coming out to chat with fans old and new once the lights come up.

For all of the brutality of their music, Escuela Grind are out proving themselves to be one of the most cordial acts in the heavy scene as well. The line to meet the rising legends at their merch booth spoke for itself - hundreds of eager kids had found a true sense of community at the show. “Sorry for holding you up!” a nervous fan apologized to Katerina as the night began to wind down. “No, no.” They smiled as they posed for a photo. “This is my favorite part.”

Catch the remaining dates of the Ball and Chain Tour featuring Escuela Grind along with Take Offense, Bonginator, and Brat. Following the Ball and Chain Tour, Escuela Grind will team with Capra for an additional set of shows. See the list of dates and cities below.

with support from Take Offense, Bonginator
February 2 Boise, ID                    
February 3 Salt Lake City, UT       
February 4 Denver, CO                 
February 5 Omaha, NE                
February 6 Sioux Falls, SD        
February 7 Des Moines, IA           
with support from Take Offense, Brat, Bonginator
February 8 Chicago, IL                 
February 9 Detroit, MI                   
February 10 Indianapolis, IN         
February 11 Columbus, OH          
February 12 Cleveland, OH          
February 13 Pittsburgh, PA       
with support from Take Offense, Brat
February 14 York, PA                     
February 15 Philadelphia, PA.      
February 16 Brooklyn, NY           
February 17 Boston, MA 
With support from Capra
March 1 Richmond, VA 
March 2 Savannah, GA 
March 3 Charlotte, NC
March 4 Roanoke, VA 
March 5 Erie, PA 
March 6 Rochester, NY 
March 7 Syracuse, NY 
March 8 Burlington, VT 
March 9 Portland, ME 
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