Completing what proved to be a breakout year, emerging extreme metal collective Escuela Grind doubled down on their namesake throughout 2022. Establishing a relentless pace on the road, the band's live campaign saw the New England collective hitting the road in support of a broad spectrum of legends ranging from sludge specialists EyeHateGod to gore veterans Exhumed while delivering memorable showings at festivals like Psycho Las Vegas.
Touring in support of their MNRK Heavy full length, Memory Theater, Escuela Grind's dynamic brand of grindcore met the requisite criteria of the subgenre - chaotic percussion, punishing riffs and the venomous delivery of vocalist Katerina Economou - establishing the band as a vital prospect in an especially discerning niche.
What makes the Grind such a blue chip in the landscape of modern extreme music is their audacity to implement other elements in their craft - an especially ballsy move for subcategory of music that is propagated by musical purists. Daring to showcase a hook, or accents of electronic music, chunky nu-metal or even a little pop sensibility, Escuela Grind understood the assignment - respect the genre enough to not simply regurgitate it.
It's that stylistic defiance, combined with a combustible stage show and scathing social commentary that ensure Escuela Grind has remained tip of the tongue as a band to pay attention to.
Rolling directly into 2023 with a European tour with the pioneering Napalm Death, bolstered by confirmed dates with The Acacia Strain and an appearance at Decibel Magazaine's Metal & Beer Fest in Philly next month, its' evident that Escuela Grind have the kind of momentum to capably lead the genre's new school.
Drummer Jesse Fuentes explained how Memory Theater allowed the band to offer their tribute to grindcore, without having to mimmic it. He detailed the trajectory of the last year since the album's release, how intellect and ignorance can some time intersect, and how a balance of good weed and proper hydration is essential for the rigors of touring.
2022 proved to be an important year for the band. For fans, your tour with Napalm Death felt like a passing of the torch for grindcore. Did that resonate the same way for you?
Fuentes - Some of the more conservative or “participation trophy” grind nerds would disagree, but when we are face to face with devoted Napalm Death fans the answer is definitely, yes. They’ve watched Napalm Death 10+ times on average, and will watch them 10 more times. When you consider how we use our platform—to them, it’s a refreshing take.
Memory Theater was praised for its musicality but the band really does have an academic approach to your aggression. Given the kind of homework you have done on great minds like Michael Foucault and John Locke, do you feel like those important talking points get lost on a live crowd that just wants something brutal?
Fuentes - We normally speak to a few social points that encompass what we’re about; but we also do walls of death and “Poopoopeepee” chants. We use this dichotomy because we want everyone to get as ignorant as possible, to live in the moment, and to forget what’s happening outside of the venue. They can get personal with the album on their own time and dive into the lyrical references that interest them most.
Indoctrination was an important first step for the band and given it dropped in 2020 - it gained traction when everyone else was stalled. What were some of the major strides the band made with Memory Theater and how did working with Kurt Ballou maximize your potential?
Fuentes. - Given that we wore the recording and mixing engineer, player, and writer hats for all of the music on Indoctrination, having Kurt Ballou at the helm made the process idiot-proof. We knew who would be the engineer for that LP, and decided we had to step it up.
You guys toured your asses off last year both domestically and internationally - big shows and small. Festival plays and club shows. What has helped you get passed the fatigue that can come with that kind of rigorous schedule?
Fuentes - Smoke a ton of weed and forget about any pain or stress, zone the fuck out for a second, and then hyper focus on decompression and sight-seeing. We make it a point to stay hydrated, and barely drink.
Escuela Grind are very much a grindcore band but so much of what you convey reaches audiences from other walks of life. As you guys progress into a headlining spot as a touring band, is there an effort to play with different kinds of artists to grow your reach?
Fuentes - We think of ourselves as a gateway band for open ears, so the quick answer is yes. If you get down to the thick of it, although we are considered a grindcore band, we incorporate a handful of elements from sub-genres within the metal and hardcore punk spectrums. There are also some more mainstream elements from nu-metal, grunge, EDM and even pop music.
Given the contemporary commentary on Memory Theater, how has being on the road and seeing it translate live influenced/inspired you for what’s next. Where is your head at in terms of where you are looking to go thematically for the next record?
Fuentes - We wrote Memory Theater with a huge emphasis on how people would move to the songs. It has translated extremely well in that regard, because the songs are aggressive but delivered in this chaotic and fun way live. Many people also feel a strong connection to the more personal content featured in the songs as well. We intend to keep this through-line on our next record which we have started writing for.
Thematically, we are going to explore “the algorithm” and concepts like the Markov chain and how they affect us as people. There will definitely still be a metaphysical and personal aspect to the songs as well.
Ahead of this play at SXSW for the Knotfest Showcase - what feels promising about this next generation of heavy culture?
Fuentes - As the world keeps turning, social media perpetually influences our music interests. Anyone from a small town/city can already find the encouragement on their own to make something unique to themselves, while veterans of your local music scene are looking for something new and different. You can expect us to push the threshold of what “metal” & “alternative” music means to the general public.
Catch Escuela Grind live at the Pulse of the Maggots x KNOTFEST x SXSW showcase on March 18th along with Militarie Gun, Soul Glo, The Callous Daoboys, VCTMS and Creeping Death.
Access to the official SXSW x KNOTFEST x PULSE OF THE MAGGOTS Showcase will be for SXSW badge holders with an allotment of tickets available at the door, depending on venue capacity.