With the dawning of autumn, the hardcore pack School Drugs invites us to a somber yet invigorating sojourn with their latest offering, “Procession.” The third act in the ongoing lyrical theatre of “Funeral Arrangements,” this release shapes the narrative, leading the audience from the melancholy of loss to the precipice of acceptance. The album is out today, under the banner of Indecision Records, a name synonymous with the undercurrents of alternative sonic explorations.
The tracks, eloquently named “Epicedium,” “Haunted,” and “Work Forever,” resonate with the gloom and contemplation that often accompanies life’s inevitable adversities.
The band has ventured beyond the conventional hardcore ethos, embracing a symphony of synthesizers, lush strings, and thick reverb, paying homage to the early Ministry and Beneath the Shadows-era TSOL. This voyage is like “stage diving into an open grave,” a phrase vividly encapsulating the essence of “Procession.” The album is a pivot, either leading to a rebirth or heralding the death of what was, a reflection of the band’s evolution from their hardcore roots.
“Procession” isn’t confined to the auditory realm; it extends its fingers into the olfactory with its frankincense and myrrh-scented incense, traditionally associated with funerary rites. The choice seems to root the album in an ancient, solemn tradition, further accentuating the themes explored within the tracks. This multi-sensory experience is housed within 300 limited 7” vinyl pressings, a treasure for the ardent aficionado.
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The band’s narrative doesn’t shy away from recognizing the community they are part of. Supporting stalwarts like Bad Religion and Off With Their Heads in their upcoming tours, School Drugs showcases a camaraderie that underscores the punk ethos.
It’s not just about the music, but the culture and the unspoken code that binds them. Their upcoming performances at FEST 21 alongside punk rock heavyweights Descendents and Gorilla Biscuits is a testament to their growing stature, albeit retaining a connection to the grassroots.
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“DIY is the entire point of it all… anything anyone else has figured out, you can too. The difference lies in wanting to do it.”
The above sentiment reflects not just a band’s philosophy, but a larger ethos that resonates within the alternative music community. School Drugs seems to embody the DIY spirit, a potent blend of self-efficacy and a relentless desire for authentic expression.
We discussed this and a lot more in our brief interview below.
The title “Procession” carries a weight of solemnity and ritual. Can you walk us through the process of selecting that name for the third installment of “Funeral Arrangements”?
Each installment has been named after some aspect of a funeral: Visitation, Absolution, Procession, etc. ‘Procession’ was particularly chosen because it leads listeners from the A side to the B side of the record.
“Procession” is a pivot point for the band, described as either a death or rebirth. What pushed you to step away from your hardcore roots to experiment with lush strings and synthesizers?
Ultimately, it’s just how the songs were written. I find many bands stray too far and add punk to whatever genre they’re trying to move to next, instead of bringing elements of other genres to punk itself. This record is undoubtedly still punk, always will be.
The sensory experience of “Procession” extends beyond audio; it also includes frankincense and myrrh-scented incense. What led to this multi-sensory approach, and how do you think it enhances the experience of the album?
Frankincense and myrrh is the scent commonly used during funerals. Its in the thing you see priests waving around with the smoke billowing out (that thing is called a “Thurible”). Originally I was going to put all the records in a box with burning incense and just make them smell like a church, but after I sat there and figured out how to engineer a holder for sticks of incense, it just clicked that it should come with it.
The tracks on “Procession”—“Epicedium,” “Haunted,” and “Work Forever”—sound like chapters in a gloomy narrative. Was there a conceptual storyline when writing them?
Not particularly. Funeral Arrangements has been sequenced with the flow and feeling of the tracks as the main narrative.
Your music has been praised for incorporating “gloomy elements without distracting from the energy.” How do you strike that delicate balance in your compositions?
Listen to a lot of TSOL and Nerve Agents.
You’re supporting legendary bands like Bad Religion and Off With Their Heads on tour. What’s it like sharing the stage with artists who might have influenced your musical journey?
The obvious answer here is that we’re “honored” and “humbled”, and while that may be true, the casualness with which we were asked by both bands reinforces the culture and community of punk as a whole. Bad Religion and OWTH are punk bands, and they act like punk bands. Punks support punks, it’s in the code.
The FEST 21 lineup features a blend of punk rock heavyweights like Descendents and Gorilla Biscuits. How do you feel about the punk scene’s progression, especially in events like these that merge different sub-genres?
Unite the scenes. Honestly, I plan to spend a lot of time watching a lot of ska bands at fest this year.
Speaking of community, what are some underground bands or artists from your local scene that you think deserve more spotlight?
Freezeheads from New Brunswick have a really great catchy sound.
Come Mierda is one of my favorite bands to watch live.
Dusters have both a message and attitude that I’d like to see more of the world over.
Mercy Union should be blasting out of everyone’s car going up and down the parkway.
The independent ethos seems to be a strong part of your identity. How do you find that DIY attitude intersects with your musical evolution, especially as you’ve garnered more attention?
DIY is the entire point of it all. Nothing in this world is magic, anything anyone else has figured out, you can too. The difference lies in wanting to do it. How do agencies send out press releases? Figure it out. How do designers make great flyers? Figure it out. How do bands get on festivals? Figure it out. All of those points have caveats, but nobody knows anything that you can’t learn.
“Procession” is the third part of “Funeral Arrangements.” Without giving too much away, what can fans expect from the fourth and final installment? Will it offer closure, or leave us hanging on the precipice?
Does anyone ever really get closure?