School Drugs is a New Jersey hardcore band that came to my attention through Joseph, the guy behind both the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market and Hell Minded Records. I have to admit that the group's fucked up moniker made me very intrigued to give it a listen, and I'm glad that I did. Their recently released Relative Suffering EP is nasty dose of classic-sounding hardcore punk with gnarly vocals and buzzsaw-like guitars.
But what about that band name? "While driving home from a show one night, I was pulled over by two plain clothes street crimes-type cops," School Drugs vocalist Josh Jurk begins telling me. "After proceeding with your standard license registration schtick, she looked in the back seat and asked me why the box sitting there is labeled 'School Drugs.' I tried to tell her that was the name of my band and it contained merch, she then asked me to open the box. As I turned around to show her what was inside, she sharply exclaimed 'slowly!,' and put her hand on her gun. I turned around, opened the box and held up a hat and cassette tape. 'See? We got hats, tapes, stickers…' looking into the box, somewhat disappointed, she said '…oh.' I said 'A little too obvious, right?' and she sort of shrugged and let me go."
As hard as the material on Relative Suffering is, I love the melodic aspect of what School Drugs is doing. Josh doesn't disagree with my take on that. "Someone once told me '...no one ever said you can’t make a hardcore record like fucking Oasis,' and while I personally have no taste for that band, the sentiment isn’t any less true. While that statement more so pertains to the sequencing and pace of a record, I think it also rings true to the songwriting on said record as well.
"Tear It Up, Poison Idea, Bad Brains, Black Flag all had choruses and achieved this balancing act of being aggressive but catchy. Digesting all of that material seems to manifest a desire in us to have that same sensibility and purpose. It isn’t usually a thought out process but rather an osmosis of holding those records perhaps a little too tightly."
For folks who might not be aware with the history there, I ask Josh to break down the Jersey Shore hardcore/punk scene since I'm curious about some of the key bands and what the sonic element they shared might be. "I grew up in Ocean County and went to a lot of VFW shows in Brick town and the surrounding areas. Where as New Brunswick had the basement scene, we had VFW halls, Moose lodges, and a particularly amazing Log Cabin in Toms River. Of course we all know about the major NJ hardcore punk players like Lifetime, Misfits, AOD, Vision, etc., but the shore has seemed to have a strong vein of answers to those groups for some years now.
"Full Speed Ahead, Tear It Up, Blind Society, Down In Flames, and a litany of other bands all came from Brick town, the epicenter of these halls and lodges. On any given weekend, those bands could be found playing along side the Degenerics, Void Control, Kill Your Idols (NYHC), The Ergs etc., really solidifying this whole shore scene."
Josh is eager to get on the road and spread the School Drugs gospel outside of the NJ/NY/PA area. "There’s some touring in the near future for us. We want to get down south again soon, as well as out to the Midwest. After we get rid of some of these records, I’d like to get back to recording ASAP. Nothing’s set in stone, but we’ve been writing quite a bit. Maybe an LP next?"