Priests bring punk-rock back to life

Priests kick off North American tour for their first LP, Nothing Feels Natural

It’s a casual night at Casa Del Popolo, sitting side by side with punk-rock band Priests. Grunge music is playing in the background and sandwiches are being ordered as the band awaits their moment to shine on stage. On Jan. 27, Priests released their first full-length album, Nothing Feels Natural, under their own label, Sister Polygon Records.The album brings punk-rock back to life with its raucous guitar sounds and post garage-rock aesthetic. It’s the soundtrack that will take you back to the CBGB days in New York City. These post-punkers have made Montreal the third stop of their North American tour. “Are winters always this cold over here?” asked bassist Taylor Mulitz.

Priests lineup consists of Daniele Daniele on drums, Katie Alice Greer on vocals, G.L Jaguar on guitar and Mulitz on bass. The band was founded in Washington, D.C. back in 2012 when Daniele moved there for grad school. “I had just started to play drums and I wanted to keep playing. I was on the lookout and met Katie at a show. We ran into G.L Jaguar at the next show and decided to start a band,” said Daniele. Initially, they played shows as a trio until they decided to add a new member. “G.L Jaguar met Taylor, our bassist, and he joined us a year later,” said Daniele. Irony stems from their band name, as there is nothing priest-like about them or their music. “At first, it was kind of a joke, because none of us could be priests. I’m Jewish, the other two are women and Taylor is also Jewish” said Jaguar.

According to Jaguar, the band felt they urgently needed to start making music. They felt frustrated about the political issues arising at that time, and decided to take part in the Occupy Wall Street movement. The Occupy Wall Street was a movement against social and economic inequality worldwide. “We had to make music and couldn’t imagine not doing it. We were in weird places in our lives,” said Jaguar. “Our first show was in a living room and our second show was at Occupy D.C which was part of the whole Occupy movement.” According to Greer, everything is political and her personal feelings are political, which is the meta theme of Nothing Feels Natural. “Now that we’re in the era of Trump, people look back at Obama and think, ‘Ah, sunny times,’ when those times for us were very dark in a lot of ways. The main themes of the album revolve around anxiety, depression or defeat, and trying to find a way forward,” said Daniele.

The album’s lyrics represent the personal-political theme through their metaphoric storylines. “There’s a lot of frustration that we are working out through playing music. It’s cathartic. It makes sense that sometimes, when you are writing lyrics, you use it as a way to escape that and create a narrative that isn’t about your own life,” said Mulitz. For instance, their track “Lelia 20” was written from the point of view of the movie character Lelia from the movie Shadows, a film by John Cassavetes. “Katie was writing the song from the perspective of this character at age 20. If you listen to the lyrics, people understand them in such different ways because they are political,” said Mulitz.

Portrait shot of Priests band members. Photo by Audrey Melton

In terms of the creative process, it is lead singer Greer who writes all the lyrics, and the band as a whole works together on the instrumentals. “Katie has notebooks filled with lyrics, and then we come to practice different riffs together that we compose individually,” said Mulitz. However, the song “No Big Bang,” was written by Daniele—it is a song about insomnia. “Most times, I can’t sleep because my brain would just keep going. Even if I want to rest, if I have an idea that really grabs me, I just can’t stop obsessing over it,” said Daniele. She said finding an idea that excites you can bring forth creativity in a lot of ways, but the flipside is you risk getting trapped in your own mind. “Ideas can spiral out of control,” said Daniele.

In Priests’ music video “JJ”, the bandmates are filmed one by one as their faces and upper bodies are touched by the others without their ability to stop it. What inspired the “JJ” music video was their low budget. “It was a very cheap way to make something visually effective. I saw that in a Kanye West music video and thought it was a great effect,” said Greer.

Greer went on to express how people have tenuous relationships with how they’re being perceived, as we exist in a world where so many conversations happen on social media. “Conversations through performance can be useful when you connect with people, but it can constantly make you so aware of yourself. I think a video like this one, where you see these faceless hands touching you, mirrors feelings like that,” said Greer.

According to Daniele, Nothing Feels Natural was a hard album to make and it took them a long time to finalize it. “We’ve been writing this album for three years. We first started recording it a year and a half ago,” said Daniele. Priests have been playing these songs for a while, but this tour is the first time they’ve noticed people are connecting with their music in a meaningful way. “It’s more than just, ‘Oh, yeah this is cool music!’ This time, people know the songs, they are able to connect with them,” said Jaguar. “The excitement of someone knowing the song and being excited about it in return makes me way more excited on stage,” said Daniele.

Priests have the simple goal of making a living out of music. When it comes to the music they make, “we don’t ever want to settle in one place. We’ve always been a dynamic band,” said Greer. “I think we all dream and hope for consistent evolution. We are aesthetically restless.”

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