D.C. quartet Priests was making politically charged punk rock while Obama was still in office, so it goes without saying that they’re pretty fired up on their first full-length, Nothing Feels Natural, which was released just last week. Frontwoman Katie Alice Greer is biting and bellicose in her delivery, exploring the many themes we all seem to be grappling with, including “frustration, sadness, absurdity, comedy, tragedy — the whole sha-bang.”
According to Greer, the music scene in D.C. is “rich and diverse — [there are] lots of sounds that are unique to the city itself.” In regards to the punk scene, she attests that not much has changed in the wake of Trump’s inauguration, but the lyrics do seem more politically-minded:
“Beyond music itself, DC isn’t really well understood by outsiders. People think it is simply the federal government and its workers, but actually many of us go about our daily lives hardly interacting with that world at all. DC has no vote in Congress, despite the fact that we are tax-paying citizens, [so] we are used to fending for ourselves and being held hostage by the partisan politics of the federal government…I think all this stuff influences us in one way or another.”
Priests’ music is not subtle in the least, and it’s starkly unapologetic. Greer, Gideon Jaguar (guitar), Taylor Mulitz (bass), and Daniele Daniele (drums) make it very apparent how they regard the current socio-political landscape, and they challenge listeners to do the same. Their music will grab you by the shoulders and shake you out of complacency, challenging you to take a deeper look at your choices, your engagement with the world, and how society regards — or rather, disregards — you.
Though punk in attitude and subject matter, Priests experiment with a vast array of sub-genres, from angst-ridden surf rock on “Jj” to doom folk on the titular “Nothing Feels Natural.” They also find inspiration in films. “Pink White House” was “sonically influenced by Sigourney Weaver narrowly escaping the alien in Alien.” Lyrically, Greer tears the deceit of the American Dream a new one, belting, “I’m really not concerned with what you think. You are just a cog in the machine and I am the wet dream, soft and mean.”
In regards to the dynamism of the songs on Nothing Feels Natural, Daniele observes, “Our songs develop all kinds of ways. So sometimes the instruments are responding to the words and sometimes the words come in response to the instruments. The music is so dynamic because we’re all ricocheting off one another and most feelings are really multifaceted.”
She continues, “The music has to change a lot in the course of even a single song to convey the complexity of a feeling. My biggest challenge these days is to musically express wide variations of feeling with teeny-tiny subtle changes. It almost feels like meditation the way it focuses your attention. It’s a very satisfying practice once you’re in it, but it can be really hard to get into it.”
Photo credit: Audrey Melton
Priests are coming to Los Angeles, a city Greer regards as “one of the weirdest places,” likening it to being on Mars “in the best way possible.” Grab tickets to the February 20th show, which will take place at The Echoplex with support from Alice Bag and Stef Chura. If you’re feeling stifled and pissed off by the barrage of incredulous news stories, Priests will assure you that you’re not alone.
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