Interview with American Punk Band Priests Ahead of their Show at The Maze

Photos: Audrey Melton
Interview: Rachael Halaburda
Sunday 15 October 2017
reading time: min, words

Touring in support of their latest album, Nothing Feels Natural, the Washington, DC-based band return to Nottingham for the first time since 2015 and have plenty of love for Babe Punch and Sleaford Mods...


Hello, can you introduce yourselves and tell us who is in the band?
Daniele: We are Daniele (drummer), Gideon (guitarist), and Katie (vocals). Taylor, our original bassist is now focusing on his other band Flasher, so for this european tour, our good friend Carson Cox (of Merchandise fame) is joining us.
Katie: Carson is a special guest bassist on this tour, our other guests as of late have been Fabi from Savila and She Shreds mag, also Anna Nasty of Olivia Neutron John, we’ve been lucky to have such a stellar crew.

How does the songwriting work within the band? And is there a particular song with a significant meaning to it that you could tell us about?
Daniele: The songwriting is really collaborative and varies greatly from song to song. Sometimes it starts as a lyric or a riff or a bass line or drum beat and develops via jamming, sometimes someone has a more fleshed-out idea, and sometimes we work in groups of two to come up with or develop ideas and then bring that to the group. It’s exciting, and I think lends itself to artistic growth and development, but it’s often slow-going, because we don’t have a set method that we have honed and made super efficient.

As a group what do you feel is you biggest achievement so far?
Katie: I think probably the last album, Nothing Feels Natural. It was a real struggle to get done, but we did it and maintained our independence and integrity through the recording process and its release. But we’re always pushing ourselves, so I imagine if you asked me this question next year, I would say the same thing about the album we’re writing now, which is definitely has presented its own struggles.

You use your position as a band to highlight and combat social issues, what drives you to write about this and spread your message?
Katie: I don’t know that we’re doing anything with our position that anybody else with a conscience isn’t doing right now.
Daniele: We’re definitely not trying to tell anyone else how to live. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions about our band that we’re trying to correct. We are not a didactic band. I feel like people often mean ‘propaganda’ when they say political, but that’s a really damaging idea. All art is political. Our music is often antagonistic, but it’s no more political than a Justin Beiber song. But to answer your question: we’re just compelled to write and play songs about what we’re feeling, what we’re seeing, what we’re experiencing, what’s those around us are experiencing.

You have been described to be “fighting fascism in your own terms”; how do you use your music to aid you in this search for political and social justice?
Katie: I don’t really think about it that way, I think about how we can make the best album or show or whatever, and I hope that emphasises that we think art is important to a healthy, functioning society. I think that is our most direct role, if I’m an activist for anything these days it is for a society that respects and supports the advancement of the arts.
Daniele: It’s a really helpful way to think through things. We are all really close, and there’s a lot of trust between us that you wouldn’t have with most people you talk to. So when we’re writing or song (or answering interview questions), we have to talk about what we mean or what we’re thinking or feeling, and that impetus to explain ourselves or our thoughts externally forces us to think through ideas or feeling or phenomena and articulate them more formally than if those ideas were just staying inside our own heads. Art is very dialectical to me, I need the audience or collaborators as a ploy to push myself and my own thinking forward.

What is life on the road with Priests usually like?
Daniele: Pretty boring, and we like it that way :-).
Katie: I started knitting! I just started learning but I’m bringing extra needles so I hope to share this new and boring past time with someone else, it’s actually really meditative and keeps my phone out of my hands for a bit.

What are you looking forward to about playing in Nottingham? On Facebook you were trying to hook up with Sleaford Mods…
Daniele: If Sleaford Mods are reading this, please DM us, so we can hang! We’re looking forward to coming back. We played JT Soar back in September 2015 with Babe Punch, and the promoter made us espresso at his apartment and introduced me to Pentangle which I fell in love with. It was such a lovely time.
Katie: Babe Punch was one of the best bands we played with in 2015, I still have their shirt and CD.

Who is you biggest influence and why?
Daniele: Changes all the time, but right now I would say the producer Flood.
Katie: Money or lack there of? Bowie? Also my crippling anxiety.

Is there anything big coming from Priests we should look out for?
Daniele: We’re going to start recording the new album very soon, so look out for that sometime next year!

Coming from Washington DC, do you feel yourselves affected in anyway by the city’s big musical history?
Daniele: Yeah, definitely, especially as an outsider. I grew up in Texas and Colorado, and lived in NYC for seven years before I moved to DC when I was 25. You could tell there was a more considered and considerate ethos shared by a lot of the music communities around here, even though they are all incredibly different. I don’t mean idealise it though, there are plenty of cheesy wankers making bad music for the wrong reasons here, just like any other place.
Katie: There’s so much music here, I feel very lucky to know about go-go, so much jazz history, the many weird bands who have come out of our city. It’s an unusual place. Random recommendations off the top of my head, Rare Essence, Meltdown, Billy Stewart, Nuclear Crayons, No Trend, Chalk Circle.

What other bands coming out of DC would you recommend to us?
Daniele: We run our own record label which we put out our own music on, as well as friends’ music, so of course, I have to use this opportunity to push our goods (all available here). I love Governess, Flasher, Gauche (my other band, which is touring the UK Nov 6-12!!), Cigarette, and Hand Grenade Job, all currently-active DC bands that we’ve put out. There’s also a cool new band called TK Echo I really like. Hometown darlings, Puff Pieces. Janel Leppin’s work in both Janel & Anthony and Mellow Diamond. Any iteration of Luke Stewart’s work. The list goes on! It’s a big city, there’s a lot, too much to list here.
Katie: Janel’s album American God is great. Yeah go see Gauche on their first UK tour, quite a rare treat from our homeland.

Any final words for the LeftLion readers?
Katie: No, but I want to know every person in town’s thoughts on the 1973 Disney classic Robin Hood. Is it an accurate depiction of Nottingham?
Daniele: “It was easy. It was cheap. Go and do it!”

Priests, Thick Syrup and Slumb Party are at The Maze on Tuesday 17 October 2017. Buy tickets.

Priests website 
Priests bandcamp

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