Music can be so many things that you can love a band for who they are, what they stand for, and who they're striving to be for just as many reasons as you can adore their sound. That's how most would describe Washington DC's Priests, a band that's so much more than just another punk band. Between running their own label Sister Polygon Records to playing shows for admirable causes, the four piece happened to drop one of the best albums of 2017 with Nothing Feels Natural.
Now after playing here earlier in the year, they're returning to Houston to wow all in attendance at Day For Night. the Houston Press took a moment to chat with lead singer Katie Alice Greer to talk about genres, running a record label, and being a touring band in today's already crowded space.
Since the band started out five years ago, music journalists have called them everything from political to punk, but the labels are something that comes from everyone else it seems, and not the four piece.
"I don't think we often think about a genre when we make music. It is something that we're labeled with after the fact, and I understand its purpose," says Greer. "We started playing in people's basements and had a set up that's traditional for a rock or punk band, so I understand why people categorize us that way. It's just not the most interesting way to think about music, in my opinion. We just try to make music that's exciting to us."
The band's latest offering, this year's Nothing Feels Natural took a while to come out, in fact the band almost broke up prior to it getting released.
"We had some rough patches, and if I'm being completely honest, Priests has always been going through some kind of "rough" patches. We've always been a band of four equal voices, which as you might expect, can cause conflict between strong personalities," Greer says. "The challenge of communicating has always been as rewarding as it has been frustrating, it teaches you a lot if you're willing to hear its lessons. We learned a lot from the trials and errors of the recording process as well. We found that recording the songs many times was actually really useful to the songwriting process, but it was a shame that it was so expensive and time-consuming to record so many versions that we thought would be the final result. So this time we're trying to build that process in before we start, rather than after the fact."
The band also runs their own label, something that can be daunting and difficult for any one person to attempt to do much less a band trying to write and record as well as tour. With Sister Polygon Records, the band who has also dropped work with Don Giovanni Records finds something rewarding in releasing their own material as well as that of others.
"I personally like being responsible for every step in this process," Greer says. "No offense to the non-morons running big labels, but I don't really want some numbers guy, (and it's almost always a guy) who knows nothing about music (and who doesn't respect it) the final say on our album art, how often we get to release records, or how it will get marketed. I guess at heart I'm the same person that I was when I was a little kid, I don't like people telling me what to do."
Until recently, the members of Priests were attempting to be a band, run a label, and hold onto day jobs at the same time.
"We all had outside jobs until this year, right now we've been touring so much that we can't work anywhere else. I've usually juggled a few different jobs at the same time. Right now it's the band, the label, and doing some writing of my own on the side," Greer says.
While the band has made their name as an amazing live act, they hadn't really played a festival until this year. Playing festivals means that the band can earn better money. According to Greer, the strength of the live show and playing festivals were all things that came in time.
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"We practice a lot. We're all self-taught musicians and we've always kind of learned as we've gone along. Up until this year, Priests was a fairly isolated operation. We didn't play festivals because we weren't invited, and we probably weren't invited because we didn't have an agent and we just weren't well known enough. The money for festivals and playing at U.S. colleges is better than playing regular gigs."
Which of course bring us to the band's appearance at this year's Day For Night festival, where for most fans, they're a welcomed addition to the lineup. When discussing what the band has in store, Greer says "so I am actually super excited for this one. My jaw kind of dropped when I saw the lineup, and I'm also hoping to catch a viewing of the James Turrell sky space piece that you can only see at sunrise or sunset. Maybe it's a little ambitious as we're only in town for 48 hours.
"My favorite perks of playing festivals this year is a free ticket to see artists I normally don't have the money to go out and see. We are writing new stuff as I mentioned, and we have tried to casually drop it into our sets lately, just to see how it's going. Nothing is finished so we go back and forth on whether we should play it or not. I am really not sure if we are going to play new stuff. I would like to so long as everyone feels comfortable. Maybe a few, we shall see."
You can stream Priests' music in all of the usual spaces, or purchase it directly from Sister Polygon Records. priests is set to perform on Sunday, December 17 at Day For Night. The all ages festival will also include performances from Tyler The Creator, Solange, St Vincent, Laurie Anderson and more, with tickets between $95 and $750.