Priests playing in a Raleigh, NC, bookstore in June. Photo by Natalie Jarema.
Promotional material describes D.C. punk band Priests as “the sort of band that is unafraid to look you right in the eye and beg answers to big questions.” So I take lead singer Katie Alice Greer up on that offer.
“How do we start a revolution?” I ask Greer, while we talk about the punk band’s new EP Bodies & Control & Money & Power.
“Objectively I'd prefer radical change in a lot of arenas but—I don't even deal well with waking up in the morning,” she replies. “Is it really appropriate for me to expect us to just burn everything to the ground and deal with that well?”
Greer and her band—featuring Taylor Mulitz on bass, G.L. Jaguar on guitar, and Daniele Daniele on drums—are touring relentlessly this summer after their 7-song EP, which came out in June on Don Giovanni Records (a label known for the likes of Screaming Females and Waxahatchee). Priests explain that they tour constantly because they care about their fans deeply and they want to create buzz the old-fashioned way, without much help from the internet. Most of Priests’ members grew up in an all-ages punk scene in D.C. and it remains fundamental to them to be inclusive of fans who are under 21, so they’re committed to playing small all-ages venues around the country.
I caught their show at an indie-bookstore-turned-all-ages music venue in Raleigh, NC in June. Priests began well past midnight after three openers, but Greer careened the stage full of energy, seeming like an old pro even though she’s only in her twenties. The group thrashed through their first three songs (“Leave Me Alone”,“Doctor” and “Modern Love/No Weapon”), clutching the audience by their collective throats. The energy in the room swelled to the point of bursting—then Greer interjected, “We’re gonna do a Bobby Darin song next, 'Beyond the Sea.'” Amid the youthful crowd, a few of us get the joke and some nodded agreeably anticipating their next raucous hit cover, "Beyond the Sea." Priests are no stranger to humorous indulgences, known for pitching burritos into the audience and thanking Chipotle at the Pitchfork Showcase in Brooklyn. While on tour, Greer is currently reading a book about the nature of pranks and the power of spoofing social rigidity. On Burrito-Gate she offers, “We thought: Wouldn’t it be so funny if we threw burritos at people and thanked a fast food restaurant? Much of our band is just centered around what is most amusing and interesting to us.”
After barely taking a breath to pause, Priests moved full-throttle into the last four songs of their set. Deluged in sweat, Greer wailed just an inch away from the crowd, while Mulitz swayed to the music, Jaguar wove intricate yet explosive riffs, and Daniele kept a cool beat behind a sheath of hair, hammering her drums into the masses’ chest cavities—invoking fond memories of Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem. In the center of the crowd’s frenzied chaos, the band was polished, their chemistry keeping them perfectly in sync. After the show, the Raleigh bookstore turned the lights on again and the band waited patiently at their merch table as they talk to every local fan who wants to say hi. Mulitz even gives a personal e-mail address to some kids who want to learn how to cover their song “Radiation.”
It’s hard to catch their lyrics as they rock onstage, but analyzing Priests' liner notes reveals an independent political consciousness. On the song “And Breeding,” Greer sings, ”Barack Obama killed something in me and I’m gonna get him for it.” She explains that the song was born from disillusionment, “In college I truly thought I was going to vote for Barack Obama and work for the government and become a senator and be useful. But I just don't consent to the wars and a number of other things we're involved in as a nation.”
Another line from “And Breeding” seems to speak to the opportunities pop music misses to promote social justice: ”We need to turn Elvis into Che Guevara/Or Madonna.” When I ask her about it, Greer says it’s not that simple, “I love pop music. I just wish people would write more songs like ‘Freedom Of Choice’ and ‘Born In The U.S.A..’ My friend has ‘You can't start a fire without a spark’ spray painted on her bedroom wall—her excitement about that song makes me so happy I want to cry.”
Watch out for Priests as their spark burns brighter with every mile traveled and every cassette exchanged—Priests are doing their part to start a fire, hopefully without burning everything to the ground.
Related Reading: Meet the Teen Sisters Who Formed a Punk Band Called Dog Party.
Robyn is a music enthusiast and writer living in Raleigh, NC. Have something you think she should hear? Hit her up on Twitter @WarParts.