Using post-punk as a way of life rather than just a musical style, Priests' rebellious spirit and questioning, intellectual approach is informed by punk's sound and ethics but not confined to them. By forming their own label and paying their support bands fairly, they continue the DIY approach of Washington, D.C. bands before them. Meanwhile, their music touches on fiery rock but also borrows from jazz, disco, electronic, and spoken word, and the band cites Portishead and Nine Inch Nails as influences alongside more expected role models like Fugazi. On their breakthrough 2017 debut album, Nothing Feels Natural, Priests tackled personal and political issues with a mix of outrage, humor, and contemplation that resonated with listeners reeling from the tumultuous late 2010s. They remained challenging and surprising on 2019's The Seduction of Kansas, a more polished but incisive album that reaffirmed that Priests define themselves, and their music, on their terms alone.
The band's roots date back to 2011, when drummer/vocalist Daniele Daniele moved from Brooklyn to Washington, D.C., to get her master's degree in English at Georgetown University. Not long after arriving, she hit it off with singer Katie Greer at a show, and the pair decided to start a band. At another concert, Greer connected with guitarist G.L. Jaguar, a social media friend whom she hadn't met in person before. The trio's jamming led to them recording Tape 1 in a Maryland basement and self-releasing it in January 2012. Later that year, Priests added bassist Taylor Mulitz, who joined when Greer was touring with her other band, Chain & the Gang. In December 2012, the group issued the Radiation/Personal Planes seven-inch, the first release from Priests' own label, Sister Polygon (whose roster also includes Downtown Boys and Snail Mail), as well as their first with producer Kevin Erickson. Tape Two, the band's first recorded work to feature Mulitz, arrived in June 2013. A year later, the mini-album Bodies and Control and Money and Power, which featured production help from Black Eyes member Hugh McElroy, earned Priests more attention.
To record their debut album, Priests ventured to Olympia, Washington. However, the band was dissatisfied with the sessions and eventually re-recorded their songs with McElroy and Erickson back in D.C. The results were Nothing Feels Natural, the band's most eclectic and thoughtful set of songs to date. Upon its release in January 2017, the album earned widespread acclaim, and the band spent much of that year touring in support of it. Late in 2017, Mulitz left the band to perform full time with his other group, Flasher. When Greer, Jaguar, and Daniele reconvened to make Priests' second album, they worked with touring bassist Alexandra Tyson and multi-instrumentalist Janel Leppin (who also played on Nothing Feels Natural) on songs inspired by Nine Inch Nails, Portishead, and Massive Attack, as well as Thomas Frank's 2004 book What's the Matter with Kansas? Produced by John Congleton, The Seduction of Kansas arrived in April 2019. ~ Heather Phares