Led by front woman Katie Alice Greer, the band Priests will perform on Wednesday at Ace of Cups.
Much of modern indie-rock music is all about the inner voice.
“I” statements abound — in anthems about terrible exes, songs about some unknown sadness and calls to embrace self love — and the outside world is sometimes shut out.
Katie Alice Greer is the ringleader of Priests, a rock band that pushes against the tide of “I” to focus on the “we.” Fans can see the band on Wednesday at Ace of Cups.
Greer’s music walks through the conquest of Texas starting in the 1500s (“Texas Instrument”), national politics (“Pink White House”) and narcissists.
Not that she doesn’t allow occasional navel gazing, but Greer isn’t sure how to let herself get comfortable with the idea.
“A lot of times when I sit down and write a song, I think about ‘I’ statements, but it’s hard for me to justify that,” she said. “I think it does feel selfish to me in some way. … When you’re writing a song and you plan on performing it live, I have to feel confident enough to justify taking up that space every night.”
Not that her songs are devoid of personality.
Greer has pulled from “The Wizard of Oz,” films by David Byrne of Talking Heads fame and Karl Marx, weaving together disparate bits to tell colorful stories.
She learned that skill from her father, a minister, who she said “is a really good storyteller.”
While sitting in church each Sunday morning, she listened as he intertwined anecdotes with Bible passages, and she paid attention.
“I think the way I approach art-making is really informed by my experiences of people getting across big ideas by telling little stories,” Greer said.
The band’s full-length debut, “Nothing Feels Natural,” found a captive audience ready to listen to Greer’s tales of societal upheaval.
The album ended up on many year-end “best of” lists, cementing the band’s place in rock music and marking a break from its punk and DIY roots.
Started in Washington, D.C., in 2012, Priests emerged as a ripping, roaring punk band ready to thoughtfully dismantle the system.
Together, Greer and fellow Priests members Daniele Daniele (drums), G.L. Jaguar (guitar) and Taylor Mulitz (who played bass until his departure in 2017) founded Sister Polygon Records.
They hired a publicist, a manager and then a booking agent, turning the project into a full professional endeavor.
“We’re more like small-business owners, and you try to outsource work to where you need help,” Jaguar said. “You can’t do everything; there are (only) so many hours in the day.”
When asked how they have managed the transition, Daniele said, “credit card debt.”
Her bandmates agreed.
“If you’re getting into music to make money, especially any form of rock music, that is a fool’s errand,” Greer said.
“That’s barking up the wrong tree,” Jaguar said, adding his own colloquialism.
The need to maintain cash flow was one reason the band decided to stay together after Mulitz’s departure. They nearly broke up, but therapy and determination kept the priesthood intact.
“Part of it was necessity,” Daniele said. “This is my income, (and) there’s a part of me that doesn’t know what else to do. We’ve committed our lives to how we are living. … Once you’ve made the decision to keep going, don’t pussyfoot it. Put in the work. Go to therapy. Talk it out. Don’t be lame-o about it.”
If there’s one thing Priests is skilled at, it’s replacing the “I” with the “we.”
“Us making it work is a decision we commit to every single day,” Greer said. “It’s not like we’ve decided we won’t break up and now we’ll never break up. Every day, the intention we put into what we do, we’re reaffirming the commitment we made to each other.”