On a recent early Sunday afternoon, Priests took a big, outdoor stage.
It was the same stage that En Vogue, Cardi B, Lil B, Princess Nokia, and The Jesus Lizard would all play on, at Houston's Day for Night festival. It was the last day of the fest, which would go on until 2 a.m. the next morning.
"A lot of these festivals that we're playing this year, we are the small, little band. So we're playing early, when people are not out yet, or they're too sober to have fun or something," said Katie Alice Greer, the band's charismatic vocalist. "That's a fun, interesting challenge to see how can you put on a good show for people that are still maybe not even awake yet."
And even though, it was probably the first set of music that festival-goers would be watching over the course of the next 12 hours, they elicited a serious response. Die-hard fans sang along. Casual fans danced, head-banged and looked on in appreciation.
The positive reception that Priests regularly gets at these large festivals is likely due to the obvious enthusiasm they are approaching their music with.
"Especially in this modern landscape where art is increasingly less and less important and music is just a tool for selling beer, or clothing, or for a Spotify playlist or whatever, it's very important to me that music still be this sacred powerful thing, that transforms people's lives. Music has always been such a powerful element in my life," said Greer.
Walking that line, of playing music professionally and playing music for passion, is something Priests grapples with in all of the decisions they make: what concerts and festivals to play, how to release their music (they run their own record label, Sister Polygon), and who to hire to help manage or promote their band.
"For a long time I wasn't sure we wanted to do this professionally because I felt like it would compromise what our music is about. And then I just started thinking about how living under capitalism compromises what I'm about on a daily basis. And every job that I've had is shitty and exploitative and I don't necessarily believe in it, but it doesn't change the fact that I have to have a job," said Greer. "I know some of my friends are like, 'I don't want to have to think about the money with my music,' and I respect that. But I just feel like I'm thinking about the money anyway. I don't have the luxury of putting it to the side."
And so, instead of being relegated to playing the DIY shows of the underground punk scene that Priests came up in, they are sharing stages with major artists.
"I know that genre exists, and subcultures exist, obviously, but I'm a fan of music in general. So I always listen to a lot of stuff, and for me it's cool to have access to seeing more stuff than just punk shows by playing here," said Greer. At Day for Night, "I got to see Cardi B, Laurie Anderson, and Nine Inch Nails within the span of two hours, which is not a bill of artists I would ever think to see together."
Having entered the world of the mainstream music industry means that Priests now have to think differently of themselves.
"When people call us like a punk band, or a DIY band, I try to be like, you can just call us a rock band," said Greer. "We're not interested in benefiting from some like, authentic image of punk or DIY, when that's not what's going on."
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