Priests’ ‘JJ’ Feels Super ‘Natural,’ as Do the Burbs for KAG
It's finally here. After four lauded EPs, Washington, D.C. punk stalwarts Priests have announced the ridiculously anticipated Nothing Feels Natural LP for release on January 27 via their own Sister Polygon Records. With a clean-tone surfy twang, the new single (and subject of the new video) "JJ" exhibits the post-punk swagger that we've come to expect from the band, packaged with Katie Alice Greer's attention-commanding vocal that cuts to the top of it all. Check it out below.
Now living in the burbs, Greer recently released a solo EP that has her exploring more lo-fi industrial post-punk sounds. Also on Sister Polygon, the four-song tape titled EP A is a 15-minute exploration of music that she says is inspired by “weird suburbia, formidable famous women, and the 1947 film Black Narcissus.” While her performances with Priests have drawn comparisons to the punky and shouty delivery of Kathleen Hanna, as KAG she takes on a darker and harsher tone, with down-pitched vocals and synths. Songs are still about identity, femininity, sexuality and power dynamics, but it’s now more Posh Isolation than Kill Rock Stars.
We asked her a few questions about the new EP, her approach as KAG vs. the frontwoman of Priests, and life in the D.C. scene.
You say the music of KAG is inspired by weird suburbia. What suburbia?
I live in Prince George's County, Md., right now. Right over the border of D.C. I lived in the city for 10 years, and my last house got bought by a condo developer, so I moved out to a house owned by a friend. I've lived in D.C. for a decade and moved at least 10 times, so that's always been a bit hard if you need some kind of process and routine to make your art. My room in my house right now is downstairs, and it’s big enough to set up my gear and make a little noise. Suburbs have a lot of inverted character to me, maybe more than cities. Lots of vague outline and suggestion. A lot of stuff speaks to me out here, which can be an exciting and creepy feeling. I like it. Suburban places are quiet; you can project all kinds of imagined lives onto the minimal street activity and neatly manicured houses. I grew up in suburbs in Michigan, and I think [the] identical houses and privacy and isolation that comes with suburbia is a strangely provocative inspiration for me.
Both “Narcissus” and “Sister Ruth” are references from the 1947 U.K. film Black Narcissus. What is it about the film that inspired you?
I love this film. I could talk about it for hours. Jack Cardiff is my favorite cinematographer. The way he chooses color to narrate the progressive emotional and psychological unraveling in this film is remarkable. It starts off very light — pale and neutral colors, blues and whites — and eventually the colors are very vivid and shadowy: intense reds, purple, green, black. A lot of the shots are constructed to express the characters' internal thoughts and personalities. It is about forces of nature, desire, longing, exoticization, classism. It's definitely about racism and white supremacy ... it's very interesting to me that they made this movie about white people fetishizing and misunderstanding another culture, presumably because they can't see the humanity in it, and yet women of color are totally erased from the production of this film ABOUT fetishizing women of color and their culture. Anyway, yeah, this is one of my favorite movies. It is beautiful and scary and intensely symbolic, so it's never just about one thing.
You’ve said that power dynamics and power relations are a constant theme in your work. How does it come into play as KAG? Does the fact that you are solo give you a certain power?
Priests has taught me a lot about collaboration and teamwork and the necessity of communicating. KAG is the opposite — it is about, "How do I make this work by myself?" I have no shortage of ideas, but the resources to actualize them are often in short supply. I get so much satisfaction out of making both team projects and solo projects work. It's like Master P says on the new Solange record: "You gotta do stuff to where you can go to sleep at night." That kinda thing really guides my work. I just have a lot of drives and desires creatively, and I need to be able to work on stuff so that I can feel good.
Had you worked much with synths and samplers before KAG?
I've casually messed around with synths and drum machines before, but usually it was stuff that belonged to friends. It's important to me to own my own gear whenever possible, to own the means of production, and that is often not easy. Like, shit is expensive, you know? But it's really made me feel comfortable with diving in and making sounds come out of stuff and shaping them how I want. I don't feel timid because I own it; the gear belongs to me.
Do you find your performance changing much from Priests?
To me, performance is inherent to being visible; we are always performing when we are seen. But KAG performance is totally different than Priests. When I'm operating gear, that is technically still part of the performance because it is visible, but it's obviously so different to watch someone pushing buttons and pedals and keys than watch them jump all around and share energy with other bandmates.
Do you ever listen to a song or an artist and think they would work well as a split with another artist? On hearing KAG, I thought you would be great for a split cassette with CC Dust. Is working with other artists something you could consider doing?
I'm in awe of the music people are making these days. I’ve been talking with my friend Mary [Jane Regalado] about doing stuff together; she's one of my favorite artists. Her bands are Gauche [and] Neonates, and she plays in Downtown Boys, but she has this solo thing called La Unika. I think she's a genius. I do love CC Dust; also love Olivia Neutron-John and Blood Club, and recently got an I_Like_Dog_Face tape; she's really cool. A lot of good stuff in D.C.: Hand Grenade Job is doing live music for an all-woman production of The Iliad … I love what's happening in D.C. through Sonic Circuits and Select D.C. There's just always a lot of interesting music in this town. I'm not even getting to half of it, there's so much. I love D.C. so much.
PRIESTS, NOTHING FEELS NATURAL TRACK LIST
4. Lelia 20
5. No Big Bang
7. Nothing Feels Natural
8. Pink White House