When D.C. band Priests came along a few years ago, it seemed pretty traditional—a back-to-basics, question-everything punk band not too different from the young punk or riot grrrl acts that had found fans here in the ’90s. Its live show was raucous but still controlled, and usually laden with not-so-fresh messages about big subjects: sexism, politics, injustice, rich white men. Priests seemed serious, and (rightfully) asked to be taken seriously, like any ideological punk band.
None of that has changed now, expect for one important thing: “Right Wing,” a song just released from Priests’ forthcoming debut EP, is the best thing the band has done yet. The overall effect is less sledgehammer, more rubber mallet. The band sounds practiced after months of touring; they crackle, with a discernible sense of control. The intensely smart and performative vocalist Katie Alice Greer—who’s truly convincing as a punk singer, but would shine as a human-rights panelist—doesn’t pull out all the stops on “Right Wing,” but she’s joined by backing vocals that Priests fans might not have realized they wanted. It all sounds like a subtler and more coherent version of the group’s earlier, scrappier self.
The vastly improved production (the EP was recorded both at Inner Ear Studio with Hugh McElroy and Kevin Erickson and Fancy Time Studio with Kyle “Slick” Johnson) could make the biggest difference of all. Listen to “Right Wing” back-to-back with the band’s previous “Tape Two,” and you’ll find that it doesn’t differ that much from some of the songs on that release. But it sparkles in ways the band hasn’t before—and it sticks around much longer. Which raises the point: Hey, maybe all this time, Priests just needed to record in a nicer studio to sound like the great band it is.
The EP, Bodies and Control and Money and Power, is out June 3 on Don Giovanni Records/Sister Polygon.