Wednesday, June 28, 2006


It's interesting to think of which current rock bands will last long enough to reach that coveted spot some of us know as 'dad rock'. I know that may not exactly sound like a good thing but to many people that I've talked to bands like AC/DC, Zeppelin and the Stones fall into this category. To me that's pretty good company so if that means being known as 'dad rock' then I'd consider it an honor. The reality is that the reason the label 'dad rock' exists is because there haven't been many worthy heirs to the great rock throne from my generation thus leaving an enormous gap with seemingly only late 80's Guns n' Roses invited to the party. Now obviously there are all sorts of bands that will be regarded as classic but I'm talking about good old party Rock n' Roll.

Part of the problem is that too many bands conciously try to be the instant classic and the ones that don't are dismissed as going for an old sound. The problem is that a successful rock bands sound isn't necessarily defined by it's ability to play the genre's famliar elements but more importanly take that style and craft solid, catchy material. Let's just say that melody becomes really important.

So, I'm not sure if it's a trend, most likely luck and timing but here we go again with another interview. Here I talk to Mikey, the vocalist and one of Priestess' two guitarists and he confirms some of the things that I've always felt would make rock one of the hardest styles to attempt. They're a really hard working band and as far as I'm concerned have the right elements to do really well.

CB: Firstly, where are you and how did your last show go?

M: We’re on our way to Portland, our last show was in San Francisco, and it was great, one of our best.

CB: Does it frustrate you that people are so desperate to find a new replacement for their favourite classic rock bands? And how depending on what approach you take to your songwriting you can immediately be labelled or dismissed by someone because you're not who they want you to be? Like, "They're from ______? Great! I can finally put away my _____ records!"

M: It’s only frustrating when people dismiss the music because they think we’re trying to sound “retro”. We write songs to be songs on their own, not to be cast into a style. I don’t even think we sound retro, we sound modern to me.

CB: It would seem to me that playing straight up rock would be one of the toughest styles to tackle. While the pay-off could be huge it doesn't have the same kind of committed community like hip-hop or metal and the conversion factor would be more difficult because people generally think that as far as rock goes they've heard it all before. Do you find that you've struggled with this at all?

M: It is a tougher genre in many ways. Metal music can often just rely on super-technical playing and crazy fast riffing and stuff. When melody and feeling is the main focus, it makes songwriting a little more painstaking. And then you are forced to straddle that line, are you a pop rock band, or a metal band? To us it’s very simple, it’s just rock music.

CB: Some bands would strive to record an album that closely captures the live presentation of their music while others would be conscious of maybe holding back a bit more on record to insure a bigger difference between the live element vs. the album. A kind of way to create more of an impact. Do you think Priestess takes one of these kinds of approaches to recording and if so, which?

M: Well, we definitely weren’t holding back in the studio, but we were conscious that we were making something that would differ from our live show. Everybody would agree that our songs performed live are a lot heavier. We wanted the record to capture the songs as clearly as possible, but live we kick the shit out of them.

CB: One mistake a lot of bands make is failing to recognize that the audience is a reflection of the band on-stage. They can get too caught up in not wanting to make mistakes that the crowd most likely won't notice anyway. Was providing an energetic or risky performance the approach from the start or would you say it was more of a trial and error process?

M: No, that’s just the natural way for us to perform, we get intense feelings of passion on stage from the crowd, it’s that mutual relationship of crowd-feeds-band-feeds-crowd.

CB: When it comes to bands that have proven successful playing the style of music you do there has always been a balance between catering to those who just want to have a good time as well as pleasing the more musically technical fan. In the case of Priestess, a song like Run Home is a good example of a song that features both of these approaches. You have your clear melodic focus for the 'beer in one-hand while the other hand punches the air' element but you also have moments like the quick drum fill after the first chorus or the twin guitar lines for the more trained ear. How conscious of this balance are you or am I over-analyzing it?

M: There is a balance there, although we could fill our songs with crazy guitar passages and time signatures, we prefer them in moderation. One guideline we sort of follow is the “less is more” idea. But, at the same time, I could listen to Mastodon and Yes all day.

CB: When a band releases their debut it's not unusual that the songs on it are ones that have been honed and refined for quite some time, years even. Are you at all concerned about the idea of writing a follow-up under more pressure without the freedom to road-test material as much?

M: Well, it’s not going to be easy, but it won’t be hard either. We’re already writing songs that we are excited about, and we’re really looking forward to having a new record.

CB: In reference to the last question, considering the more recent, bigger support behind you have you thought about any kind of experimentation or ideas you'll be able to work with given the fact that the next recording process will probably not be as limited for you?

M: I think we’re going to keep the approach fairly similar. We will likely go for a sound that compares closer to our live sound. But again, we won’t drown our songs in complicated production calls, so that the songwriting remain the focus

CB: A band that always seems to be forgotten as far as influence goes is 70's era Aerosmith. Seriously, when listening to Appetite for Destruction I hear a lot of Aerosmith, especially stuff from the Rocks record. I mention this because your song 'Time will cut you down' has a 'Last child' feel to it. Is this news to you or am I way off? Either way, take it as a compliment because Aerosmith Rocks is a killer record.

M: Ha! We all love Aerosmith, so that’s a great compliment. They are amazing, cause they are the only band from that era who aren’t considered a dinosaur band, and have consistently released awesome records.

CB: Does it sometimes feel like all your hard work is paying off in the form of more hard work? That's not meant to imply anything negative, just that your former struggles can now become bigger pressures. Are you the types that try to prepare for what is to come or will you do your best to take it as it happens?

M: We started this band about 4 years ago with our only goal being to be able to play music as much as possible, and that’s what we’re doing now, and that’s all we ever want to do. So, as long as we can stay on the road, I think we’ll be OK.

CB: Lastly, as this is primarily a metal site and given Quebec's huge scene are there any bands that you can think of that deserve to be heard?

M: There’s a great metal scene in Montreal, people should check out The Expectorated Sequence, Hands Of Death, Mad Parish, and obviously Cryptopsy and Voivod. For more hard rock bands, people should check out Tricky Woo, Bionic and Starvin’ Hungry.

So that's a pretty good list Mikey's left us with and the bands that I knew get a Chaosbeard seal of approval and the ones I didn't know I checked out and you should too.

Priestess site and Myspace

Previous Chaosbeard post

Sidenote: Flo Mounier from Cryptopsy is from planet Ridiculon.

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