Music

Portland Duo Priory Talk Middle Class Alienation and Weirdo Synths

Music

Portland Duo Priory Talk Middle Class Alienation and Weirdo Synths

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Their recent video for “Weekend” may feature Boyhood boycrush Nick Krause and True Blood’s Bailey Noble, but Priory look set to become stars in their own right. The Portland duo combine lo-fi rock sensibilities with stadium-sized pop hooks in a way that catapulted Foster the People and Portugal. The Man into the charts. If you’re getting a tinge of mid-noughties UK indie from Weekend, you’re not far from the mark– the band begin a national tour with the Kooks on the 24th and seem to have cribbed a few notes from their English counterparts. We chatted with Brandon and Kyle about building their own studio, middle class alienation, and weirdo synths.

I know you guys are both from Portland. How did the two of you meet?
Brandon: I think we met at a Pretty Girls Make Grave show at the Crystal Ballroom, like a decade ago, something along eleven years now. I had moved into this nasty bachelor pad which was essentially a flophouse, with completely unusable bathrooms and kitchen, and Kyle ended up moving in and we started to play music.
Kyle: It was this shit house with like nine other people. That’s how we got to know each other and play music together.

Where the name Priory come from? Is there a religious element to the band?
Brandon: We’re not a religious band at all but we do like some of the parallels. The monks were completely locked away and were responsible for written music language and were some of the first people to brew craft beer. When we started playing music together it was in this dingy and we were shut off from everybody. We’d be down there like twelve to fifteen hours a day so on some weird level it was fitting. It’s also a rehab clinic in Europe, but that doesn’t have anything to do with it, religion doesn’t have anything to do with it. We just like the word and we adapted connotations to it. The word became us.

You guys also built your own studio in a cement factory. Like, how?
Kyle: We were looking for a practice space and we found this building. It used to belong to this company that develops film after it was a cement factory. The film company went under and the building became dilapidated. The basement was really gross but it was beautiful with wide-open spaces. There was this one isolated room and I remember just playing bass and hearing the acoustics and being amazed. We literally built out 35 practice spaces and created our own recording studio in the basement.

Your first album had a more low-key, acoustic sound. Did building the studio help you guys transition to bigger, stadium pop songs on the new record?
Kyle: When we recorded the first album we only had about a week to record it. We didn’t record it ourselves, we didn’t produce it ourselves. Building the space really helped us spend the time and energy to make our vision happen.
Brandon: The first record came about from us jamming about in the basement drinking too much beer. We created these songs in a couple weeks then got out on the road and started touring. For two years we spent about half the year on the road. We’d been talking about including more electronic elements and cleaner orchestration and stronger arrangements. On the road our skillset became higher so we set out to create the best possible thing we could. We didn’t have a backup plan. We jumped in head first, quit our day jobs and just did it.

That kinda reflects itself in “Weekend” with the theme of fighting authority. Did the narrative of that song stem from breaking out on your own?
Kyle: Absolutely. Everyone has some kind of authority figure in their life that they hate and everyone feels oppressed at some point in their life, whether its their parents, a boss, life situation, politics, culture, whatever. It’s a song about taking back control. There’s a little bit of darkness in the message too because it’s about the marginalisation of the middle class. It’s an honest song, I guess.

That’s pretty hefty social commentary. Are we going to see themes like that on the album?
Kyle: Absolutely. The album in general is about surviving your youth and finding your identity, which I still haven’t done. There’s a lot of anger and frustration that we both felt growing up. I grew up pretty poor and seeing everyone else having everything, I was kind of relegated. It’s about finding your own and taking control of your life, coping with the situation.

Sonically “Weekend” draws from a lot of genres. Is that typical of the album?
Kyle: Yeah. We like to use a diverse array of sounds and intentionally go outside the box. We try to find unique sounds and incorporate them.
Brandon: I remember when I met Kyle he had ten or twelve weird Casios and he got me hooked on that process of hunting down those strange instruments. We’re continually utilizing that stuff. We’ll take four hours out of a day continuously screwing around with synths until something happens.
Kyle: That’s the thing about the studio. Neither of us have owned a new car but now we have hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of music gear.

You’ve released the single and are currently going on tour with the Kooks. What’s next for Priory?
Kyle: The album’s done. We mixed the album in London and it was going to come out in November but now we’re looking at the first part of the year. I think it’s out in January. We like this organic approach because we want people to get to know us. We’re on tour for seven weeks then we have potential dates in Europe and Australia. We’re going to be on the road next year too and we’re excited about it because we want to see people.

What’s the Priory mission statement to the world?
Kyle: Life’s a party and everyone’s invited.
Brandon: Everyone’s welcome at the table with Priory.