Staying Small On The Big Stage: Priory Review

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Dillon Rawlings
Staff Writer

The main appeal of dance pop, as a genre, is it’s feel-good flavor. The Portland natives that make up the electro/pop group Priory, who opened for Kaiser Chiefs this past Friday night at the Regency Ballroom, definitely seem to agree.  The group, comprised of long-time friends Brandon Rush and Kyle Sears has been focused on making energetic, rhythmically uplifting electro-melodies since their formation in 2009. In their post-show interview, lead vocalist and guitarist, Brandon, explained Priory’s conception as “Me and Kyle meeting up at shows in Portland, through the music scene there, and then starting to jam and realizing it was the most organic thing ever.  I had never experienced being able to just lay a lick on a guitar and having it be immediately catcalled by this awesome harmony and rhythm, and we were able to build really awesome sounding songs really quickly by just shooting back and forth”.

The show itself was steeped in an ambient sense of camaraderie and youthful conviviality. No one felt like a stranger. Heavy on reverb drumbeats and layered, chant-like backup vocals, Priory’s songs speak to struggles that most of their younger listeners are currently caught in—getting a little lost, feeling the need to be working creatively, feeling stuck—while melodically capturing the energy and excitement of being young and in love with living. “Weekend”, their popular radio single from 2014, is the pinnacle of this type of adolescent fun and angst, and contains a heavier layer of truth than one might initially assume from the light-hearted guitar riffs and resonating drum hooks.  “The song is a ballad to the working class”, says Sears. “It’s about getting stuck at some dead-end job, and being in this routine, and hating it, and only having the weekend to look forward to out of every week”.  Rush further explains, “It’s this position so many people are stuck in, in this consumerist society, feeling the need to stay in a shit job because you need money to be happy, and not having any influence over the bureaucracy.  In the song, I even put the line ‘This right here is the D.O. Proletariat’, [Day of Proletariat], a Marxist idea that says the working class people have political power.”

“Of course, that’s not how things actually are right now,” Sears chimed in. “But they could be,” Rush continued.  “It’s sort of encouragement to everyone who feels stuck.  Or that was the idea behind it.  It doesn’t really preach any message, but that’s where I was coming from writing the song, and people are going to interpret it how they will.  One thing I’m proud of though is that I got that line into a song on the radio”.

Their commitment to speaking their own truth is something that comes out as a main character in Sears’ and Rush’s music. Signed to Warner Bros. Records, the two have complete creative control over music and shows, and made sure to keep it that way in their contracts.  They make the music they like making, which they produce and record themselves in a studio they built together a few years back.  “The DIY attitude has really helped us stay real,” says Sears, speaking of how they’ve been handling the success of their debut album, “Need to Know,” released late last year. “I think audiences generally have a good B.S. detector, and they can tell when an artist is only making music in order to be popular. ”

The grounded perspective shows up in their sounds and their stage presence, and makes a large, crowded concert hall feel like a charismatic living room set.  If you want to experience the magic for yourself, Priory will continue to tour with Kaiser Chiefs throughout the U.S. until June 14th, where they will end with a set at Bonnaroo Music Fest in Manchester, Tennessee.

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