In this month’s local feature, Portland songwriter, instrumentalist and label founder Johanna Warren discusses her labelmates Forest Veil and Indira Valey, getting inspiration from Anne Carson and Sappho and her new album due out Sept. 16.
Priory is much more than a one hit wonder. If anything, the electro-pop-alt duo are just now taking the music industry by storm.
Tomorrow, the Portland duo are slated to take to the main stage at 1:45-2:30 p.m. during the second annual Project Pabst festival on the waterfront, along with other big acts, such as Weezer, Blondie, Passion Pit, TV on the Radio, Run The Jewels, Against Me! and many more.
The festival runs tomorrow and Sunday with a total of 16 bands for the 21 and over festival.
“It’s really really cool. It’s funny how surreal this is and now we’re playing all of these major festivals,” says Brandon Rush, a former Franklin High School student, who graduated from Vancouver of Art. “I’m really excited to see Blondie and Run The Jewels. It’s going to be cool to finally check out Run The Jewels set since we seem to always miss them at other festivals.”
“I’m real excited to share a big stage with Blondie and others,” says Rush’s counter part, Kyle Sears. “Plus we’re playing in front of our family and friends and we absolutely love Portland and don’t play here often enough.”
Only a handful of times has Priory actually dabbled in Portland, which is rare for a true native-area band. They have played past shows in the City of Roses with Foster The People, Young The Giant and The Kooks. But they’re looking to add more shows in the next-to-near future since the two still both reside in Portland.
This fall, the band hits the road for their first headlining tour. “Nothing is locked in, but we know who we want as our opener,” says Rush, “but we’re for sure playing Portland. Probably at the Wonder Ballroom, Crystal Ballroom, Roseland or even an intimate show at the Doug Fir Lounge. Who knows though.”
Priory really took off in the last year, even though they’ve have been together since 2009. But after their hit single “Weekend” came out and became a radio favorite. Record labels started foaming at the mouth to sign these guys. They ended up going with Warner Brother Records this past spring.
“We literally had the pick of our litter,” says Rush. “But Warner Brothers let us write down our own contract, which was huge! It’s nice because we can put our own foot down and we’re guaranteed a second album.”
Speaking of album… Priory dropped their first major record label album on April 7, which is titled “Need To Know.”
Band mates, best friends and former roommates pieced together a solid 10 song, 35-minute album. It’s one catchy tune after another.
“We put so much time and energy into this album and people seem to be responding well,” says Sears.
This past Thursday they released their second solo, with fan favorite, “Put Em Up,” which means a lot the duo for a variety of reasons. It especially hits home for Rush.
“Hopefully it’s the next big push for us,” says Rush. “We wrote this song about two years ago. It’s all apart of the fight (for gay rights). It was written as a personal experience because my brother is gay and had a rough time growing up in the church. And then he joined the air force where he was harassed. He’s doing fine now.”
Sears, 30 completely agrees with Rush, 32 and hopes the new single can help inspire anyone and everyone.
“We’re celebrating now. I’m just happy to be in a country where gay marriage is legal,” says Sears. “It’s still very frowned upon around the world and here still… We still have a long ways to go, but again, we’re celebrating the victory.”
Both Rush and Sears have been married to their partner-in-crimes. Rush has been married to his wife Marcy for eight years. And Sears has been married to his wife Kailey for eight years as well.
The band recently came off tour, after opening up for English indie band Kaiser Chiefs, which went from April 20th through May 17th.
“The tour went really well, and it felt like we won over a lot of the (Kaiser Chiefs) fans,” says Rush. “People again were responding well to the new album.”
According to Sears, who Rush agrees with, they weren’t too sure how fans would react to their new album, following up Weekend, which was featured on the Jimmy Kimmel show and then were deemed a USA Today ‘On the Verge’ artist, SPIN ‘Artist You Muse See,’ MTV ‘Artist To Watch, Delta ‘Artist of the Month,’ and more.
“Honestly we weren’t too sure what people would think of the album, but both of us were going to like our own record. And we do. We put so many hours into this album,” says Sears.
The group recorded and produced their new album in their own home studio.
Rush and Sears had help “mixing” the album between a couple of sessions in London with legendary producer/mixer Mark “Spike” Stent, who has worked with the best-of-the-best in the business, including U2, Bjork, Lady Gaga, Oasis, and Coldplay. That’s quite the track record.
“He’s a sound legend,” Sears says of his experience working with Stent. “He really liked the new album. And he doesn’t just work with anybody. It was quite the honor.”
When Rush and Sears and the other three members (Joe Mengis, Miles Johnson and Rian Lewis) aren’t on tour, they are usually in their Vancouver, Wash. studio fine tuning their craft.
“We will always have our studio, which we bought about 18 months ago, and we will have some sort of normalcy in a not so normal world,” says Sears. “Again, it’s surreal and has so many emotions attached to it, whether being happy one minute or crying the next.”
Loudwar Studios, which was originally built in the 1960’s jumpstarted a number of careers, including a former DJ turned songwriter that you may be familiar with: Willie Nelson.
“Willie [Nelson] and others recorded some of their first albums here,” says Sears. “When we’re home, which hasn’t been often of late, we’re always there in the studio. We only have a 24 hour limit each day… It’s all about time.”
Studio recording or just jamming out and working on new material does mandate a few breaks, though.
“We like to drink our whiskey, which is both a blessing and a curse,” says Sears, who used to donate plasma for ends to meet ends, especially when it came to his meals. “I used to ride my bike back everywhere, including to the studio and back into Portland,” added Sears. “I gave plasma for about a year and half or two. I only did it so I could eat. But it was starting to get bad.”
Thankfully times have changed quite a bit in their careers. The two have been “jobless for four plus years now,” and enjoy making a living as musicians in the cutthroat world that is the music industry.
Rush used to be a journeymen farrier.
“I made horse shoes and put them on horses,” says Rush. “I went to school in Oklahoma and was also an assistant brewer. I quit that four years ago and became a musician, which is what I wanted.”
Sears on the other hand, worked with special needs children in Portland as a paraeducator, and agrees, though he enjoyed working with these children, that he’s happy to be playing music for a living and experiencing something he couldn’t even dream of.
“You want to embrace the day,” the two agreed.
“It’s a ridiculous life and we are so thankful and love reaching out to our audience,” says Sears. “We don’t give a shit about (becoming) famous. We just want our music to become (famous) and inspire.”
Rush agrees full heartily with his battery-mate.
“No one gets this opportunity,” Rush says of their early success. “And we aren’t going to start becoming ungrateful dicks. It’s a pretty big dream come true.”
For now, the two are basking in the glory and not forgetting about their roots.
See Priory at Project Pabst on the main stage, 1:45-2:30 p.m at Zidell Yards
Words by Jon Fuccillo