Priory

If you’re a regular reader of PEV (and didn’t do so hot in your middle school Geography class), you might believe me when I say Portland, Oregon is right next door to Austin, Texas. Every feature we bring to you from these two cities is just off the charts, waiting to explode to national and worldwide prominence. It’s insane. Today’s act hails from that town in the northwest part of the country, a 4-piece called Priory.
 
Songwriters Brandon Johnson and Kyle Dieker got the ball rolling in 2008, and soon recruited guitarist Greg Harpel and Portland drummer Joe Mingus to round out the group, in the process producing their self-titled debut record – an already celebrated collection described as a “choose your own adventure” (those books are the best!). Harpel continues, “Dynamically the music is all over the place (whether or not this is a good thing is up to you really), but there's always something that each individual will connect with. The album is bookended with variations of the track ‘Worthy Dreams’, placing the content of the album, being both remorseful and celebratory, into the context of a night of tossing and turning, reflecting on the weighty memories.”
 
One of the best aspects of this band? They travel well. As Greg says, “There's a fifty-fifty chance we'll be in your respective neighborhood before too long here.” So keep an eye out and check the schedule – Priory knows how to bring it on stage. Keep reading now to learn so much more in the XXQ’s.
XXQs: Priory
PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?

Greg Harpel (GH): We've really made it a point to emphasize dynamic arrangement and instrumentation.  It has been to our advantage that all four of us come from varying musical backgrounds, everyone brings a unique element that fills a specific sonic space.  The result has been that there is usually some
aspect of the music for every listener to connect with.
PEV: Calling Portland, Oregon home, what kind of music where the members of  the band into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?
GH: It's really all over the map. For of us it started with inherited record collections, jazz and classical all the way to 80's pop like Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, and the talking heads.  We've also entertained long standing passions for folk, punk, and electronica.  I personally grew up in Yakima, a small dessert town in central Washington.  The first live concerts I went to were at this dive downtown, somewhat of a teenage townhall where all of us just ate up whatever style of music we could get in town.  The adolescence of musicianship has so much to do with emulation, and in that regard we've been thankful for a bumper crop of good influence.
PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene when you first started out as a band? What was your first show like together as a band?
GH: Like most bands, we started in a basement with a few small, but good ideas. We spent a long time working on the first collection of songs before we started playing live.  Our first show was at a place called the White Eagle, a little venue/bar in Portland's east side.  The live set has always been one of our favorite parts of the process, that much was evident from the very beginning.
PEV: What can fans expect from a live Priory show?
GH: Energy.  Plenty of energy.  The music necessitates it, the crowds reciprocate it. We're all just out for a good time. We also love to incorporate old video footage with each song. For example "Lady of Late" has a scene from a old silent film with a woman moving in and out of the water.
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?
GH: Doing justice to the music.  We all have our processes for getting in the right mental space.  But the music has the ability to be self sustaining, once we get plugged in the engagement usually will follow naturally.
PEV: Tell us the story behind the name of the band, Priory.
GH: Kyle and I picked up a record a few years ago from a group of monks in the 70's who put out their record as a priory.  The album art had the monks in white robes along the bank of the river with acoustic guitars strapped over their shoulders like a weird, sanctified Polyphonic Spree.  Although we're not a religious band, we liked the concept of brotherhood and discipline, everyone drawn together for a common purpose.  It pulls tight the knot on the concepts of the song writing.
PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?
GH: They all draw from past experiences and relationships.  I know that's not a very complex source code, but it’s where the best material comes from.  If we're really honest with the experiences that have most affected us, there's an immediate compatibility with listeners.
PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out do you ever look back at your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?
GH: I'd say that none of us knew the sheer amount of work hours and professionalism that it takes to get as far as we have.  You have a lot o preconceived notions when you first make an effort as a band.  The process has been a balance of business savvy and creative initiative.  You can't have one without the other.  Luck fits in there somewhere too, but luck is not known for fidelity.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Priory?
GH: We tend to get along actually.  This is less common than you'd think amongst bands.  Being a band mate is more like being a spouse, one could benefit from marriage counseling in this type of work.  That being said we've chosen each other well.  I mean we're in the middle of the Priory summer tour of the SW with no AC.  If we can do this than till death do us part.
PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a goal for you?
GH: It's always been a part of my life, an important contributor to my quality of life.  Eventually we all had to decide to make the risks and long term investments to try and make a real campaign of this project.
PEV: What can fans expect from your self titled debut release, “Priory”? Tell us more about this album.
GH: The album is a choose your own adventure.  If we kept a tally of our feedback as to what is the favorite track they'd all come out even.  Like I've said already, dynamically the music is all over the place (whether or not this is a good thing is up to you really), but there's always something the each individual will connect with.
The album is bookended with variations of the track "Worthy Dreams". Placing the content of the album, being both remorseful and celebratory, into the context of a night of tossing and turning, reflecting on the weighty memories.
PEV: What is the feeling you get after a song is complete and you can sit back and listen to it being played the way you envisioned?
GH: The sound is always more sonically complex than any one of us individually could have imagined.  This is really just the result of the collaboration of four musicians with too much to say picking the right things to say together.  Luckily it’s been cohesive.
PEV: With all your traveling is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?
GH: Europe.  The travel plans are on the table and the ears over there are perked.  We just need to consider the logistical speed bumps between here and there.
PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?
GH: All of us have been amazed by the response.  It has been one of the first projects that any of us have been a part of that seems to appeal to both our peers in the industry as well as our grandparents.  We just played our CD release in Portland last week.  We feel the mad love.
PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
GH: Well we all have our loved ones, friends and family.  So there's that.  But aside from that we all love to take advantage of the recreational activities accessible from the NW.  We may drive a diesel bus around the country relentlessly, but back at home we tend to cycle.
Brandon will teach music lessons and do yoga, Kyle works with special needs classrooms, Joe is an instructor at Portland School of Rock, and I have a foot in a few doors.
PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration? Why?
GH: Past:  Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young… Present:  Perhaps Tortoise or Donkey Boy, both bands delving into some interesting new directions with electronic and percussive instrumentation. The classical in us would love a shift with the London Philharmonic. Maybe a collaboration with Kid Cudi, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
GH: Our new crush is Seryn from Denton, TX.  Phenomenal act, quality folks.
PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think each of you would be your career?
GH: I think if anything this Priory initiative has taught us that it there is value in pursuing your creative expression.  I think if it wasn't music, we'd all be doing something with our noggins.
PEV: So, what is next for Priory?
GH: We're traveling hard.  There's a 50/50 chance we'll be in your respective neighborhood before too long here.  Making friends is the name of the game at this point.  So far so good.
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