YEAR FORMED: 2003
HOME TOWN: Montreal, Quebec
Priestess. Now there’s a heavy name.
You’ve got an image in your head, and it’s mistaken. You’ve heard the name Priestess, and you’re juggling impressions. Are they Goths, prancing around the pentangle in their Lugosi capes? I think not. Could this be…Christian rock? God, no. Just another gang of suburban riff-clowns raised on a sallow junk-food diet of hair bands? None of the above. Cue up the Montreal band’s debut, Hello Master, and let us demystify. Metal? No …Priestess is Heavy Mettle… And they do inspire devotion.
“It feels like we hit it off with people who wanna hear a heavy rock group with catchy songs,” says singer/guitarist Mikey Heppner. And, hello …master of understatement. Heppner’s a bantam dynamo whose unaffected approach is the face of a like-minded band. No stylist, no shtick, no pose – without gimmick, they fire maddeningly memorable and crunching hooks out to an audience that travels under no banner.
“Ordinary kids,” says Heppner. That sliver of rock fans somewhere between the hard rock, garage and indie tribes - you know, that 70% sliver. Priestess finds a commonality between those nerds, jocks, stoners, loners, party kids and hipsters for whom rock n’roll is somewhere between soundtrack and salvation.
Formed in Montreal in 2003 with a desire to rewire a balls-out ‘70s rock ethic with classicist songwriting, they defiantly refused to equate heavy music with the Big Downer. “Some bands are gloomy – because that’s the only way to be cool.”
Here’s the other way: rejoicing in heaviosity, with the accent on both ends. In their time as rock n’roll redeemers, Priestess has run through everything from the Beatles to prog to punk to Nirvana and back to AC/DC. “One of the hardest things to do is take a major-chord chorus and make it cool and heavy,” Heppner says. “AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long is in a major-chord - super-happy key. But it’s unstoppable and I can listen to it every day…forever.”
In the lean and punishing I Am the Night, Color Me Black, in the canyon-sized Talk To Her, the snarling Lay Down and an instant classic called Two Kids, they have already written four chapters in their own new testament.
“There is a level that we… must get to,” Heppner says of the band’s live show. Anyone who’s heard Heppner’s opening shout “We are Priestess and we are going to fuck you!” knows what that means. It’s no surprise that they caught the attention of Motorhead, opening for them on their last tour …Lemmy practically wrote the book on fucking the crowd up. Then, three triumphant shows at SXSW ’06 capped a “crushingly great” 6 1/2 week tour with fellow crushers Early Man and The Sword that found the band breaking out of major markets into places like Buffalo – where ordinary kids who couldn’t care less about the Montreal resurgence were moved to seize Heppner from the stage and send him crowd-surfing, mid-solo. They were believers.’
So back to that name: “The minute we tossed it out there, we knew it was perfect.”
Why? Think about it. Rather than playing to a herd of headbangers hurling themselves at the stage while their girlfriends cower at tables in the dark corners, Priestess wants to cross the most elemental human divide: gender. “Zeppelin sort of had a mystical pagan allure in the context of heavy, distorted guitars,” Heppner says. He finds in that a balance of undeniable masculine heft and feminine melody. “We get a lot of girls in the crowd. That’s very important.”
It’s more than a manifesto. It’s a creed--- They are Priestess. The cult starts here.