How Priestess Made Prior To The Fire

Montreal's Priestess built a loyal cult following through their high energy and rocking live shows after the release of their acclaimed Hello Master debut, and supported a diverse list of bands from Dinosaur Jr. to Motorhead to Mastodon.

- Oct 30, 2009

Montreal's Priestess built a loyal cult following through their high energy and rocking live shows after the release of their acclaimed Hello Master debut, and supported a diverse list of bands from Dinosaur Jr. to Motorhead to Mastodon.

While Priestess were riding a wave of momentum, the logical thing would've been to go into the studio and put out another record and quickly get back on the road. But Hello Master was originally released in 2005, and the band are only now putting out their next album, Prior To The Fire, which came out Oct. 20. Four years is an awfully long time to wait for a young band to release a sophomore record.

Guitarist and vocalist Mikey Heppner explains the band had committed to a lot of tours when Hello Master was released, which kept them on the road pretty much two and a half years straight with little time to write new material. But he added that some of the songs that appear on Prior To The Fire were ready to go two years ago when the band had been submitting pieces of music to their label, RCA Records.

So what was the hold up, then?

"What happened was the bits that we were sending into the label were not blowing them away," Heppner said. "(RCA), being a major label, thought it was a little too 'un-mainstream' and they kind of wanted to keep us writing until they heard a song that they would see in their minds as something that could be marketable, like i.e. a radio song, you know?

"So we kept on writing and writing and they kept on keeping it out of the studio and holding us back, and holding us back to the point where it was getting so late they were like, 'No matter what, we need to record their record now, so let's get a producer happening, let's book some studio time.'

"At that time, we had 20 songs written and we as band were extremely stoked about our new material and thought we were moving in a really cool direction. So we were more than happy to finally have them give in and let us go into the studio."

But time kept passing and still there was no new record. Scheduling conflicts kept the band out of the studio even longer, as did being unable to secure a producer. The band were finally able to get Dave Schiffman (Nine Inch Nails, The Mars Volta) behind the boards and they began pre-production in Montreal before moving to Los Angeles to record Prior To The Fire. The record was completed in the fall of 2008.

"By the end of that whole thing the record was finished and we were extremely proud, everyone involved, of what we've done and checked it in the label and it was the same story again. 'Well look guys, we can see that you love this and it's a great new direction and you guys have matured, but we still don't hear a song that we want that we can use as a single. Can you guys continue to write more songs?'

"And we were basically like, 'Uhh... No. This is it. We've got a good record here and we don't want to do anything forced.'

"You can't force write a single, it's impossible to do that. At least it's impossible for us. We're not Tin Pan Ally songwriters; we're a rock band."

Priestess and RCA Records decided to go their separate ways. But unlike the long and nasty splits between band and label you always here about, the break between Priestess and RCA was actually peaceful and the normally controlling corporate label actually had a nice parting gift for the band.

"To their credit, and this is something that I will forever hold RCA in the highest esteem for doing this," Heppner says, "they let us keep the record that they paid for, so whoever else would end up putting it out won't have to flip the bill. They kind of ate the money they spent on it.

"We lost a lot of time, but in that time we lost we did do some cool tours, we also had extended time to write more songs that wouldn't have been on the record had it been done two years ago.

"But who knows, this might've been the third record of material that ended up on the second half of this disc. But when it's all said and done, the record as it is now is something that we're really, really proud of.

Here are Priestess' upcoming tour dates:

Nov. 4 Charlottetown, PEI @ Hunter's Ale House
Nov. 5 Fredericton, NB @ Nicky Zees
Nov. 6 Moncton, NB @ The Manhattan Club
Nov. 7 Halifax, NS @ The Paragon Theatre Nightclub
Nov. 11 Waterloo, ON @ Starlight Social Club w/ Early Man
Nov. 12 London, ON @ Call The Office w/ Early Man
Nov. 13 Kingston, ON @ Bar None w/ Early Man
Nov. 14 Peterborough, ON @ The Montreal House w/ Early Man
Nov. 18 Quebec City, QC @ Chez Dagobert w/ Early Man
Nov. 19 Montreal, QC @ Le National w/ Early Man
Nov. 20 Ottawa, ON @ Mavericks w/ Early Man
Nov. 21 Toronto, ON @ Lee's Palace w/ Early Man
Nov. 22 Hamilton, ON @ Rokbar w/ Early Man
Nov. 24 Thunder Bay, ON @ Black Pirates Pub w/ Early Man
Nov. 25 Winnipeg, MB @ Pyramid Cabaret w/ Early Man
Nov. 26 Regina, SK @ The Distrkt w/ Early Man
Nov. 27 Calgary, AB @ The Distillery w/ Early Man
Nov. 28 Edmonton, AB @ Starlite Room w/ Early Man
Nov. 30 Whistler, BC @ GLC w/ Early Man
Dec. 1 Victoria, BC @ Sugar w/ Early Man
Dec. 2 Nanaimo, BC @ Queens w/ Early Man
Dec. 3 Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
Dec. 4 Portland, OR @ Dante's w/ Early Man
Dec. 5 Seattle, WA @ The Comet w/ Early Man
Dec. 8 Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry w/ Early Man
Dec. 9 Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle w/ Early Man
Dec. 10 Windsor, ON @ Blind Dog w/ Early Man
Dec. 11 Buffalo, NY @ Mohawk w/ Early Man

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