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High Priestess

Not too long ago we were confronted by the amazing debut album of High Priestess, aptly titled 'High Priestess', and what a great treat it has been on our ears! We were submerged into a heavy and original dose of doom and psychedelica, after which we had this very interesting interview with the entire, three-headed hydra that is High Priestess. A tale involving the occult, the influence (both good and bad) of drugs and pterodactyls. I cannot do anything else but love this band like there is no tomorrow.

By: Bart M. | Archive under doom metal

If you have read my review I don't need to tell you how incredibly awesome I think your album is. I was very glad to be able to listen to it! How have other reactions been so far? And, if you had any, how do/would you deal with negative or bad reviews?
We were all blown away by your review and happy you connected so much with the album! All of the reviews so far have been overwhelmingly positive. People have responded to our music in an amazing way. There's been a few negative observations here and there, however, music is so subjective that we don't expect everyone to feel the same way about it, therefore, we don't take anything personally. For example, one reviewer might have said that 'Earth Dive' is the weakest track, while others will say it's their favorite.

Some bands like talking about their musical influences and others sometimes say it is a not so interesting question to answer, but this has been on my mind ever since I heard of High Priestess: both 'High Priestess' and 'Firefly' also happen to be Uriah Heep song titles, and I believe I can hear some of their more mellow sounds pop up every once and again when I listen to your music. Is this a coincidence or are they one of the bands that inspire you?
We are aware of Uriah Heep's 'High Priestess' and 'Firefly' tracks but our main influence for naming the band was the female archetype of the High Priestess tarot card. We feel that it's a very near and dear card for all three of us. We resonate with its concepts and imagery. As far as our sound, it comes from our own individual influences that come together to form a new coherent sound. It is a coincidence but we do all love Uriah Heep.

You have met each other through an ad placed on Craigslist by Mariana. I remember putting up an ad one time to find people who wanted to join me in a Dungeons & Dragons game, and some of the people that responded I really had no connection with whatsoever. I had a hard time making it clear to them that this was not going to work. Did you get many reactions? And how does that work? When you get reactions, how do you decide which people to invite over and, once they are there and you find they are not what you are looking for, how do you tell them?
Mariana: I did get a lot of responses to the ad, some of them wasn't even from musicians.
Basically, if the emails followed the directions correctly and people attached some YouTube videos with samples of their music, I would reply to them and thank them for taking the time, but that I did not think we would be a good fit. I guess that when I got Katie's email and then Megan's email, I just knew they were the right fit (after some online stalking to make sure they weren't ax murderers).

When I write a review I do not want to focus on the gender of the people in the band. I feel being male or female has no influence at all on one's musical skills and vision. Since this is an interview, I hope you do not mind me asking this: was it a conscious choice to make this a female only band? And if so, what is the thinking behind this choice?
It actually was a conscious choice for each of us to make this an all-female band. There aren't a lot of all-female bands out there, so we thought it would be interesting to see what musical result our energies combined would bring.

On a related note: the Netherlands is very proud to be a tolerant nation. This is all just appearances though, because in reality I see how we all still think in stereotypes and judge people because of them. In the wondrous world of heavy metal, fortunately, we have a lot of people who are open minded, but there are also people who would like things to remain the way they initially are. Considering this, do you get any (both good and bad) reactions at all to High Priestess being an all-female band?
So far, people have been extremely interested and excited about us. Nobody has really been negative about it.

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When I was young (back in 1879) I started out as a very traditional metalhead: grew up with Maiden and Metallica, found out about Manowar and made that my reference point for anything rock and metal. It was not until recently (maybe ten years now) that I actively opened my mind (Roadburn had a lot to do with that) to discover other kinds of music as well. You seem like young people (forgive me if I'm wrong here) and yet you make this very astounding and mind altering music. Tell us about how your musical development went please!
Mariana: I grew up listening to my mother and father's records, which ranged from Jimi Hendrix to Kate Bush to Mozart. During my early teens, I would listen to thrash, death and grunge. In my late teens two different friends sent me a couple of mix tapes with Sleep, Kyuss, Goatsnake, Orange Goblin and a bunch of other bands. I was interested in this different approach of heaviness so I dug deep and found this stoner rock message board that opened a whole new world to me (which is also where it will bring Collyn McCoy into play).

Megan: I started playing drums around fourteen. I was into a lot of different music at the time. I grew up in Texas so was surrounded by country music which wasn't my taste. I loved Led Zeppelin. John Bonham blew me away, and of course he still does! That right foot of his!!! Also, hail Black Sabbath! Bill Ward slayed with such finesse and power nobody could ignore that. In high school I'd drive around our small town in my Camaro blasting Zeppelin, Sabbath, Queen, Metallica, Nirvana, Guns N Roses, Aerosmith and the likes and felt pretty rad!

Katie: My parents started me on classical piano lessons when I was about eight years old after I would play music from tv on the piano by ear. I played clarinet in a band all through school. It wasn't until I was in middle school that I started getting into rock music. I somehow acquired a Nirvana 'Bleach' tape and listened to it over and over. From there I got the other Nirvana albums and since Metallica was next to Nirvana in the record store, I got into Metallica. But I would say that it was Kurt Cobain's sound and songwriting that made me want to play guitar around twelve or thirteen. Thanks in some part to my brother's cd collection, I got into some major heavy hitting guitarists in high school, namely Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour, Jimmy Page and Tony Iommi. After leaving the small town I grew up in, meeting more people and playing in bands, I got into more heavy music and took influences from here and there. Getting a music degree in my 20s and then a graduate degree was totally transformative though, learning comprehensive music theory, history, compositional and orchestration techniques.

By the way, is there any chance we will see you playing Roadburn 2019?
We would love to!

Sticking with the mind altering subjects, your music has a very distinct psychedelic feel to it. I have not tried it with this album yet, but sometimes music gets even better when you are on drugs. I remember watching Boris play 'Pink' in its entirety and I was stoned at the time and the music made an even bigger impression on me than it would have done were I sober. Were certain parts of this album written with this in mind?
The parts seem to write themselves and they came from the universe, which is inherently psychedelic. During a portion of our tour in Canada, we had a great response from people on drugs. Mariana was approached by a very happy Canadian fan in Calgary, asking if she has ever done DMT, and that he was gonna buy our album and listen to it while high on it. A couple of days later at Vantopia Fest, Mariana and Katie were selling merch and this happy hesher comes by and tells them that he had to smoke a joint during Firefly, he finished the joint, came back, and to his delight we were still jamming the same song, so he just lit another one. Our music is often described as hypnotic at our shows, which makes it very drug friendly. We don't necessarily write our songs with drugs in mind, but our intention is to transport people to another plane of consciousness through our music.

And how hard/easy/legal is it to obtain drugs in Los Angeles? I ask out of interest, but also because I read certain states in the US have legalized marihuana, and have actually created a better system to do this than we have here, in The Netherlands.
Recreational use of marijuana has been legal in the state of California as of 2018. As far as how hard or easy it is to obtain drugs in LA, we don't know, that's not really our bag.

A thing I have been wondering about: what is with you and pterodactyls?
The idea originated with the artist who created or album cover, Caitlin Mattison. We were throwing around ideas of what sort of bird or creature could be flying on the cover and she suggested pterodactyls, which coincidentally we had all thinking of that idea as well. We felt that it gave our album cover an other-worldly atmosphere that is also reflective in our music. It was sort of serendipitous and cool that Sleep referenced pterodactyls in a lyric of the new album, a few months later. Plus, we were all huge dinosaur nerds when we were kids, so we love the idea.

All of the songs on your album 'High Priestess' have a certain emotional impact on me. I would love to go into detail with you about what the songs are about and what inspired them, but I also feel that this is different for all of the listeners and talking too much about it may ruin the experience. I do have some questions about it though. I do not have a favourite song, they are all equally stunning, but the one that moves me most is definitely 'Earth Dive'. I feel as though I am taken by the hand and led into some magical realm of fantasy, and everything just feels so right. The tranquility that radiates off this song is indescribable. Was that the idea when you wrote this?
Katie: That is so awesome that you love that song. It's actually the first one that we wrote and it came out of a long jam. I heard some kind of vocal melody out of nowhere listening to the instrumental jam one day, and I was trying to figure out what the lyrics might be about. In my head I was thinking the album might have some sort of concept to connect all the songs together, although we don't consider it a concept album. I was thinking there might be a girl or woman going on a internal journey to battle inner demons, choosing life or death in Firefly, and perhaps being seduced by an evil spirit and eventually dying in Earth Dive. She is awoken in the middle of the night to a demon beckoning her from the window (sung in the first person by me) and he wants to take her far away into space to a more beautiful world than earth. They travel there, but somehow he tricks her and she goes too far, and dies. Before she dies she sees that the beautiful world is just an illusion, and is actually barren and dead. The demon and journey however, is just an allegory for drugs - the girl is just in fact addicted and seduced by the allure of feeling good by substances, which is of course all an illusion. The main message is don't go too far in the beautiful world of drugs before you get lost and die. I suppose all the guitar solos represent the beautiful, devastating journey.

I also wrote in my review that 'Mother Forgive Me' to me sounds like a perversion of some very basic Christian values, just by changing some of the things into slightly other things. I am not anti-belief at all (anti religion? yes), but these things interest me a lot. What thoughts and ideas went into creating this song?
Katie: I had the idea of a future post-apocalyptic view of Mother Earth in my head when I wrote these lyrics. It's hard to watch people of today's world ruining the planet, especially when certain religions justify exploiting the earth's bounty because it is a "god given right." It's sort of a lament, an apology from human kind to our Mother Earth. It has cryptically sung bible verses that allude to the fact that it was self-centered ego driven religious bullshit that destroyed our planet, when we should have been praying to Mother Nature all along.

And the last of my song specific questions: 'Banshee'. I have not heard anything quite as doomy since I listened to the latest Electric Wizard album. This is pure gold, but also very depressing. The way I hear it, it is about a child looking for its parents, but both of them are dead. Is this a correct assumption? The part I love most is when there is actual banshee-like screams.
Katie: Man thank you for the compliments! Yeah I would agree that this is the most depressing song on the album. You are very astute in the interpretation of the song. To begin with, we were just jamming on that cool doomy riff, and Mariana would scream every four bars or so. Because of that scream we had the working title Banshee. From there I tried to envision some kind of creepy words involving a banshee. The legends say a banshee heralds the death of a family member by screaming. In the song I pictured a little kid whose parents have just died, and banshee sings this to him in the form of a nursery rhyme, complete with some screams in the chorus.

A lot of your songs delve into the occult. It fits the music well. A thing I wonder about is when an interest in this started to evolve in your mind. As kids? As teens? I was raised in a Christian family, so I was told right from the beginning that the occult was something bad, which, of course, made it extra interesting for me to find out more about.
Mariana: My mom is a big Stephen King fan, so we would watch a lot of horror flicks together when I was growing up, which created this interest in the occult.

Megan: I grew up in a small conservative town in Southeast Texas right in the "Bible Belt." I was raised "in the church" as they say. My parents didn't get onto me about the music I listened to, but the opinion of the community around us was definitely anti-secular music. I was drawn to occult themes early in my teens but didn't have a lot of reference of where to dive deeper other than silly horror films and the likes. I remember even feeling nervous but excited the first time I listened to Metallica because of hearing so many people call it "devil music." Occult vibes from bands like Black Sabbath really drew me in.

Katie: Yeah totally, the forbidden knowledge makes it more interesting! I've always had some fascination with the occult. I went to a Methodist church growing up with my family, but nothing was really forced on me or indoctrinated. My mom had palm reading books, tarot cards and a Ouija board, and she always loved horror movies and mystery shows, so a lot of it stems from her. We also lived in a 300 year old farmhouse when I was a kid that was haunted. I've had several experiences with ghosts, or at least strange circumstances that I couldn't explain, so I've always believed ever since I was young there is more to this world than meets the eye.

And how much freedom did you have, as American teens (kids, whatever), to explore this? The way we get to see things over here is that the US is pretty Christian and strict in these things but that there are also a lot of rebellious kids.
Mariana: I grew up in Portugal, which is an extremely catholic country, but surprisingly, my parents did not force any religion on me. Actually, this one time my paternal grandmother tried to sneak out of the house to get me baptized but my parents caught her, so it didn't happen. I love some of the aspects that religion has brought to us, like the art and architecture. I just wish it didn't involve so much fear and blood bath.

Megan: I've always been drawn to that which was dark or "off limits" so took an interest in heavier music and occult themes at a young age, but kept it pretty quiet. I had a super religious boyfriend in high school (who's a Baptist preacher now) threaten to break up with me because of my musical taste and for questioning religious ideals.

Katie: I didn't have too many obstacles, I was lucky enough to have parents and two older brothers that encouraged curiosity. Of course, when I was kid/teenager before the internet you had to be pretty savvy with your research, but now you can find and absorb a lot of information. I can see how in certain parts of the US it'd be extremely frowned upon to look into the occult, like where Megan grew up. The Puritan and Christian values are pretty baked into our culture.

High Priestess is something that I really need to experience live. I know you have an American/Canadian tour coming. I imagine you are looking forward to that quite a lot. How have your live experiences been so far? Both the positive and the less positive (I can hardly imagine you have them) experiences.
We are actually in the midst of the tour answering to this interview! The live experiences have been great! We're lucky to be touring with some solid bands and great musicians (Salem's Bend and Ape Machine). The tour has given us the opportunity to cultivate an atmosphere on stage that creates a synergy with the audience.

Talking live experiences and touring, I noticed a video on your Facebook showing Collyn McCoy of Aboleth. What is the relatonship between High Priestess and Aboleth? And is there any chance, any chance at all, to catch these two bands touring Europe together?
Mariana: I've "known" Collyn (Sludgelord3000) through a stoner rock message board since I was seventeen years old and still living in Portugal. Eventually when I moved to the US, at 22, I finally met him personally at a Middian and Minsk show in Hollywood, and we've been friends ever since. He was the one that encouraged me to pick up the bass again and to start a band. If you take a look at Aboleth's video 'No Good', you will see my name there as well, since I filmed it on an iPhone. Aboleth is like a sister band and it would be cool to tour together!

When you come to Europe (hopefully 013, The Netherlands), please feel free to spend an evening out here listening to Zeppelin, Sabbath and other bands of that era that changed people's minds.
Thank you! That sounds great!

If there is anything I left out or forgot to ask, anything you would like to say to our readers, please feel free to say so here!
Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and support, and for spreading the gospel of High Priestess!

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