Priests on Capitalism’s “Lame Prizes”

Zach Phillips

By Zach Phillips

on 06.26.14 in Features

Priests’ music isn’t content-neutral. In an age where genre descriptors speak more to sonic aesthetic than personal ethos, and content is conflated with form to the extent that the former becomes window dressing, it’s difficult to precisely convey what it is that Priests do differently. Here’s a hint: Everything you need to know is in the interplay between the instruments and the lyrics, and in the interstices between song sections.

Priests’ new EP Bodies and Control and Money and Power was released June 3 on Don Giovanni Records. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of two phone conversations: the first with singer Katie Alice Greer and the second with Taylor Mulitz, Daniele Daniele and G.L. Jaguar. We talked about George W.S. Trow, what it means to be labeled a “political” band and the totally lame prizes at the end of the yellow brick road of bandhood.

Zach Phillips talks with Katie Alice Greer

This is my first interview for another publication. I’ve only done a few out of total fanhood — kind of like your Fan Club column for The Media.

Katie Alice Greer: I was gonna say, not that we deal with crazy amounts of press, but the press we’ve dealt with so far has been pretty much what you’d expect: uninterested people who are trying to fill content on their website. So when I got your questions I was like, “Oh word, someone who’s genuinely interested.”

I know how it feels. I was in a couple situations with my band Blanche Blanche Blanche where we were offered an interview by someone who clearly wasn’t interested in the music and maybe hadn’t even heard it. Initially, we would accept those opportunities, but at some point I started responding, “Thank you so much for contacting me. Why do you want to interview us?”

Greer: Right, and it’s like, I’m not trying to be a pretentious dickhead, but I don’t want to talk to you unless you care. It’s almost like the difference between speed dating and going out with people you’re interested in. We could just save each other the trouble.

Yeah. I did that most recently in January, and I got a five-page letter back from the head of this publication. And he was so pissed — he was unloading on me. He raised some good points: “How can we prove to you that we’re legitimate fans? What would that look like?” So some of it was interesting, and some of it was crazy bullshit: “Maybe you’re stuck, man. Maybe you’re stuck as an artist. Because Andy Warhol didn’t care, he would embrace whatever press he could get.” [Laughs] By the end of it, I was saying, “Hey man, why don’t you just publish this exchange? This is way more interesting than anything we could’ve talked about.”

Greer: Sometimes I catch myself starting fights with people in this context, and I wonder if I’m just trying to find a way to have an interesting dialogue. If you don’t already have a reason to ask me questions, maybe I should give you a reason. We don’t need to have a conversation about nothing, or about things that are already Google-able. I feel like my band is interesting in and of itself. And it’s frustrating to me that people aren’t asking the right questions. That being said, there’s also a lot of music being made that’s not interesting. And I’m sure it’s hard to parse if you’re a person who’s only interviewing people. I think it’s probably easier if you’re also making music; you just already have a leg up in understanding people’s motivations.

A concept I’ve been interested in for a while is that, when considering music writing and music criticism happening in publications today, it’s maybe better to think of it as a kind of music production — because the writing is “producing” the terms by which people understand music, how it’s made, what it is. And the claims being made are often totally divorced from the actual practices that lead to this music. By the same token, actual music production today is often critical. I consider the recordings I make to be music criticism. I listen to music that I think has actual critical power. It’s criticizing the conditions of its production, and the things around it.

Greer: Right. It has some kind of stance on the place that it’s coming from.

Right. So on this subject, I was reading an interview in which you mentioned the essay “Within the Context of No Context.” I’d like to read you a couple of quick quotations from that and then ask you a long, convoluted question.

1. “False love is the Aesthetic of the Hit. What is a hit is loved. The back-and-forth of this establishes a context. It seems powerful. What could be more powerful? The love of 10s of millions of people. It’s a Hit! Love it! It’s a Hit. It loves you because you love it because it’s a Hit!”

2. “People, like most of the efforts in print that reflect its concern with celebrities, provides an ad-hoc context within which may be placed, each week, certain scraps of synthetic talk which have been judged to have the power to reinforce the ad-hoc context so that the ad-hoc context may, for a moment, seem to exist…It is to unite, for a moment, the two remaining grids in American life — the intimate grid and the grid of 200 million.”

In the first quotation, Trow’s referring to the kind of recursive relationship a culture of consumption has with its products: It loves you because you love it because it’s a hit. And in the second, he seems to be talking about the lack of a communal grid in this culture of consumption; you have, as a grid of intelligibility, the total population, and then also yourself. And that seems to me to be something you’ve taken up directly in your music and your writing. Speaking personally, what Trow’s talking about in these quotations has become more and more of a conceptual obstacle for me, and it makes it difficult for me to get excited about starting a band — for social reasons, political reasons, not musical reasons.

So let me formulate a question: Has the institutional and discursive context of music become so powerful that it circumscribes the work entirely? From the language used to describe music by both professional and amateur music writers and the global citizens of the internet, to the limited array of opportunities for “development” offered by the scarce institutional supports such as corporation-sponsored shows, licensing and sync, the prevalent signifiers seem to threaten any kind of truly idiosyncratic communal expression unless musicians allow other people to speak for them, or learn to replicate the message these institutions want to send.

You and I both know that, even in the face of these conceptual and practical hurdles, there are definite reasons to work. What are they? Why be a band today?

Greer: At the risk of sounding like a trite hippie, what you’re hitting on is the crux of everything. I’ve become really preoccupied with pop music and pop celebrities in the last year or so. I feel like I lost interest in that when I was 13 and realized that there were other kinds of music than what was on the radio. I’ve since become interested again. I went on tour with Neonates and Downtown Boys, and one night in Philadelphia after our show Anna and Joey were playing [Katy Perry's] “Teenage Dream” on a piano. It’s not just brainwashing, it’s also a really well-written song.

‘We’re all part of the capitalist structure where we’re being tempted, day in and day out, to give in to totally lame prizes. You can keep going and Adidas will pay for you to be in the background of their lame commercial. Or you can go participate in SXSW and if you’re lucky you’ll be the darling of that year.’

You’re finding some kind of source of strength in this music?

Greer: I guess what I’m trying to say is that the thing that breaks up bands is the same thing that drives creative work: We’re all working in a system that is inherently flawed. We’re all part of the capitalist structure where we’re being tempted, day in and day out, to give in to totally lame prizes. You can keep going and Adidas will pay for you to be in the background of their lame commercial. Or you can go participate in SXSW and if you’re lucky you’ll be the darling of that year. And a lot of people will take your photo, and maybe that will translate to record sales. You’ll feel good about yourself for a week. There are so many shallow rewards I will never condemn, because I’m a human being who likes to have my picture taken as long as I look good. But we are operating in that context and wondering about the greater picture, and wondering how we can talk to people about the things they’re wondering about when they’re falling asleep, or during their lunch break, or when they’re feeling sad for reasons they can’t understand. I think that’s the environment that Priests operates in. We exist in the contradiction of all of these things. We’re the bastard child of wanting to do the right thing in a world where the right thing doesn’t exist anymore.

And maybe that has to do with this kind of untenable situation we find ourselves in according to Trow, where there’s the grid of the individual and then the grid of the total population. And you kind of have to fight for anything in between.

Greer: And maybe nothing in between exists at this point. I’m so impressed by that text, because I think Trow died in the early 2000s, but everything about “Within the Context of No Context” predicts the internet to me. It’s a book about the internet before the internet was even conceived. The simultaneous isolation and synthetic community we all live in, we all have to acknowledge both of those things at the same time.

‘We’re the bastard child of wanting to do the right thing in a world where the right thing doesn’t exist anymore.’

When I talked to the rest of the band yesterday, something that interested me is that I got the message that the idea that you are a “political band” has started to bother you. The terminology at least — “Priests, the political punk band.”

Greer: When we first started, we felt like we were surrounded by people who didn’t want to talk about anything in their music. So it felt confrontational to conceptualize ourselves as a political band. But right now — we played a show at the MoMA a few weeks ago with our friends Downtown Boys, and Victoria, the singer from that band, said to everybody in the room: “People are always asking us and Priests why we’re political bands, but nobody’s ever asking Belle and Sebastian that question. They’re just as much of a political band as we are!” And that’s entirely how I feel. Politics is like the air. We’re all political bands. Why not ask the people who are a little more nuanced about it where they’re coming from? People think that politics just means Sarah Palin or Barack Obama, but it actually refers to the way that we interact with each other, the way that we interact with our communities.

I wanted to ask you about the lyrics to “Design Within Reach.” I found it more inscrutable than some of the other songs on the record.

Greer: “Design Within Reach” is a song written to remind myself to try to construct the life I’m most interested in, and not just take action by default. [If there were] parentheses in the title [they] would be (Don’t Just) Design Within Reach. Usually, if you’re reaching for the design within reach, your reaching has already been assigned to you. I hate the word sarcasm but —

Why do you hate the word sarcasm?

Greer: It implies an insincerity that I find repulsive at this point. Our recent history of new music and art and humor and culture is rooted in a lot of insincerity. It’s a shield between us and vulnerability. Which I understand, because there’s a lot of art that’s really vulnerable that’s also entirely unappealing. So I understand where that comes from. But to make art that isn’t revealing in some way is so boring.

Priests, 'New'

via YouTube
‘Our recent history of new music and art and humor and culture is rooted in a lot of insincerity.’

Maybe some of the “vulnerable art” you’re referring to is uninteresting and unappealing because it actually isn’t vulnerable — it’s just accessing confessional tropes. Design within reach. Maybe part of being vulnerable is accepting the speech that comes to you naturally.

Greer: I think we’re on the same page here. As an artist, you want to express yourself. But as someone who is appreciating or consuming art, maybe you’re looking for things that people haven’t said before, or different ways of expressing things that have already been said. For me personally, if you’re just making fun of the act of expressing, that’s not really worth my time. That’s a farce of something that’s worth my time [laughs] MTV and popular culture, lots of other frivolous things already exist. I’d rather hear from someone who touches a nerve. I have a lot more respect for someone who’s willing to put themselves emotionally on the line than someone who’s trying to keep the party moving.

In line with that, I wanted to ask you about the line “worship me politely” from “Right Wing.”

Greer: On the one hand, I’m a performer. I objectify myself by nature. I’m totally down with people worshiping me, but in a polite sense. I also totally meant it in a sarcastic sense: acknowledging the celebrity culture we live in, where we’re expected to really respect these values or ideas that aren’t really values or ideas at all, in a polite manner [laughs].

It’s also a comment on certain modern ideas of feminism. I’m a performer. I stand in front of people and I’m well aware that I’m asking people to objectify me in a certain way. But there’s a contradiction in that: I want people to objectify me in a way that modern feminism would suggest is really problematic. I’m supposed to not be into people being into my physical appearance. Does that make sense?

Yeah, it does. I was just reading this old Tape Op interview with Linda Smith, an awesome home recorder who was active mainly in the ’90s. I’ll read you an excerpt, and you can tell me what you think. “The thing about playing at home is that you can make a whole tape and not put your picture on the CD. Not go that route. Which is the way that most major labels, to be sure, market women: Always have to have your picture on the front and maybe 10 of them inside. All in different poses with hair blowing, or whatever. The male-oriented albums have more pictures of guitars. T-shirts. Some of them may be cute and some of them may be fat but it does not matter. They can look like big old slobs, and if their music is big old slob music that’s fine…There may be more women in music, but the image they project is not more advanced than years ago…Liz Phair started out as indie and she recorded herself, but when she went to make her bigger move she took on the “tough chick” role. She posed for pictures that displayed that image. They had to have a picture that went with the image. I would like to hear more women who don’t depend on that at all, where that is not part of their packaging.”

Greer: That’s badass. And it touches on the complexity of all of this. I 100 percent relate to what she’s desiring with that statement. I want to be respected in a way that’s entirely divorced from my physical appearance. But at the same time, like I said, I’m a performer; I don’t think this is rooted in my femaleness or my sexuality. My thirst for attention is unquenchable. And I don’t think that’s rooted in a desire for male attention, or in my sexuality.

My friend was just telling me about watching the Lady Gaga “Monster’s Ball” video. And there’s this real emphasis on her chanting, “You are special, you are powerful, you’re a superstar, you’re gonna be up here on this stage one day.” She’s selling this cathartic fantasy of fame, and at the same time she’s talking about art, about the “avant-garde”…

Greer: It reminds me of when Tom Cruise is playing the motivational speaker in Magnolia — this weird capitalism workshop. “Don’t worry — you can still win the lottery ticket.” Because the game is over for people once they start to feel like they can’t win the lottery ticket. Capitalism is based on the slim chance that you can win. And we’re all starting to catch on that there’s no way to win the lottery ticket. There’s a lot more of us who are disenfranchised than the mainstream media would like to narrate.

‘Capitalism is based on the slim chance that you can win. And we’re all starting to catch on that there’s no way to win the lottery ticket.’

Tell me about Palberta and Sediment Club. What does that stuff do for you?

Greer: Palberta blew me away live. It can be easy in underground guitar music to silently follow conventions even while acting against those conventions. And Palberta, they’re not even acting against convention. They’re just completely ignoring it. Revolutionary and joyful. And Sediment Club, their 12-inch last year with Guerilla Toss was so fucking awesome. We asked them to play our record release show and they totally blew me away. I know that they’re probably inspired by certain conventions of guitar music — some people have talked about how they’re kind of a modern no-wave band — but it’s free and expressive, it’s engaging, guided by an inner voice, rather than some idea of what’s gonna speak to people.

Has anything happened so far on this tour, anything you’ve seen in any of these cities that’s struck you?

Greer: Mostly I’m just consumed with frustration because, as you can hear, I’ve lost my voice. Today we played at a street festival in Milwaukee. There were more than 200 people there, but they’re not necessarily people who are familiar with Don Giovanni or Priests. And I just kind of figured we were a weird spectacle for 30 seconds. But later I was walking around looking for food and this man who I swear was 7 feet tall — he was wearing a Pantera shirt and had a buzzed head — he stopped me and said “You guys were great today, I really love what you’re doing.” And to shake hands with a 7-and-a-half-foot-tall man wearing a Pantera shirt; this was a smart move, to play this street festival. We’re always trying to play to people we wouldn’t normally play to.

Zach Phillips talks with Taylor Mulitz, Daniele Daniele and G.L. Jaguar:

I’m a big press comber. It’s interesting to me the kinds of archives that get built up of statements about music by musicians. And most bands, whether or not they’re cooperative entities, end up having a kind of spokesperson, and it seems like Katie’s taken on that role for Priests. But in the interviews I’ve seen where all of you have a chance to speak, I think that’s been valuable. So I wanted to get you all in the mix, speaking on this music and why you’re doing it. Reading through the various interviews with you has led me to check out a lot of cool music and writing I wasn’t familiar with. I love Del Shannon, but I hadn’t heard “The Further Adventures of Charles Westover.”

G.L. Jaguar: The thing that was really fascinating about that album is that Del Shannon was known for his big hit “Runaway,” and a lot of his singles that came out around that time. He didn’t really have any full albums, ’cause I guess bands didn’t really make albums, they’d make singles — they were all very along the lines of, “Oh, there’s someone on the run,” this kind of “bad people music.” And then he comes out with this album where he uses his actual name in the title. It’s still Del Shannon, but the songs are pretty raw — like, there’s a song on there where he’s talking about how he’s trying to marry a rich woman, he’s marrying into this family and how miserable he is marrying into this family. It’s a very real album, and it doesn’t necessarily — you hear that album and you don’t think “Del Shannon.”

Daniele Daniele: There’s also Dion; he also tried to do a ’70s solo revival album. And it doesn’t hit the mark the way the Del Shannon one does, which speaks to — it wasn’t just a reinvention of a psychedelic sound, it was a reinvention in content as well. There’s an awareness of context in Del Shannon. You have a song about rich families. There are things about gender and class, whereas most romantic songs are so focused on feelings of love.

Right. I’m a big believer in — over and above the actual content of music — the kind of interpretive power you’re applying when you listen to Del Shannon and say, “Hey, something about this is a little strange.” That potentiality to me is very beautiful, because you’re imparting to the material a context that maybe wasn’t apparent when the music came out.

Daniele: Yeah. The meaning is a discourse. That’s kind of the whole idea of “the author is dead.” The author imparts some meaning but the meaning is completed when the reader puts their own thing into it.

So what was it about Joe [Steinhardt] and Don Giovanni that made you feel welcome and made you feel like you could function in that kind of framework?

Taylor Mulitz: Basically his whole ethos for how he wants to run a record label and what he’s trying to do. Initially, we were kind of like, “We’re doing this ourselves and that’s it.” And he was like, “I just wanted to let you know that I think that’s great” [laughs]. He and Katie ended up emailing back and forth and back and forth until they built a friendship around that.

Jaguar: We would’ve loved to keep putting out records — we still will put out records on our own. But the scale at which they’re working versus what we’re working — it’s not practical for us at this point to keep going on our own. We need help. That will help us focus on other people, like [the bands on] our record label Sister Polygon. We worked with Downtown Boys, and I recorded the 7-inch that we released on our label, and it was a big group effort between their band and our band to get it all out together. We’re almost ready for a second pressing!

Mulitz: If we had to do 300 mail orders in just one week for [our] new record, I think we would kill ourselves.

‘I kind of do think, until corporations develop some natural form of humanism, it’ll always be antithetical to what we do.’

I was wondering about the Downtown Boys 7-inch — was that recorded entirely live?

Jaguar: Yes, pretty much. The way I personally like to record is I like to get everything live, and try to do as few overdubs as possible. That 7-inch was a real struggle, though, because — I don’t know if you’ve seen that band, but that band is amazing. There’s even no way to even describe that band musically. In a cartoon, when there’s a cloud of dust and faces and fists flying — that is that band. What they’re doing is so important. I just had to nail that as best as I possibly could.

Do you all run Sister Polygon collectively?

Jaguar: Yeah, for the most part.

Where’s the name come from?

Jaguar: There was this — I can’t remember the name of the tape label — a band from Italy, from Sicily, called Silver Bullets. I was really into that band. Before I was in Priests, I kind of took a break from music, and before that I was playing more improvisational noise and jazz stuff around DC. And I was so floored by the Silver Bullets tape, that’s all I listened to for months and months. And one of the tracks on there was Sister Polygon. I thought the name really stuck. When we started the band I approached my bandmates, I’m like “Hey we could all run this label together, it’d be really great.” So we all do different things to keep the label running smoothly. Like I’m in touch with pressing plants, Taylor does design, we all do our part. We all do different things. It’s a collaborative effort.

Let me ask you guys some headier shit. I really liked this interview you did where you talk about a show you played that was I believe sponsored by Converse?

Daniele: Doc Martens, yeah.

‘I think there are a lot of bands that are equally political as us, and people will never ask them those questions because they don’t have a punk aesthetic.’

It’s kind of a hard question, but I wonder: Can you envision a point where participation in the corporate infrastructure of the music business becomes hopelessly antithetical to the message you’re trying to send to people?

Daniele: [Laughs] Isn’t it already? That show came up spontaneously. I don’t think anyone in this band wants to be playing corporately sponsored shows on the regular.

Jaguar: Yeah, we don’t want to play in SXSW at the Doritos vending machine.

Daniele: House of Vans, Dorito Vending Machine — no, thank you. We will not be part of your Taco Bell whatever. I kind of do think, until corporations develop some natural form of humanism, it’ll always be antithetical to what we do.

But what about the kind of devil’s advocate counterargument that by embracing these opportunities you increase the platform of your ability to speak to more and more people?

Mulitz: Well I think that’s why we did it [laughs].

Daniele: We’re always going back and forth. A good allegory for this type of thing was when Morrissey was going to play Madison Square Garden and he demanded that they only serve vegan food. And every vendor was, of course, so pissed off, and Madison Square Garden was like, “Fuck you.” But eventually they relented, because they sold these tickets and they wanted this Morrissey show to get there. But what I always think about is, Morrissey didn’t get to that place by being like “I only wanna play pubs that don’t serve meat” when he was a beginning musician. He had to be a diva and claim his space. So if some corporation wants to give me money, I’m not opposed to it. I want to co-opt their capital and use it for my own ends. I just don’t wanna feel like I’m being used to their ends. I do think it’s somewhat competitive, and I always want to feel like I’m winning at the end of the exchange. I don’t know, we’re still figuring it out.

Mulitz: And it’s something I think about a lot. It’s a situation that’s more nuanced than just, “are you a sellout if you do something that’s sponsored?” There isn’t one broad answer for every situation. And I think it’s really unfair when people are so dogmatic about that. Because there is a way to still be subversive and send your message while not only having to sing to people who already know who you are.

Daniele: We don’t like corporations, but we also don’t like stupid ridiculous punk dogma that is not pragmatic at all. Idealism is annoying.

You’ve made it clear in writing and interviews and in your music that your engagement with music isn’t constrained by a specific aesthetic, like the punk dogma you were just talking about. You’ve released music by Carni Klirs, whose music seems to work mostly with instrumental guitar ambience and spare percussion, and it’s a far cry from punk. So I wonder how you conceptualize the relationship between the politics you espouse, and your aesthetics — the actual sound of things. How political do you want to get about aesthetics?

Daniele: I think it’s problematic — I think it’s really easy for people to call us a political band because we have a punk aesthetic. And that kind of bums me out, because I think there are a lot of bands that are equally political as us, and people will never ask them those questions because they don’t have a punk aesthetic. Someone like Trent Reznor might be talking about a lot of these same things, but because he has this goth thing going on, it’s somehow not relevant. I’m all about splitting those things up. I think it’s a bummer that too often people think punk is the outlet for political music, when it could be anything. Sun Ra was political. Everyone is political.

Jaguar: Speaking for me personally, aesthetics are very important. From what you wear to the way you present yourself. The way your music sounds is very political. If it’s atonal, if it’s noisy, if it’s not necessarily a pop structure, I think that’s very political. You’re not necessarily following any of the rules. I think it’s very important to try to find a balance between things that are catchy, with a hook, but also trying to have more avant-garde, sonically harsh ideas, and finding a good amalgamation of all of that. Because you don’t want to just fall into certain patterns.

That was what I was getting at. The dominant paradigm is that aesthetic form is married to political stance. The idea that the political shape of some music and the statements made in it could have nothing to do with the way that it sounds — an idea very familiar to most musicians — is I think largely foreign to the music press. Oh, it sounds like this, so they must be slackers. Oh, it sounds like this so they’re political punks.

Mulitz: It’s hilarious the narratives that people will create for you based on the narrative that the person before them started. Watching that happen, all you can do is do the shrug emoji. This is something that comes up in every interview, and it’s not a negative thing, because obviously we have a lot to say about the shape of politics, in whatever sense of that word. Not just who the elected officials are, but the politics of gender and the way you go about the world in your body.

I understand that there must be a maddening effect of being pigeonholed as a political band and having that be kind of a vacant signifier. Like, “beach pop” would be a vacant signifier.

Mulitz: Yeah, it’s the same thing. Any time anyone wants to put a phrase on you. Yeah. Beach pop. It’s the same thing. Surf rock. Surf punk. OK: but it’s more.

Right. But, that said, it seems to me your music does problematize things, and I sense a real hesitance in a lot of music to problematize anything. And I feel like you do do that in your music. Take “Doctor,” for example. There’s a strand there of dissent against a certain kind of expertise. That’s not what people typically think of when they think of the world “political” — a rejection of the expertise of people who pathologize things. That’s not the most readily available tier of what people think to constitute the category of “the political.”

Mulitz: We write music separately from the lyrics. We don’t write them together. But the way that they always end up being together — like “Design Within Reach” is a really good example, or even “Doctor.” The music of it — I feel like it really compliments the lyrical content of it.

But it started with the music, and then the lyrics changed it and gave it its complete identity. Do you sense that? Is that a thing for you, when you’re working together? Is that why the band works? You have the more or less finished song structure, Katie puts some lyrics on it and develops the vocal part, do you have a feeling that something has been born or achieved identity that seems impossible every time?

Jaguar: Well, art is usually never final. That’s what’s cool about the different alternative takes of songs. You can listen to Swans and they’ll have, like, seven different versions of the same goddamn song. And each of those versions sounds different. Nothing is usually ever set in stone. Sometimes we’ll tweak things. It’s like a painting — you can go back and fix a painting, unless it’s up in a gallery or a museum or whatever. Things always change, and sometimes things are gonna solidify and you’re like “this is it.” But “Watch You,” for example, went through so many incarnations before it became what it is now.

Mulitz: Sometimes Katie will have words that she’s written and she’ll sing them to a song and it won’t work together. And something else will…that’ll be used for something else. They aren’t just thrown on top. It all has to work together.

‘If some corporation wants to give me money, I’m not opposed to it. I want to co-opt their capital and use it for my own ends.’

Jaguar: It’s a pain in the ass to be in a band where you’re the only person carrying the band. I’ve been in so many shitty bands where I’m the only one who’s enthusiastic about it. And then it gets so defeating, because nobody else cares. It’s really such a positive environment to be in this band. We may not always get along, we may not always agree on the same things, but ultimately we all work together and that’s really important. Music definitely predates language. It’s a very communal thing — you’ve got to come together and make it together.

Daniele: And it is hard. Sometimes you have to try something you don’t believe in. And it requires a certain degree of open-mindedness that in the end is rewarding because you end up having more faith in your bandmates. We were writing this new song that I was really into, and I was pushing so hard, “Guys, we should work on this one” and I had learned this new beat for it. I was so excited, and then Katie was like, “I don’t know, I think the guitar part sounds cheesy.” And I was like, “Stop being a negative Nelly.” And then G.L. got this new guitar part and I was like, “That’s stupid.” Even if you don’t like it, you owe it to yourself in the band to try out someone else’s idea. And then of course we did it and we got the structure and I was like, “Guys, it’s kind of awesome.” I was so wrong. Now I love it.

Mulitz: Tell us how you really feel, Daniele!

Daniele: No, I was so wrong. You really have to go outside yourself. It’s hard sometimes, because I think a lot of us are control freaks and we really care, so we really want our ideas there. And you can’t half-ass it, you have to really try. And it’s real magic when something you didn’t expect hits you.