Hot Young Priest
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Hot Young Priest

Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Band Rock


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The best kept secret in music


"SXSW Music 2005"

SXSW MUSIC 2005: A Field Journal
by PopMatters Music Writers
From the overhyped beats of Bloc Party and M.I.A. to the Southwestern pleasures of Calexico and Los Super Seven and back to the unjustly unheralded Hot Young Priest, our crew covers the highs and lows of SXSW 2005.
[18 March 2005]

HOT YOUNG PRIEST — 11.00pm, Blender Bar Balcony at the Ritz
Last night, a hot young priest saved my life. Well, perhaps more accurately, the trio that comprises Atlanta's Hot Young Priest salvaged my Saturday and raised my somewhat low opinion of this year's SXSW experience. In the years past, I've always come away from this festival having been floored by at least one artist I had never heard before. This year, there was very little in the way of revelation; the great performances were given by bands who I expected to give great performances. Quite a surprise that the festival's "new discovery" would come from a no frills trio; I'd almost forgotten what music sounded like detached from hype, fashion or comparison. Hot Young Priest gets it right with just guitar, bass, drums, and an arsenal of power chords. It's been a long time since we've heard a woman fronting a non-cheesy, full-throttle rock band, and Mary Byrne's voice is easily as sexy, seductive and catchy as any influential female rock singer who came before. Perhaps the real draw to Hot Young Priest, however, is the musicality. To use a technical drumming term, Hot Young Priest knows how to fuck the beat (look it up). This entails taking your standard 4/4 rhythm and twisting it a little. Before you think math rock, I'm not talking calculus here -- just the simple addition or subtraction of the occasional beat, or going with the snare when you're expecting the kick. It still grooves, but with a new flavor -- proof that rock doesn't need a revolution or a 20-year redux. Just a little enhancement is often the bigger step.
Dave Dierksen


"south-by-so-what 2005, the music recap, part 2"

hot young priest - this is the kind of of band SxSW is built on. largely unknowns who could be known & lauded someday. this band is from athens, GA, and despite having a lot in common with giant drag as far as how they sound, hot young priest did it for me on some levels. enough that i'm upset that i didn't buy a CD from them...which seems to be the only way you can get one. this was dry-era PJ harvey & palomine/lamprey-era bettie serveert in a blender, raised on a steady diet of B-52's, document-era REM, second-hand big star records, & a whole lot of nasty southern blues.

"Live review"

...Starting things off with a slow, undulating lurch, Hot Young Priest were the perfect warm-up band on this night, and arguably the one with the most varied and inventive set. With thundering bass rolling beneath strong, mildly riot-girrrl-ish vocals, and sudden blasts of distortion coming at just the right moment or sucking the melodies beneath its weight towards the end of some songs, Hot Young Priest were only superficially more reserved than those who played after. Like a Babes in Toyland for the Jucifer generation, Hot Young Priest were loud, powerful, and unafraid to build up slow tension before the captive audience that slowly grew during their set. - Walt Jeffries, Southeast Performer, 5/04

"Stomp and Stammer's ideas"

While no one was looking, Hot Young Priest went and became Atlanta’s hottest power trio. You think it won’t work, but it does, Mary Byrne’s winsome, unsullied voice, unmistakably reminiscent of Bettie Serveert’s Carol van Dijk, slinking its way around the rhythm section’s nasty onslaught and Byrne’s own scorching guitar slam. Rather than wait ‘til they have a full-length album ready to roll, they’ve pressed up a five-song EP called Burning Hot and Free, which neatly focuses on the highlights of their live sets…They’re selling this thing for five bucks at their shows, and it’s well worth it. - Jeff Clark, Stomp & Stammer, August 2004

"Flagpole review"

Hot Young Priest does not write music for the meat market. Nor does the group craft inane pop songs that are well-suited for use as background music at social gatherings, or as fodder for fashionably short attention spans...Hot Young Priest infuses intelligent post-punk chops with earnestness and humble ambiguity…relies on insightful and affecting songwriting that's imbued with a timeless quality that transcends trends of the moment…Critics have slung comparisons to everyone from prog-rock old masters King Crimson to Dutch avant-popsters Bettie Serveert to heavy metal ancestor Led Zeppelin. And though none of these references are without warrant or merit, they don't quite capture Hot Young Priest's true sense of distinctiveness…The group's songs surge with an unpretentious air of poetic fortitude. Swerving and incendiary hooks drive the band's self-released debut EP, Burning Hot and Free. Byrne's honeyed voice wafts between yearning and reflection, gaining steam while crooning sweetly throughout songs like "In The Basement" and "Eyes Wide Open;" all the while her voice hints at something unsettled lurking just below the surface. Religion, desire, regret and seeing clearly over a lifetime of experiences swell subconsciously from within, but nothing is ever made plain. - Chad Radford, Flagpole [Athens, GA], 9/1/04

"Creative Loafing Award"

Sure, Shamgod was a good band, but, as it often happens, the group broke up. Wasting little time, singer/songwriter/guitarist Mary Byrne quickly assembled the devilishly delicious Hot Young Priest. Tight, well-rehearsed, and armed with an ample supply of killer tunes, Byrne and new bandmates Daniel Winn (bass) and Chris Jansen (drums) are a compact arsenal of rock. Their five-song EP, Burning Hot and Free, is a snapshot of a band in a growing stage, with wonderfully catchy, crunchy songs that roam free on a jagged landscape. Bless their hearts and pass the plate, brothers and sisters, there’s one hell of a band in town again. - Best Banding Together Following a Breakup,” Creative Loafing’s Best of Atlanta 2004 Awards

"SE Performer review"

At roughly thirty seconds in the first song on this album, In the Basement, you'll swear to God you stepped into a time warp. Not just any time warp, but a time warp in an alternate dimension. In this parallel reality, every movement and wave in music was just slightly cooler at the time. Hot Young Priest sound like 1994, or at least 1994 should have sounded like Hot Young Priest. Vocalist Mary Byrne has her fair share of Kim Deal-isms, Kathleen Hannah-isms, and similarities to most notable female alt-rock and riot grrrl singers. She can be snotty, bratty, or charming and seductive, and sometimes within the same chorus. The rest of the band is also partying like the towers are still up and global warming is mostly a hipster joke. Drummer Chris Jansen alternates between menacing blasts of aggression and pop/punk rhythms while bassist Daniel Winn spaces his notes apart just the right amount for maximum vintage indie effect. Hot Young Priest never sound completely grunge, and it would be unfair to make such comparisons without any qualification. Just as the B-52's absorbed surf rock and New Wave and warped both aesthetics to fit their character, Hot Young Priest treat their 90's influences as mere references or starting points. Even the cover, picturing a young girl wearing pathetically fake devil horns, comes across as a knowing wink. They know you'll think of Siamese Dream and Blind Melon's self-titled album. Hot Young Priest just hopes you're smart enough not to automatically dismiss it as a rip-off and instead properly appreciate it as homage.. If there's one drawback to this release, it's the CD's brevity. At a mere five songs, this is the rare EP that should have probably been expanded into a full-length. Eyes Wide Open (which is unfortunately switched with the equally great Burn Up in the track listing) is the clear stand-out, with its dark and cryptic lyrics and ferocious intensity. This song, like others in the bands catalogue, gut the Pixies precious loud-soft dynamic and turn it into a schizophrenic rocker laced with subtle nuances bordering on reggae at points. Hot Young Priest have at least one excellent album in them, and this EP is the perfect appetizer. - Walt Jeffries, Southeast Performer, October 2004

"PRICK review"

In less than a year, this Atlanta trio has created quite a buzz for itself, and rightfully so. So much so, in fact, that this EP was supposedly recorded to hastily meet the demands from local radio and media outlets impressed by the band's live shows. Slightly more aggressive and way more energetic than typical indie rock fare, this female-fronted group sometimes reminds me of a poppier version of Babes In Toyland or a heavier version of Veruca Salt or The Breeders. Whether it's the Soundgarden influenced sound of "Sidewalk Chalking" or the catchier resonance of "Eyes Wide Open" or "Burn Up," Hot Young Priest always keeps it short, sweet and fun. Even when the cryptic lyrics seemingly recall happier days and long for a return to innocence, the band's energy and vocalist Mary Byrne's playful delivery suggest that Hot Young Priest would rather take the listener to a pleasant place than dwell in desolation. Kind of like remembering how sweet the candy was without thinking about the cavity it caused. - Jonathan Williams, PRICK Magazine, November 2004

"Live in Savannah"

A few months back, this Atlanta trio played Savannah for the first time, opening for the reformed Urge Overkill. By all accounts, they stole the show that night, with a more focused and memorable set than the headliners. Now they’re back on a double bill with North Carolina’s critical darlings The Rosebuds, and while each band is distinctly different, there are enough similarities to suggest a terrific matchup. Both are trios which boast one female member (in this case, guitarist and frontwoman Mary Byrne). Both earned almost immediate raves from both critics and crowds alike, and both temper their more somber tunes with infectious, toe-tapping rave-ups. The biggest difference between the two, however, is in their attack. Where The Rosebuds play coy about their garage-rock antecedents, Hot Young Priest comes on thick and hard, with a dirty, sludgey guitar tone that lives right across the street from early ‘90s grunge. They’re a snarling, throbbing throwback to the time when Kim Deal got recognized even without the Pixies standing next to her, and Veruca Salt were guilty pleasures for those of us who got the shuck but still dug singing along. Vocally, Byrne (formerly of Atlanta’s Shamgod) certainly cops a couple of Deal-ish coos now and again on their debut EP Burning Hot and Free, but more than anyone else, her approach (both of throat and of axe) recalls Bettie Serveert leader Carol van Dijk. In fact, HYP’s “Eyes Wide Open” sounds cast off from that group’s Dust Bunnies LP. If you like catty, push and pull rock with more than a touch of feedback and dynamic tension, check out this band that many are calling one of the most promising indie groups currently on the Atlanta scene. - Jim Reed, Connect Savannah, 11/17-23/04

"CL Spotlight"

December is a good time to look back on one's accomplishments. And lately Mary Byrne, singer/guitarist/songwriter of Hot Young Priest, has plenty to reflect on. Culled from the ashes of her previous band Shamgod, the scorching new Priest fulfills the promise that band only hinted at. Two months after the band's debut in April, the trio captured some of their new songs on tape. The result of the quickie session turned out so good, college radio started playing 'em and before long, those five songs ended up as the basis of an EP Burning Hot and Free. "The timing of the recording of this EP seems really key," says Byrne. "I think we're glad we did it at that point, because creatively, we have changed and evolved really quickly since we've gotten together. That particular moment would have been lost if we hadn't paused for a second to document it." Since the EP only hints at the raw power of the live shows of the irascible Priest -- featuring bassist Daniel Winn and drummer Chris Jansen -- the record stands as a vivid snapshot, rather than an exact replication of the band as it is now. "The EP is this really concise portrait in time," says Byrne. "It's a recording of a project in motion." The album has been available to fans since the summer, but HYP is gearing up to unleash it on the rest of unsuspecting world, via retail and online. "The selling price at shows is still five bucks, but I can't promise it will be that cheap in stores or the Internet," warns Byrne. The cover features photos by Jansen, and underneath the mad Ralph Steadman font is a devilish photo of 3-year-old Mara Bradley, daughter of musician Michael Bradley (Myssouri). But where will retail file the hard-to-define band in the bins? "I don't think we've decided on what to call our music yet," she says. "Early on, we used words like spare, stark, thrifty, sultry, white-hot rock." Although those descriptions still apply, Byrne adds that "elastic" wouldn't be too bad, either. "It seems like the character of the songs sometimes changes from performance to performance." - Lee Valentine Smith, Creative Loafing, 12/2/04


Burning Hot and Free (EP) 2004


Feeling a bit camera shy


Thrift, cool, sultry songs. White-hot rock with crimson sparkles. Here and there, it's stark. Lots of time, it's thuderous.