Back in April the music community was lucky enough to be introduced to Casting The Circle, the outstanding second album by Ripple Music band High Priestess. An album with its breadth and range of emotion could only be summed up properly by the band themselves. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to catch up with High Priestess to discuss Casting The Circle, the state of music, and what they have planned moving forward.
In case you were wondering, we also dive into phrygian scales, 5 year plans (spoiler alert…..goats are involved), and a tour with Monolord, Zeppelin, and Sabbath. I’m pretty sure that will be killer. Check out the full interview below.
First off, congrats on ‘Casting The Circle’. How has the album lived up to your expectations?
Katie: Thank you so much! I think our intentions were to make the best album we could, and expectations wise, the reception has been very positive so we are grateful for that. We were excited to get #1 on Gimme Radio a couple of weeks ago, also to be in the top 10 in the May Doom Charts. Hearing from the fans themselves about how much they love the album has been wonderful.
Constructing cohesive albums seem to be something that gets lost in a streaming age. However, the theme and energy of this entire album experience really stood out for me. What was your process for writing ‘Casting The Circle’ to achieve this?
Katie: That’s cool that you noticed that. Honestly for me the songs kind of dictate themselves, and a theme wasn’t necessarily planned, but our playing was very intentional. All of us, especially Mariana, are fans of scales in the phrygian vein, and since 4 out of the 5 songs are that type of tonality I’m sure that has something to do with it. The keyboards used on virtually every song is also another aspect that was new, and using a consistent organ or synth sound throughout the album is a powerful glue. I also think it’s a natural progression for a band to develop a cohesive sound over time. All of that combined with our interest in the occult, which is the subject matter for at least 3 of the songs, makes for a ‘theme’.
Mariana: Yes, those phrygian scales definitely have a vibe that I hope to keep in our sound. It exuberates the right sense of imminent danger and beauty at the same time. Which is what doom sort of is about: finding the beauty in your darkness, be it sludge, prog, psych, epic… So those sub-moods are always there to go along the ride.
These are our children and I love them all equally, but that super epic part in Invocation when Katie’s vocals unleash the wrath of a thousand thunder storms is pretty amazing…
With an album this in depth, I’m guessing there are a few moments in various songs that came to be favorites or stand out a little more. What are your favorite parts within the album?
Katie: This is always a hard question to answer, since each song and each part has a special place in my heart. I love the crescendo at the end of Casting The Circle. The outro of Erebus (the ‘bendies’) always gets me. The backup harmonies in The Hourglass are especially touching to me, in a mysterious and inexplicable way. The B and C section of Invocation rouse up this powerful and almost primal area of my mind, and Ave Satanas when the 2 other harmony parts enter are some of my favorites.
Megan: Invocation is my favorite song of all of our material to date. Perhaps that’s because it features many aspects of our High Priestess sound. I love the creepy phantasmic elements, smooth grooving, build of energy, ethereal vocals, crushing guitar solo action, and blistering heaviness. Section C that hits around 10 and a half minutes into the song stands out as my favorite moment. The rhythm in that part is a blast to play, and I can’t get enough of the play back and forth between vocals and guitar. Probably sounds silly but every time we play it or I listen to it I walk away with a wild ‘holy shit, we’re a force to be reckoned with’ feeling. All that said I dig all the moments Katie mentioned as well.
Mariana: These are our children and I love them all equally, but that super epic part in Invocation when Katie’s vocals unleash the wrath of a thousand thunder storms is pretty amazing. When Megan comes in with the prayer is also pretty spine chilling, and that super tribal drumming on top of it…
‘Casting The Circle’ was such a great follow up to your self-titled release. How do you see the band evolving and moving forward?
Katie: Thanks so much! Having a bigger production is on my wish list, with lights, video, pre-recorded sounds, maybe a touring keyboardist is on my wish list. Live shows and touring are unfortunately a big question mark because of the pandemic. I’d also love to just keep writing great songs and exploring new avenues of sound.
Megan: Like Katie said, a bigger production would be really nice. When it’s safe to perform live again I’d really like for High Priestess performances to be more of an immersive experience, rather than a standard metal show. I dream of liquid light show projections, incense drenched occult ceremonies, and specially crafted pre/post show music and rituals. All that plus the classic sweaty, face melting metal show vibe of course. I’d like to see us continue to push ourselves further as artists and performers.
Mariana: Our 5 year plan is to eventually have a compound of our own. I think goats have been in talks now too…
Obviously, the global landscape is not what any of us anticipated moving into the summer months. What are some things fans can expect from High Priestess during the live music hiatus?
Katie: It’s crazy, right? We just collaborated with Jon at Brimming Horn Mead for their Mead & Metal Series with some Casting The Circle Mead. It’s a great quarantine beverage! Generally our options are limited at this point, because of everyone’s safety, but I’ve been watching what other bands have been doing and there have been some really cool live displays online. We will be hosting our own radio hour on Gimme Radio on June 24. Stay tuned!
Mariana: Katie and I have been getting together to just jam, now that we’re in phase 2 of the lockdown. Unfortunately with the curfew we currently have going on in California, it’s been slightly more difficult to let things flow. The Brimming Horn Mead certainly is playing a major role on some of those jams.
What changes do you anticipate for the industry moving forward? How will bands and labels need to adapt to be successful?
Katie: I appreciate you asking this. I definitely think the music industry needs to start working for the musicians and not just top industry executives. The wealth gap is especially evident in the lives of musicians. You have the super rich and the poor, with no middle class. Streaming companies especially need to pay the fair share to artists. Musicians are handcuffed into working for a system that exploits them. Honestly I don’t really see this changing unless it is made into policy, because companies aren’t going to do this out of goodwill. The pandemic will probably just accelerate profits for streaming companies, because people are listening to more music at home.
I have the dismal view that musicians and labels will have to keep working their ‘main’ job and be artists in the corners of their lives. We are unfortunately forced to adapt this way. Success for bands and labels now looks way different than it did in decades past, and I think it will continue to be abysmal in terms of income, unless laws are passed and people, companies are held accountable. Some days I am more optimistic, though!
Mariana: Which in the current state of the world, it doesn’t look very likely to happen anytime soon. There seems to be this historical cycle of events though, so hopefully, in a couple of generations, musicians will get to experience what was offered in the previous decades when it comes to having financially supported tours / album advances / a liveable wage. It’s not like we’re asking for Sabbath’s drug budget.
The wealth gap is especially evident in the lives of musicians. You have the super rich and the poor, with no middle class. Streaming companies especially need to pay the fair share to artists. Musicians are handcuffed into working for a system that exploits them…
Are there any venues/cities that you’re particularly excited to play again? What stands out about that place?
Katie: There are a lot that come to mind. The Black Heart when we played Desertfest London was rad! I loved the size, the sound, and then walking around to other pubs and venues nearby. Music City in Antwerp is a great venue with an awesome vibe and cool people. Plan B in Malmo sticks out because it was the first place we played on our European tour, there is great sound there, nice people and chill outdoor space. We used our live photos from this show on Casting The Circle. I also really like the Observatory in Spokane, WA for the hospitality and atmosphere. And lastly I will say the Spiderhouse in Austin TX, the SX Stoner Jam rules with multiple stages and is just a cool place all around.
Megan: With Covid-19 still being a risk I’m not ready to play shows yet, but when it’s safe and comfortable for our fans and us to enjoy a night of live music without worry I’d really like to play at The Viper Room in our hometown of LA again. We played our first album release show there and it was an epic night. The staff, especially Stephanie, are always so nice to us and the sound and lighting rocks.
Mariana: Definitely all the places that both Katie and Megan mentioned. I think at this point, even venues with dreadful staircases, where you have to haul gear up and down are starting to sound dreamy.
A fantasy question, you’re going on tour, no limitations….what bands are on the bill?
Katie: Wow that is tough to narrow down, but I would have to say off the top of my head, Acid King, Blood Ceremony, Sleep, Monolord, Green Lung, Purple Hill Witch, Coven, Kadavar, Electric Citizen and Alice Cooper come to mind. Maybe it would have to be a traveling festival?
Megan: That’s really a tough one and my fantasy line up changes all the time! I’d really dig touring with Earthless, Yob, and Monolord. I’d also love to perform with Zakk Wylde in any capacity one day. If we get to time travel in this fantasy I’d go with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Cream. I’d learn so much watching Bonham, Ward, and Baker every night!!
Mariana: No limitations? I’m selfishly going to say Jimi Hendrix, early 70’s King Crimson and Black Sabbath, Funkadelic, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Soundgarden… just so I could watch them every night. In a world where the stars align just right, I would say OM, Yob, Sleep, Ahab…
Any final words…
Megan: I’d like to give a big shout out and thank you to everyone who has taken the time to check out Casting The Circle as well as our first album. It’s been an exciting journey for us so far and the support we’ve received from our fans has meant so much.
Katie: Thank you for the interview. And many thanks to our fans for the support! I hope everyone is staying safe during these strange and turbulent times.
Mariana: thanks for the support.
Casting The Circle is out now via Ripple Music.
Interviewed by: Scott Anderson