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Hot Young Priest turns heads

Atlanta trio impressing with its live show, too


Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It's been quite a while since my last confession, and I've been having impure thoughts lately; lot's of 'em, in fact...

What kind, my child? Spare no details, now, God hears all, and since I am his emissary here on Earth ...

To begin with, I've started a rock band, Father, one that plays every show as though it's their last, with a devil-may-care attitude...

Now, now child, careful whose name you invoke in the lord's house. Though I must say there's nothing wrong with music as long as you heed the word. ...

Oh, we do, Father, our songs often use religious imagery....

Well done, my child. What is the name of your group?

Hot Young Priest, Father... Father?...Father?

For a band with just a five-song EP to their sleazy-astical name, there's an awfully big rumble behind the Atlanta trio, Hot Young Priest. They've already been featured on a regional magazine cover, and made quite a splash at this year's South by Southwest. The self-released EP - Burning Hot and Free - has made inroads with college stations across the country, and their debut full-length is one of those "eagerly anticipated" releases that actually is.But traditionally in the music business a big buzz with little music usually implies one of three things: nepotism (Pete Yorn), a strong pedigree (Jakob Dylan) or something that actually matters: an amazing live show.

Ladies and gentlemen, Hot Young Priest: Great on stage.

"There's been some real support," says Mary Bryne, 30, the band's lead singer, songwriter and guitarist. "A lot of it has to do with our live shows... the music and the performance seem ready to fly apart at the seams at any moment."

This isn't the industry standard self-promotion, either, as the Austin Chronicle's Dave Dierksen wrote of the band's SXSW show, "Last night, a hot young priest saved my life. . . (the band) gets it right with just guitar, bass, drums and an arsenal of power chords." Burning Hot and Free lies musically somewhere between the Pixies and Soundgarden, the hard edges sanded down with jsut enough melody just enough to draw in a broad swath of listeners. But Hot Young Priest eschews standard songwriting formulas, opting instead for the road less paved. "I really notice in our creative process a reluctance to use the obvious," says Bryne.

"It's urgent and spastic, and there's a sense of immediacy in it," says 25-year-old bassist Daniel Winn. Filling out the rhythm section is the group's elder statesman by deafult, Chris Jansen, 37. Together they create an insistent wave for Bryne to ride over, dropping in the occasional fifth beat in a 4/4 bar — just enough to maintain their standing with the math rock union. Bryne's voice seems to slip in and out of other female singers' styles, rarely resting long enough for anyone to identify them. When they try, the parallels inevitably include P.J. Harvey, though there never has yet been a review of a female-led rock band that hasn't included at least one reference to the Rid of Me gal (see?). Meanwhile, Bryne's guitar playing channels a smoother edged Shannon Wright. Lyrically, Bryne makes use of her religion studies background at Wesleyan for her elliptical narratives. More often than not, however, authors like Don Delillo, Toni Morrison and Flannery O'Connor serve as inspiration, especially for the religious imagery in their work. "It's evocative and also provocative," Byrne offers. "It's imagery that has connections to sexuality and relationships...lots of times it's the best way to bring those out." For her day job, Bryne freelances for various publications, and it was in part because of an assignment that Hot Young Priest formed in the first place. At the time, Bryne's band Shamgod had dissolved and she was writing a piece for Southeast Performer on Crybaby, whose bassist happened to be Daniel Winn. Since Bryne and Jansen (formerly in Myssouri) were already playing together after the dissolution of their respective bands, they invited Winn to try out. Just a little over a year later, all three were on the cover of Southeast Performer.

Oh, and that name? Three random words that sounded good together. . . sorry clergy bashers. Now say several Hail Mary's and Thanks Daniel's and Chris' and just wait for the buzz to come to town.

Hot Young Priest plays the Room Friday with the Talk and Fashion Brigade.

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