Nick Walker
August 11, 2014 at 08:00 PM EDT


Current Status
In Season

Recent pop history has been notably light on the kind of epically-scaled rock anthems built for fist-pumping, arena-shaking singalongs that dominated the radio throughout the ’80s and ’90s. Portland duo Priory is singlehandedly reversing that trend with their song “Weekend,” which for the past month has been slowly gaining momentum on radio and seems destined to go onto even bigger things.

Brandon Rush and Kyle Sears met at shows around Portland, but the idea to collaborate musically didn’t come until Rush moved into a punk house that Sears was living in. “We just sat down for the first time with acoustic guitars and it was kind of instantaneous,” Sears says. “Literally I think the first time we sat down we wrote the foundations for like two songs.”

The partnership was promising enough that they soon quit their jobs in order to focus on music full-time, investing what money they had in gear—eventually enough to build their own studio—and relying on some of the traditional methods musicians have developed over the years to get by. According to Rush, “The whole friggin’ time it was Top Ramen, Kyle was giving blood and I was giving bass lessons on the side.”

Their breakout song happened almost by accident. “We were actually working on another track,” Sears says, “and Brandon was in the other room playing a [melody] line and we were like, stop! That line! And that’s that first intro, the bass synth sounding thing. Then we built it up together from there.”

What they ended up with is a song that combines the biggest, broadest elements of rock, pop, and EDM. Like recent landmark hits like MGMT’s “Kids” and Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” it’s both aesthetically ambitious and intensely accessible—while the diced-up samples and the lead guitar part that seems indebted to West African highlife music should appeal to hipsters who share Rush and Sears’ predilections for tattoos and retro eyewear, the hook on the chorus is easily strong enough to cross all demographic boundaries.

That populist aspect is part and parcel of the song’s message. Behind party-hardy lines like “Hell yeah I just got paid / It’s time to get this started,” there’s some serious political commentary occurring.

“There’s a theme [on the album] about the marginalization of the middle class and how we can be repressed by our culture,” Rush explains. “I know that’s a little bit heavy for a song that comes across as just being this party on the weekend anthem. But I think it’s fun to have some sort of subversive context. The song’s about being marginalized and then, in turn, acting out. It’s what we do. It’s the way we can have a sense of control in our lives.”

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