High Priestess is the band to look-out for in this festival season. Based in Los Angeles, it all started in 2016, when Mariana Fiel placed an ad on Craigslist, seeking people with an equal mindset for an out of this world project. After a five-song demo, soon they got some underground praise and caught the eye of Ripple Music. Already with an european tour scheduled for the upcoming weeks, the psychedelic doom metal band will present their eponymous first album released in 2018.
Mariana Fiel (bass/voice), Megan Mullins (drums) and Katie Gilchrest (guitars/voice) will take their hypnotic sounds and souring improv sections with crescendos to an anticipated show set to rock Desertfest London next week. We took this opportunity and reached out to Mariana to know more about her and this mesmerizing doom trio.
Wav: Can you define how music came into your life?
Mariana Fiel: My parents always had music playing at the house, so I’ve been exposed to pretty decent music at a very young age.
When did you decided to learn and to start playing bass?
MF: I was maybe around 17 years old…? I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but my older brother, Gonçalo, got a BC Rich Warlock, and it looked pretty badass, so he taught me a couple of things and from there on out I just started to learn my favorite riffs, and eventually writing my own.
Some years ago you were very active in the portuguese underground scene, attending concerts and so. Times when the stoner scene still didn't had as many buzz, followers and fans as now... How was it back then?
MF: It was great and extremely frustrating at the same time, because I’m from Porto, and most of the cool shows were either in Lisbon or somewhere in Spain. Eventually, in the early 2000’s venues like Porto Rio started booking touring stoner rock bands, which was very convenient for my wallet. It’s amazing to see that Portugal now is almost part of the Stoner rock and doom Mecca in Europe, with all the festivals with unbelievable line-ups (that High Priestess hopes to be a part of one of these days).
We also know that you used to travel to Spain in order to attend some concerts… Tell us about that!
MF: I traveled to Vigo, Spain many years ago to see Fu Manchu, and then Atomic Bitchwax and Black Nasa. I also traveled to Medina del Campo to see Yawning Man and Viaje a 800, with my dear friend Sophia, which would always tag along with me to those kind of adventures. That Yawning Man show was extremely special. It took us about 10 hours to get there by bus. The bus driver must have had that one cd only, that unfortunately turned out to be Quim Barreiros [portuguese pop act], so we basically went through 10 hours of hell until we got there. Once we arrived, we had a couple of beers with the guys from Viaje a 800 and then met them again later on at this beautiful bullfight arena where the show was taking place. It was a beautiful warm evening and because we were sort of in the middle of nowhere, the night sky was absolutely stunning, which was the perfect setting to see Yawning Man.
Now you're living in LA. How did come the opportunity? Was it a life goal for you?
MF: It was never a goal to live here. I always had that dream of doing the pilgrimage to the desert, but have always thought of it as a vacation. I just happened to have fallen in love with an American, and eventually moved here and got married. Things didn’t work out but Los Angeles became a home to me, and it just didn’t feel right to move back to Portugal, which now I guess that gut feeling made sense, the universe had something planned.
How it felt to see and to be in Joshua Tree and the Mojave Desert for the first time? Inspiring?
Joshua Tree, Palm Desert, Indio and Palm Springs have an amazing energy. I’m not sure if there’s some sort of an electromagnet field surrounding the high and low desert, but there’s just this feeling, once you get there, of just decompression… all the worries and everything you were stressing out about are gone, somehow. Maybe it’s the majestic vastness of it… maybe it’s just the air that doesn’t have half as much smog as in LA, but there’s definitely something magical about it.
Was it easy to adapt to such a different country and city?
MF: It was fairly easy, mostly because Los Angeles is a very liberal city. Freeways are, well, free, which is great to move around. I guess the lack of a good public transportation system was the hardest thing to adjust, since I couldn’t actually drive until I got my legal status approved. It just felt surreal for the first couple of months to have so many awesome shows happening every weekend! And eventually meeting people that you never thought in a million years that you would become friends with. Los Angeles is known to be a tough city to live in, but it’s absolutely worth it.
Some use to say that LA is the city when you can find legends as Dave Grohl attending a punk gig at a rotten club. Have you witness something like that yet?
MF: I’ve seen Dave Grohl at maybe a show or two, but the one that stood out the most to me was actually Henry Rollins at the OM show a month ago. He was just standing there, alone, absolutely immersing himself in the sweet sonic destruction of Al. It was quite the sight.
Starting to live in LA, how did you met your bandmates?
I met Katie and Megan through a site called Craigslist. It’s basically a site where you can buy and sell a bunch of stuff, but then there’s also job postings and ads looking for musicians and a bunch of different bizarre stuff. Initially the ad was looking for a drummer only. I had this idea of doing something along the lines of OM, with only drums and bass, but, Katie saw the ad and replied to it saying something along the lines of “I know you’re just looking for a drummer, but I’m a guitar player and this is right up my alley!”. A little online stalking was done and I was just baffled by her shredding skills. So Katie was in! About a couple of days later, Megan replied with a couple of videos of her playing and what fucking brutal force of nature! She was perfect! We jammed and the energy was absolutely right. We all hit it off right away!
From there, to where you stand now. Was always your intention to aim such a mesmerizing doom sound from the beginning?
MF: I never thought in a million years that it would turn out to be something like this, and I’m not saying it to toot my own horn because I feel like, I bring a solid little riff to practice, sometimes with a vocal arrangement, sometimes just by itself, and I feel like Katie and Megan just completely transform it beyond my expectations.
Your debut album came out last year on Ripple Music. How did come the opportunity to work with such important label?
MF: The moment we recorded the demo, after Katie was done mastering it, we decided to put it on bandcamp. We posted it on a couple of Facebook groups to promote it and Christine Kelly from Tridroid Records saw it, listened to it and actually enjoyed it, so she sent it to Ripple Music and Todd Severin was into it too, so he reached out and told us he was interested in releasing our full length! Ripple is an amazing label that genuinely treats you like family. We couldn’t be happier to be a part of it!
How are you seeing the album reception so far?
MF: It’s been great!
Tell us about the time composing the album and the record sessions. Both stressful and fun, I can imagine…
MF: It’s really more fun than stressful! The songs seem to fluid organically, sometimes a bit too much, that we have to edit stuff out because the jams are becoming a bit too long, but that’s a great problem to have! Again, the three of us have a great chemistry going. Plus, we have Katie recording us, and she’s an absolute pro.
This great record granted you the opportunity to play at Desertfest London, one of the most important events in the stoner and doom scene. How does it feel?
MF: Surreal! I mean, it’s one thing to want to play it, but it’s a completely different thing to actually see that happening. I still can’t quite believe it’s happening, specially on the same night as OM!
Which band on the lineup are you most excited to share the stage with?
MF: While we’re technically not sharing the same stage as OM, I’m still pretty stoked that we’re playing the same festival. I’m also stoked to see so many other bands that are on our label, and that we played shows with playing the festival, like Salem’s Bend, Zed, Great Electric Quest and Cities of Mars (which we will be touring with!).
What can we expect from a High Priestess’s live performance?
MF: Guitar solos galore and an absolute beast on drums.
Apart from that festival appearance you are also touring around Europe. But not Portugal yet...
MF: Yeah, unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards this time around, but hopefully next year!
Well, you need to convince your mates to come to our lovely country. To end, which records are you listening the most these days?
MF: They are more than convinced!
Well, right now I have the following on constant rotation in the car:
Marriages - Salome
Karp - Mustaches Wilde
Karp - Suplex
Melvins - A Senile Animal
Black Math Horseman - Wyllt
Geezer Butler or Al Cisneros?
MF: I absolutely cannot pick! I just keep going back and forth in my mind why I would pick one or the other, but I couldn’t be at peace with a final answer. They’re both idols.
Windhand or Coven?
MF: They’re both two completely different bands, but I will go with Coven. They were trailblazers in what they were doing.
Last message to your fans.
MF: Don’t forget to floss and see you all on the road!
Thank you very much Mariana. See you all in London.
Photo by Danielle Spires