Former Priests frontperson Katie Alice Greer just released her debut solo album, Barbarism. She wrote, recorded and produced the whole thing herself during lockdown and it's definitely got strong currents of isolation -- and all the other feelings most of us experienced during that time -- running through it, from poppier tracks to more cacophonous ones. You can stream the whole album, and watch a few of its music videos, below.

Barbarism is a dense listen and full of references to other works of art, so we asked Katie to unpack a few of the inspirations behind it. Her list includes visual art, books, television, recording gear, and of course music. Check out her list with very thoughtful commentary below.


Alex Prager ‘Week-End’
I was so taken with not only the images I stumbled across on the internet from this series, but also the thoughts behind them. "The protagonists in Prager’s photographs often appear to be locked in situations of peril – confronting choices which may have devastating, or perhaps remarkable, consequences. In Molly, 2009, a young woman, holding a takeaway coffee cup and standing beside two abandoned bicycles, is seen looking up at a thick rope dangling inexplicably into the frame. As she stands transfixed the wind catches her dress, revealing a glimpse of her underwear. There is a tension here between a sense of optimism and beauty, and a possible fatal demise – the same fraught emotional state that runs throughout Prager’s Week-end series, 2010. She has described her intention behind these photographs, not without humour: I saw a theme of apathy and impending death running through these pictures – the death of dreams. Originally, I was going to call it, Weekend, without the hyphen, but by adding the hyphen, it emphasizes the word, ‘end,’ so it could also mean, ‘Weak End.’ That adds a layer of comedy to it which I like." I sent them to the photographer who shot my album cover (Kathryn Vetter Miller) and they became a big reference point for how we wanted to visually communicate the record.

This is the first album I’ve written and recorded entirely on my own, and the first one I made after moving across the country to Los Angeles, and I made it during lockdown 2020-2021. I tend to find stuff like this boring when relaying the process of writing this record, but it truly would’ve sounded so different had these elements not been in play.

The Sopranos
The first few months of lockdown I mostly worked on writing songs during the day, eventually took a shower and then settled in to watch a few episodes of The Sopranos. I had never seen the series before and figured this was as good a time as any to catch up. I was completely riveted by every season, perhaps even more so as the show spiraled into further darkness towards the end. I think David Chase is one of the most subtle and brilliant living storytellers.

NTS Radio
I didn’t have any streaming service subscriptions while I was writing the record and decided to start paying $5/month for NTS Radio. I love the shows on NTS, and I suppose it’s because they’re programmed by humans who have taste that doesn’t necessarily align with an algorithm. Some people have shows with obscure '70s folk and country, others with contemporary and free jazz, house, experimental field recordings, grime, jersey club, post punk, it’s just all kinds of stuff and for me, exactly the way I want to hear music. I like to hear stuff because it’s speaking to someone else and they’re playing it on their show! I find the lack of traditional genre categorization really inspiring when listening to music and I’m glad platforms like NTS exist.

David Keenan’s early '00s “The Best Albums Ever… Honest”
Originally printed in Scotland’s The Sunday Herald newspaper, and discovered by me as a teenager voraciously researching music on the internet. The list had a brief description of each album chosen, which featured a lot of classic picks from the rock n roll canon but also stuff I’d never heard of before, in the Michigan suburbs during the pre-Youtube or streaming service era. Music, to me, was still buried treasure to be discovered, and this list felt like the map to a jackpot. It is tragic that this is now so hard to find on the internet because the way Keenan wrote about each album is, at least in my memory, some of the best music writing I’ve ever encountered. It sparked my imagination about stuff I’d never heard of before, stuff that at least back then was often still really hard for me to get ahold of, and I had to just keep the name in mind until I moved to a bigger east coast city for college and worked at a used CD store, finally finding my own copies of Captain Beefheart, Neu!, Betty Davis, Scott Walker albums etc. I learned about Suicide, Royal Trux, Funkadelic, Public Enemy, Sun Ra, Pere Ubu, Belle and Sebastian, The Shaggs, Moon Dog, and likely so many other touchstones of my personal music taste from this list. I don’t know if it would have the same impact nowadays or even if Keenan still stands behind it (likely all of us who love music have tastes that continue to evolve over time, right?). The early '00s seemed like a very rock-centric era. While this list is heavily rock-centered, it had enough diversions to feel really mind expanding for me, and enough praise of what sounded truly strange to my ears to internalize the ideas that no genre was better than any other, and “weird” was just as worthwhile as “catchy”.

Hito Stereyl, “How To Not Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .Mov File” (2013)
I saw this exhibited at the Hirshhorn in Washington DC and felt strangely moved by its mixture of levity, existentialism, humor and introspection. There is a moment towards the end that utilizes The Three Degrees song “When Will I See You Again” that gave me such an immense feeling of nostalgia for something I didn’t feel I’d ever experienced. The emotions the entire film conjured left me with an inspiring sense of what playful, strange art can create emotionally for those who experience it.

Manifesto by Julian Rosenfeldt ft Cate Blanchett (2015)
This is the last exhibit I saw at the Hirshhorn just days before I left DC, got in a van and drove across the country to move to California. It was the last time I was in a museum before the pandemic, but it would’ve left a massive impression on me regardless. In a large dark room, 13 different screens played what seemed like short films each starring Blanchett in a completely different kind of role (unhoused man, punk rocker, news anchor, choreographer, factory worker) and performing influential manifestos of the last century, from Yvonne Rainier to Jim Jarmusch. The project explores the role of artist in society, and is one of my favorite Blanchett projects to date. Looking back it felt oddly prescient to experience such an enormous survey of how creativity functions in society just a month or so before society seemed to completely shut down indefinitely.

Alomoni 1985 by Karuna Khyal
This is one of my favorite albums of all time. It fundamentally expanded what I thought music could sound like, and I continually return to it for inspiration probably every year or so. When I first discovered it I remember trying to look up anything I could find out about who made it , why, what kind of reference points they came from. I don’t think I learned a whole lot, which probably adds to its mystique in my mind.

The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
I read this book on tour a few years ago, and in a strange turn of serendipity went through a family experience that reminded me very vaguely of some of the storyline. I feel a very strong and personal relationship to this book, and it eventually abstractly inspired a song that turned into the title track of Barbarism.

Universal Audio Apollo Twin X interface, loaned to me by my best friend Laurie Spector
I started recording this record on a Focusrite Scarlett interface, which was getting the job done, but when my best friend moved into my apartment halfway through the pandemic and offered me her much nicer interface on loan indefinitely, it dramatically expanded what I could create. Laurie was such a good friend to me throughout the recording process, constantly cheering me on when everything seemed too hard or incomprehensible to complete, and I think her support was a huge reason I was able to finish the record at all.


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