PRIORS Montreal punk band

How PRIORS became reborn with their new album Daffodil

We spoke with the frontman for the Montreal punk five-piece about their rambunctious, high-energy, freewheeling new record.

Sometimes, artists need to hit the reset button to find themselves again — and that’s exactly what PRIORS have done for their upcoming LP.

The Montreal-based punk five-piece released their fourth album, Daffodil, on Friday, June 2 on Mothland. This follows their third LP, My Punishment on Earth (January 2021) and a three-song EP, NEWNEWNEW (April 2022).

Frontman Chance Hutchison was excited to get Daffodil out into the world, as it’s an album that’s been gestating for some time. Having been recorded roughly two summers ago, it’s a departure from his usual habit of putting music together in quick fashion.

“I really would rather things come out as fast as possible, so I can get over them and move on,” he says. “This one, we’ve kind of been sitting on for quite a while. I’m feeling pretty good about the fact that it’s almost out there.”

Daffodil is a rambunctious, high-energy, freewheeling LP sitting comfortably between garage punk and pure rock n’ roll across its eight tracks (Hutchison is heavily inspired by Australian bands like the Saints). The album isn’t afraid to deviate from that a bit, however, such as with the strong post-punk flavour of “Optimizer” (think the Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, or New Order) and the presence of saxophone on certain tracks courtesy of Dave Forcier. 

It also comes at a time where three members of PRIORS — which consists of Hutchison, guitarist/co-producer Max Desharnais, guitarist Sebastien Godin, bassist Alan Hildebrandt, and drummer Andrew Demers — have started families, but the band itself is still going despite things having slowed down a little. 

“I feel very lucky to be working with the people I’m working with,” Hutchison says. “They’re like family to me.”

The album’s title alludes somewhat to its fifth song, “Fresh Start”, since Hutchison had been seeking a slight change in musical direction, and daffodils can symbolize rebirth. 

“The last record was called My Punishment on Earth. It was a very heavy title, and a lot of the subject matter was quite intense,” he says. “I wanted to veer away from that. It’s about a rebirth, and just trying to find ourselves and go forward… with a different kind of headspace.”

Daffodil’s title track is one that openly questions the sex drugs and rock n’ roll ethos that has permeated music for decades. That lifestyle is also something Hutchison was heavily involved in and influenced by since he was only 15. It eventually became a relationship — aside from the rock n’ roll aspect, of course — that he felt he had to end (for example, he no longer drinks alcohol).

“I don’t want to say I’m against anything, because I’m all for it,” he cautions. “But for me personally, it was just time that I moved on. I partied more than everyone. It was getting boring.”

Having grown up in London, ON (his birthplace is Blairmore, AB, a 1,500+ population community in the Rockies), Hutchison moved to Montreal in 2010 to follow a girl he was dating. The two eventually split up, but he already loved the city and wound up staying. He and his wife, Jackie Blenkarn, have moved just south of the island to Châteauguay, where they bought a house last June (they were originally living on Villeneuve and St-Denis in the Plateau).

So why did they choose a relatively sleepy off-island suburb, rather than a more centrally-located area? “Honestly, a midlife crisis, and I kind of went nuts during the pandemic,” he tells us. 

“It was like, ‘It’s time. We should really buy a house.’ A lot of people felt that. I felt like it was the last opportunity where we could possibly find something in a range we could afford. All my friends went to Longueuil to buy a house, and we couldn’t afford it, so here we are.”

The couple also make music together as Private Lives, and they released a self-titled five-song EP last October, with a full-length album due out in July (“probably a month after Daffodil,” he says, with its first single dropping sometime in June). Hutchison also plays in another band called New Vogue, who released their self-titled debut album in 2020. Under the PRIORS name, however, this is his seventh release since 2017.

If nothing else, Hutchison is a prolific artist who knows how to wear many different musical hats. So what helps him conjure up so much creative energy at once, given how PRIORS have released roughly one project per year for seven years running? 

“Probably because I’m a late bloomer,” he says. “I have always been a bass player in a band. I did a lot of songwriting with my friends growing up in the projects I was in, but not as the main songwriter. I didn’t bring riffs to jam (practice), or anything like that. I only started playing guitar in 2015, probably, because I always just played bass. I honestly did a lot of partying, and was fine with just being a guy in a band. 

“Then I got over that, and I started to write music for myself. I still feel sort of like a 16-year-old who’s just picked up an instrument. It just sort of comes out of me. I probably have written 5,000 songs in that timeframe, and 4,000 have not seen the light of day.”

Despite all the unreleased material he could fall back on for future projects, Hutchison finds those songs difficult to revisit — if only because whenever he releases a new project, it “forces” him to start writing again.

“I don’t like to go backwards,” he continues. “If an idea doesn’t strike me right away, I kind of move on from it, which can be a blessing and a curse. Working in (Private Lives) with my wife, she’s more like, ‘Why are you going so quickly through this material? We should revisit one of the songs that didn’t work right off the bat.’ But I always feel like if it doesn’t happen really quickly, then it’s not meant to be.”

Before COVID would royally hit the fan in March 2020, PRIORS had enjoyed a busy and fruitful 2019. The band had released an LP (2018’s New Pleasure) and a 7” EP (Call for You) via the U.S.-based Slovenly Recordings, leaving Hutchison “extremely tired.” 

Sensing an opportunity for a break to focus on writing once the pandemic hit, Hutchison began working on what would eventually become Daffodil, to be recorded the following summer with Desharnais producing and mixing the album.

“We did everything in our jam space on des Carrières (Street), which is one of those shared spaces with tons of bands — it’s at Marsonic (Studios),” he says. “We kind of hoped that other bands weren’t practising at the same time, so we could get some good sounds. 

“We recorded it there, and then a little bit in Max Desharnais’ basement studio. It took maybe a month, all in all. But if we actually put all that time together, it was a couple of days. Then we got in touch with JP (Jean-Philippe Bourgeois of Mothland Records). I was just like, ‘I think with this one, we should work with a label that’s a little bit closer to home.’ The record before was on a European label, and the one before that was [American]. We hadn’t really worked with a Canadian label. I wanted to work with someone from Montreal, and they were interested, so we made it happen.”

Hutchison has great things to say about the band’s relationship with Mothland thus far, calling their team “extremely hard-working — almost too hard! (laughs)” Though he comes from the punk world where records are released and then sent to friends for distribution (far-removed from the processes of an actual label), the 39-year-old frontman decided it was worth the old college try. 

“Maybe it was time to try this and see what happens, and go with the real deal,” he says. “A lot more people know about our band than (they) had before, so I think that’s a good thing.”

The pandemic — and the ensuing inability to play live shows — would ultimately kick the album’s creation into high gear, as Hutchison had little else to do other than record demos, (“There are probably 30 songs that didn’t make the cut,” he says). Album closer “Separation Anxiety” was the first track written for Daffodil, written in 2019 while his wife was away on tour. Many others, however, were written in quick succession.

“Once I started in the pocket, they all came,” he says. “‘Taste for Blood’, ‘Burgundy’, ‘Fresh Start’, ‘Optimizer’, ‘Narcolepsy’, and ‘Daffodil’ were all written in the same month, I think. I had other songs, but once I had this bunch, I just knew these were the ones.”

The band’s live shows are rollicking, intense, and great fun from start to finish, as you’ll see in our review of their set at M for Montreal last November, where they played on the floor at Sala Rossa. “I remember everything (about that show) — I quit drinking, so I have a very vivid memory of all our shows now. It’s crazy,” Hutchison says.

PRIORS will be doing some release shows around Daffodil, and they’ve already played some gigs outside Montreal this year — Cult MTL interviewed Hutchison right as he was getting ready to fly to Calgary for the East Town Get Down Festival the next day. The band’s next Montreal date will be when they host their album launch party at L’Esco on June 30. Though PRIORS have yet to tour with Hutchison “off the sauce,” in his words, the plan is to book more shows, including in Europe in Spring 2024.

Beyond this, Hutchison still hopes to make another record before 2023 is over. He says he has “a few ideas rolling around,” but has been preoccupied by other projects for now. “There’s five songs,” he says. “So I need another six or seven. We’ll see what happens. I’m going into the studio at the beginning of July. Maybe it’ll become PRIORS stuff, maybe it’ll be a solo thing. I don’t know.” ■

PRIORS launch Daffodil at l’Esco (4461 St-Denis) on Friday, June 30. For more, please visit the PRIORS Bandcamp page.

For our latest in music, please visit the Music section.