Tomorrow, Prime Circle leave for a month-long tour of Germany, where they are headlining their own shows for the first time - and many have already been sold out.
The album If You Don’t You Never Will was first sampled to South African audiences at the band’s Rivonia Barnyard gig in Joburg last month, before they toured Australia shortly afterwards.
Lead singer Ross Learmonth shared the song-writing duties with drummer Dale Schnettler and keyboardist Neil Breytenbach, with Just Jinjer’s bassist Denholm Harding producing.
The album was written over six months and recorded in just five weeks.
Learmonth and Schnettler are pleased with the final product, and have described it as a good marriage of electronic and rock.
“We started with 28 songs, Denholm selected seven and we had to write three to make up the eventual playlist of 10 on the album,” said Schnettler.
Learmonth was happy with the end result, describing the music as continuing to push the boundaries that the previous album, Let the Night In, broke through three years ago.
“We opened our minds musically with that one, this album embraces that,” he said.
“In fact, it’s our make-or-break album - not that the band will dissolve or anything like that, it’s just that we have to keep pushing boundaries and challenging ourselves.”
Breaking into new markets is part of that. Germany has been Prime Circle’s foothold into Europe for some time, but Learmonth wants them to really crack the German market and venture deeper into Europe, and from there to the US.
It has been a long journey since the band’s beginning in Mpumalanga 16 years ago. It took five years for them to break out, with Learmonth working in construction and waiting tables.
He and lead guitarist Dirk Bisschoff, with bassist Marco Gomes, are the remaining founding members. Breytenbach joined in 2007, and Schnettler the following year.
Learmonth is pleased that the band no longer gets compared to other overseas bands, but was rather becoming a point of reference itself to other bands, particularly locally, with a sound that is now their own.
“The reaction to the new album has been insane,” he said. “Even our hardcore fans, who are very honest and can often sting, have liked it. Some of our friends who used to hate our music actually like this one too.”
If You Don’t You Never Will showcases Learmonth’s distinctive voice, anchored with Schnettler’s drumming and given body with Breytenbach’s keyboards.
“You know, a young fan came up to Neil and said to him ‘you’ve made keyboards cool’, which really is a great compliment to the sound he creates and what he brings to the band,” said Learmonth.
When they return home from Germany, Prime Circle plan to spend November touring the country, with dates in December and January still to be announced.
“South Africa keeps us grounded. We’ll do Kirstenbosch in Cape Town in January, which is my favourite venue in the entire country, playing to 6000 fans, but then the next week we’ll be back in Joburg playing at a Barnyard to 600,” Learmonth said.
“It’s what we do, we write albums, but then we get out on the road. (Albums are) a calling card. It’s great when the fans listen to them, but we love seeing them at the shows.
“It’s nerve-wracking, standing up on stage with new material, but it’s incredible too. The fun begins now.”
The Saturday Star