Summary ProfileIn June 2008 Prime Circle released their third and EMI debut album titled All or Nothing. 15 months later the band is celebrating platinum sales and an international tour roster filled with sell-out shows.
This remarkable feat for a band plowing through a global recession is testament to great musicianship that’s afforded them the opportunity to rewrite the rule book on turning everything they touch into inevitable success.
The fact that Ross Learmonth, Dale Schnettler, Dirk Bisschoff, Neil Breytenbach and Marco Gomes have dominated the rock scene in South Africa for close on a decade is hardly surprising. After all, prior to 2008, the five-piece had supported the release of their first two albums with a commitment to hard work and through a workmanlike approach to gigging and a barrage of radio hits, all which rapidly built up a loyal fan base.
Still, with the release of All or Nothing and a deal with EMI Music South Africa now well entrenched, Prime Circle have managed a most difficult feat over the past 15 months. With tough economic conditions that have issued artists with increasing challenges, they have succeeded in elevating their standing in the South African music industry. Perhaps the most easily recognizable reason for this is the power of a Prime Circle live performance.
The band has always been known for igniting stages and in August 2009 the band broke new ground with their inaugural sell-out tour of India. Their third single “Consider Me” lifted from All or Nothing, went straight in at the Number One position just one week after the last show had been performed. Upon their return to South Africa the same song topped the national chart too.
The power of the band’s live shows has also been captured in DVD when in March 2009 Prime Circle’s impressive catalogue of material, drawn from their trio of albums – Hello Crazy World, Live This Life and All or Nothing was released.
As a companion piece to the albums, Prime Circle’s live DVD immediately found a strong footing with the band’s devoted fan base – and offered newcomers to their music a chance to feel the band’s live energy in full force. This is especially important given the international impact Prime Circle is poised to have as the band takes their music and modern rock vision to key global markets.
Listening to the album gives additional and undisputable evidence of just why Prime Circle has managed to reach platinum status just over a year after All or Nothing hit the South African market – and simultaneously stamped its sound all over the country’s rock, all hit and adult contemporary radio stations.
Indeed, one of the key radio singles off the album – “She Always gets What She Wants” – is an album standout that reveals Prime Circle as a band capable of producing songs that are easily on a par with the best work of international stars like Nickelback, 3 Doors Down and Daughtry. The song also signals a more melodic direction for the rock band – its slow build up and use of layered vocals create a terrific and utterly memorable piece of music.
The sonic surprises do not end with this song: With its call and response vocals “All I Need” is more indie than mainstream and album closer, “Tear It Down”, is part post-punk, part full tilt rock and ends the album on the most exhilarating note.
“Hey Now” is similarly infused with a resonant beauty that comes from a combination of front man; Ross Learmonth’s heartfelt singing, the tug of drum loops and, most noticeably, the inclusion of a pretty mesmerising keyboard melody in the song. It adds up to a track that sees Prime Circle take its most adventurous sonic steps to date, accompanied by lyrics (“Hey now/don’t look back/always look forward/stay on track”) that in many ways signal the band’s intention to always keep moving forward.
But it is without doubt that the band’s third single from All or Nothing that is fast becoming a global anthem with lyrics and a richly woven melody that are all intoxicating and entirely relevant to the world in which we all live today.
Musically, the freshness comes courtesy of keyboardist Neil Breytenbach who is playing an increasingly important role in Prime Circle – both sonically and in urging the band forward into new musical areas. Breytenbach’s elegant, yet forceful, playing peppers the material on All or Nothing and on the likes of “Find A Way”, it’s the perfect match for the thrums of the acoustic guitar that mark this song. Learmonth’s vocals are also not always perfectly rendered – on purpose. “We wanted the rawness of emotion to come through on the songs,” Learmonth says simply.
Also playing a crucial role in this fresh new sound is producer Theo Crous.
The Cape Town-based Crous (Springbok Nude Girls, Kobus!) is earning a reputation as South Africa’s leading rock producer and his helming of All or Nothing adds significantly to the album’s attraction. Crous’s ability to allow the songs to reach a crescendo without overburdening the heart of the music serves Prime Circle’s material exceptionally well. Just listen to “All For The Birds” (the basis of the song was penned by Learmonth when he was still at school) and “What I’ve Become” to hear just how perfectly the producer and band work together to create world class songs that effortlessly sticks in the heart and mind.
Newcomers to the Prime Circle fold are therefore guaranteed that the power that this band harnesses creates sinewy and completely convincing full-throttle rock. A classic working example of Prime Circle’s signature sound can be heard in All or Nothing’s first single “Out of This Place”. Similarly the production on “Be Like That” and “This Time” allows the taut squalls of guitar-work, solid bass playing and ferocious drumming to make themselves felt, once again confirming that passion and instrumental virtuosity are as much part of Prime Circle’s success as anything.
A bonafide world-class act, Prime Circle’s solid hard work ethic and humble approach to everything they do is only superseded by their combined and very unique talent. “We’re never complacent because we are in this for the long run and know that we have the songs and performing ability to make that a reality,” says Learmonth.
* Prime Circle is: Ross Learmonth, Dale Schnettler, Dirk Bisschoff, Marco Gomes and Neil Breytenbach