Localised fame’s a funny old thing. You can be the biggest act in your own country and virtually unheard of outside of it. Jimmy Barnes, for example, is either the elder statesman of rock and a much-loved institution (if you’re Australian) or some bloke who was in Cold Chisel (if you’re not). Prime Circle are another good example. They’ve played alongside Metallica at South African festival CokeFest, released three albums that have all sold in the tens of thousands and have been the biggest-selling rock band in South Africa for three years in a row. So it’s a bit of a shame that most non-Saffas probably won’t have heard of them.
With a sound that could be the product of a Counting Crows-Maroon 5 jamming session, but polished in production to create what lead singer Ross Learmonth calls ‘anthemic rock’, Prime Circle have become favourites on South African radio. And, really, they ought to do well when they head out to play Chi on May 15. After all, the success of last year’s Maroon 5 gig shows that there’s a market here for big, ballady, angst-driven rock.
We’re not the only ones that are suckers for such things, however – the band have just come off the back of their largest tour in their home country, an exhausting 20-odd gigs in just over a month. Ross laughs: ‘Yeah, it’s been full-on and the biggest thing we’ve ever done, but it’s great to see the fans’ reaction and to get about. We’re having a couple of days off for now and then we’re off again. We just want to play – we’ll play anywhere!’
It’s this love of playing live that has kept the band going. The last nine years have seen them release three albums, but none have been as successful as their latest, All Or Nothing, which has picked up pretty prolific radio play back home. The success of the album is especially encouraging for the band, given that it was made with more care and concentration than any other one before it. ‘It’s different to where we started out,’ Ross enthuses. ‘We spent a lot more time in the studio this time round and we felt a lot more comfortable. We just want to keep on getting better and better.’
Radio DJs aren’t the only media types chasing the band, either. Their single ‘She Always Gets What She Wants’, a track that’s crying out to be used as the theme tune for a cult US drama (Dawson’s Creek for anyone over 25, Gossip Girl for those under), has been nominated best track of the year by MTN Sama (South African Music Awards).
But even with all this support back home the band know that they’ve a long way to go to become global stars. Still, they’re champing at the bit to get started, so they’re more than happy to return to our city. ‘We’ve done a couple of gigs in Dubai: we played Desert Rock festival a couple of years ago and we’re really pleased to be coming back. We really want to get going again.’ And their keenness means that they won’t be content with just recreating the vinyl on stage: ‘We play stuff from all our albums; we mix up the ballads and the rockier numbers and we change the dynamics of the songs quite a bit to keep it interesting, but you’ll have to be there to experience it properly.’ In the meantime, we suggest heading to iTunes to catch up.
Prime Circle play Chi, May 15.