Interview: The Primitives

The indie pop progenitors chat about their upcoming debut tour of Australia, obscure psych gems and being influenced by Alvvays

Interview: The Primitives Following the celebrations for the thirty-fifth anniversary of classic debut LP Lovely in 2023, indie pop progenitors The Primitives are back out on the road. On tour at present supporting former Stranglers frontman Hugh Cornwell a run which also includes their own headline shows (see below for full details) the quartet are set to play their first ever Australian dates in March.

In addition to live work last year also saw the band issue superlative new 45, I Won't Care b/w Everybody Needs Somebody To Hate. Pairing Tracy Tracy's hallmark vocals with earworm melodic hooks on the A side with an acoustic driven slice of invective on the flip, the release sounded every bit as timeless as their earlier material. Stirring the former along with the 2022s girl group stomper into the setlist mix beautifully, the Lovely tour saw every track on the titular album essayed. Alongside the surefire live staples tracks that hadn't been part of the band's set several years in were dusted off.

Following the conclusion of the tour have any of the resurrected songs become permanent setlist additions? 'We're playing Out Of Reach again' guitarist / singer Paul Court replies. 'It's one of our four chart smashes and it tends to hover around just outside the top ten most streamed Prims tunes so it seems silly not to. Seeing Alvvays cover it reminded us that it's a good little tune'. In a case of cross generational influence extending both ways, the Canadian outfit have paid homage to their Coventry alt. rock antecedents on several occasions, covering Crash live too.

On the subject of touring, this year sees the Prims explore new territories as they head down under for their inaugural Australian shows in March. "The promoter got in touch to see if we'd be interested. We've been asked several times before, but nothing ever came of it' Paul explains of how the dates came about. 'They're bigger venues than we'd normally play in the UK. We're going to perform the whole of the Lovely album, which we've done before and I didn't think we'd do again. We're looking forward to that because you always find a way of making it sound better than the last time. We'll play all the old favourites too and some newer stuff'.

Heading into the studio swiftly after the release of Lovely, underrated 1989 follow up Pure showcased the band's psychedelic side on iridescent dream pop cuts Summer Rain, Dizzy Heights and Shine. Underlining how they hadn't lost touch with their fierier, punk inspired roots meanwhile, the LP was presaged by barnstorming single Sick Of It, a thoroughly pissed off rocker mixed by Sex Pistols / Clash associate Bill Price. Given the period, is it true the song is about the charts being swamped by endless Stock, Aitkin & Waterman product? 'Not really. It was more about a feeling of disenchantment with our own situation' the guitarist says.
'Recording Pure was great and we were mostly left to get on with it, but other stuff was starting to grate. All the obvious things when you're on a major label and have a megalomaniacal manager'.

Joining luminaires Craig Leon (Blondie, Ramones) and Ian Broudie (Bunnymen, Lightning Seeds) on the list of Prims' producers, Ed Buller worked with the band on 1992's Galore, a year prior to his long running association with Suede and link up with Pulp on their 1994 breakthrough His N' Hers. In addition to tracks produced by the group and Broudie, Galore Buller's first album production credit. What are your recollections of the sessions with him? 'I think he'd already worked with Spiritualized or was doing stuff with them at about the same time (on 1992 standalone single Feel So Sad). 'We recorded few tracks at Rockfield. He had some good ideas. We did the song Empathise with him and we really liked how that turned out. We've got a nice acoustic version sorted of that one which we should try live at some point'.

A bizarre coda to the first part of the Prims' history saw the group almost being signed to RCA Records in 1992, the very same label that had dropped them several months earlier. Showcasing their deep love of 1960s psych pop, the band recorded a wonderfully kaleidoscopic cover of Lee Hazelwood / Nancy Sinatra classic Some Velvet Morning, prior to versions by contemporaries Slowdive and Primal Scream. Issued without any supporting information, the track scored the approval of Mark Radcliffe on BBC Radio One. 'No it hasn't' Paul sighs when asked if the track has ever been reissued properly. 'I did get sent the master a few years back, but there was something up with it. It didn't sound right at all'.

Selecting Blur's excellent re-emergence The Ballad Of Darren as last year's best LP, a recent interview saw Paul cite The North Wind Blew South (1970) by Philamore Lincoln as one of his favourite albums. The stage name of 1960s drummer Philip Kinorra who struck out to go solo, the singer is best known, and even then remains obscure for writing the original version of Mary Hopkins' hit Temma Harbour. How did you discover him? 'I bought the Headless Heroes album when it came out (2008 compilation where indie rock luminaries played tracks by cult artists) and it had a cover of the title track. I took a chance on the Philamore album and liked it a lot. I consider it a semi masterpiece'.

Looking ahead to the next twelve months, while there aren't festival slots planned for this summer, 'I don't think so, they'd normally be booked in by now', further plans are afoot for 2024. 'I Won't Care might be getting a vinyl release, we'd like to record some more too' Paul states. 'We've nothing planned after March so there's plenty of time on our hands'.

The Primitives UK Tour (*supporting Hugh Cornwell)

Weds 17th Jan, Bury St Edmunds, The Apex*
Thurs 18th Jan, Newcastle, Boiler Shop*
Fri 19th Jan, Glasgow, Queen Margaret Union*
Sat 20th Jan, Holmfirth, Picturedrome*
Sun 21st Jan, Manchester, Gullivers
Tues 23rd Jan, Guildford, Boiler Room
Weds 24th Jan, Brighton, Concorde 2*
Thurs 25th Jan, London, Islington Assembly Hall*
Fri 26th Jan, Leamington Spa, Assembly*
Sat 27th Jan, Frome, Cheese & Grain*

Tickets here

Australian Tour:

Thurs 14 March, Sydney, Manning Bar (University Of Sydney)
Fri 15 March, The Triffid , Brisbane
Sat 16 March, Northcote Theatre , Melbourne

Tickets here