For most acts, being independent means tighter budgets and in-house friction. Prime Circle have instead released a new album, Let The Night In, toured Europe and booked out huge theatres and arenas instead of the usual local live music venues.
“It’s been going well,” says guitarist Dirk Bisschoff.
“Our workload has tripled, as we manage ourselves now and we’re much more hands-on with our own business, checking every little thing from finances to admin. Shows have been going well. We’ve played the Teatro at Montecasino, Bloemfontein, Cape Town …”
It’s a fairly radical curve, though, reskilling from being a guitarist or singer one day and an administrator the next.
“We’ve always run the band as a business,” says drummer Dale Schnettler.
“Playing the music is just one aspect of our job. So we have a booking agent who works for us permanently; what we will do is go and suss out venues that get good word of mouth and that sort of thing and then get our booking agent to set up shows there. And then we’ll organise marketing – posters and campaigns and so on. There’s more to do, but it’s not that difficult.”
What makes for a good venue in this new scenario?
“We’re looking for production capacity,” says Schnettler.
“We’ve gone to a new level now, so we don’t want to do a show in a half-hearted way. So if we do festivals or certain other shows, we bring in our own pyrotechnics and spend a lot of money to make it a good show.”
“We also think about the visuals – screens and so on,” says Bisschoff. “And some places have a great stage but no sound, or there is sound, but it’s not sufficient. Or there’s only rear projection available and we’re looking for something with more high-definition quality. It’s these kinds of things we have to worry about now. We also need to ask: ‘Does the stage allow for all of that to be brought in?'”
All of this – not to mention the international tours – sounds very expensive.
“We’ve taken a lot of the money we’ve made here and invested it,” says Schnettler.
“We’re fortunate to have the fans we have and who support us – but we want to spread our wings a little more. It’s taken us four years to get to a point where we don’t have to worry about sleeping on floors, but now we’re earning in euros and starting to pay back the money we’ve had to spend in the last two years to get to where we are now.”
“The risk will always be there, be it year one or year 10,” says Bisshoff. “But we did well to invest early, and that’s coming back to us now.”
Prime Circle’s new single Doors has been described by the band as a song you “can’t sit down to”.
Is it possible – or necessary – to design an album in such a way that the audience can, to some degree, be urged to react in different ways?
“Take Coldplay as an example,” says Schnettler. “They’re a stadium band and you can hear that they’re writing for that space. It’s anthemic. Music is about telling a story, but you need something for people to latch on to for it to be memorable. When we were touring with Three Doors Down, we were playing 18 000-seater arenas and we started writing in soundchecks, imagining what would make those crowds sing something back to us.”