BUSAN, South Korea – With the release of their debut album Beneath the Tide, Cheongju-based folk-rock band The Primary brings a solid new sound to the peninsula’s expat music scene. With members from Ireland, Scotland, Canada and the United States, they hope to build upon their strong foreign fan-base by increasing Koreans’ interest in folk music while touring the country.
Belfast native and singer-songwriter Jon Lennon (yes, that is his real name; no, he has yet to compare the band’s popularity to Jesus) founded the group in early 2011 with other English-teaching expats. He first ran into Tony Boyd, a Glaswegian rocker responsible for all the licks and riffs that make the anthems of The Primary memorable from the first song of their set list. Then joined David Sparks, a multi-instrumentalist who hails from Indiana, and drummer Matteo Cinnani, who is arguably more responsible for female fans than songs, with his classic Casanova image and ability to speak more than 12 languages.
The Primary’s first release, Beneath the Tide, is a well-crafted four-track EP mixed by Brad Smalling. The band produced it in a solar-powered studio in Evergroove, Colorado before a final polish by veteran engineer Tom Waltz, who knows Boyd from a previous project. Waltz has an impressive resume with over 20 years of experience in the music industry, and has produced Grammy- and Juno-nominated albums. It all adds up to a very listenable sound, either in a bar or your home sound system.
Lennon, who pens many of their lyrics, describes his words as being about people who move on and people who stay in the same place. There will always be faces you remember no matter where you go. He does not hold complete dominance over songwriting duties, though; other members will often change words to better fit a given melody. Lennon argues that this makes the songs sound like a band, rather than a singer-songwriter with four other guys.
The Primary is not just limited to four members. They often feature guest musicians contributing on banjos, mandolins, cellos, and harmonicas to widen their musical range. As the band grows increasingly popular among expats, they have full confidence that they can conquer the Korean crowd as well. This is a country that has invited bands such as Oasis, Beady Eye, Bob Dylan and Slash, who have sold out arenas, Lennon said. Koreans enjoy that kind of music. So once they hear the album, we hope to establish a firmer connection with them.
The Primary are making their Busan debut this weekend with gigs at OZ Hall on Friday, May 17, and both Sharky’s and Club Realize on Saturday the 18th. You can get more info on the upcoming gigs on their Facebook page.
Photos by Peter McGowan